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Indepth Arts News:

"The City of Sardis: Approaches in Graphic Recording"
2003-08-23 until 2003-11-16
Fogg Art Museum, Harvard
Cambridge, MA, USA

The ancient city of Sardis in western Turkey, the capital of the Lydian kingdom (7-6th c. B.C.) has been explored and studied for forty-five years through a project called Archaeological Exploration of Sardis, or Sardis Expedition, which is co-sponsored by Harvard University Art Museums and Cornell University, and which has its headquarters at Harvard University. The primary aim of fieldwork at Sardis has been to clarify the cultural history and urban development of the ancient city, and the culture of the Lydians, through mapping, excavation, and surveys of different kinds (surface sampling of artifacts, geomorphology, geophysics). Exploration and research at the site has uncovered material from the Lydian, Persian, Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman periods. The project has served as a training ground for topographers, excavators, historians, architects, conservators, and restorers.

This exhibit is about the topographic landscape and historic architecture of Sardis, and their graphic recording since the middle of the eighteenth century. Architectural and topographical features of the site have attracted visitors for different reasons and have been approached in different ways and with different objectives, partly stimulated by changes in attitudes toward antiquity and by developments in technology.

The drawings in this exhibit illustrate a variety of aims and approaches over a chronological span of two and a half centuries, and record major monuments and landscapes at Sardis from Lydian, Hellenistic, Roman, and Byzantine eras. The oldest drawings are hand-measured, precise pencil and ink renderings from the Age of Enlightenment; the latest employ electronic and computerized technologies that expand traditional aims of graphic recording.

Brush Strokes: In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, graphic recording of Greek and Roman monuments typically aimed either to provide models that would improve the design and ornament of contemporary architecture, or to relate landscape and architecture with historical events, or to evoke through images of ruin and destruction the romance of the past and the sadness of irrevocable loss.

Crisp Lines: In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, recording became more catholic and documented ancient monuments regardless of their perceived artistic merit, historical significance, or dramatic qualities. Many drawings are extremely precise, showing assemblage details, technical features, and damaged parts that have potential value for understanding history and use as archaeological methods became more systematic and scientific.

Dashed Lines: Reconstruction drawings can show helpfully and vividly how ruined buildings once looked; they can be equally instructive in clarifying how such buildings could not have looked, and in revealing the biases of archaeologists and the limitations of information available to the artist.

Infinite Points: Much architectural and topographical evidence has become accessible only in the late twentieth century, with the computer, electronic transits, and global positioning system (GPS) equipment which are dramatically changing the graphic recording of Sardis, and opening a new window on its complex urban history.

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