Ancient, Byzantine, and Islamic Art

Ancient, Byzantine, and Islamic Art

The arts of the ancient world have loomed largely in the Museum’s collection since its founding. The first major collection to enter the Museum included numerous Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and Etruscan vases. Today, the collection of ancient art numbers more than five thousand objects. The early civilizations of Mesopotamia, Iran, Asia Minor, and the Levant are documented by a wealth of diverse artifacts, and the long history of ancient Egypt is illustrated by outstanding examples of stone and pottery vessels, carved stone reliefs, bronze statuettes, wall paintings, amulets, and mummies. The collection of Greek art includes major works of Attic black-figure and red-figure vase painting, Archaic bronze statuettes, Hellenistic jewelry and terracotta figurines, pottery from Cyprus, Corinth, and Rhodes, and marble funerary and votive reliefs.

The heritage of ancient Italy is particularly well represented, beginning with a distinguished collection of Etruscan vases, sculptures, and metalwork and culminating in the arts of Rome and its empire. The Roman collection encompasses marble and bronze portraits, sculptures of gods, satyrs, and nymphs, sarcophagi and funerary monuments, glass vessels and carved bone reliefs, silver and gold coins, sealstones of agate and chalcedony, statuettes in bronze, amber, ivory, and clay, and a spectacular silver-gilt wine cup. Princeton’s distinguished record of archaeological research in Roman Syria is illustrated by unusual basalt sculptures from the Hauran region, funerary reliefs from the desert city of Palmyra, and a renowned collection of colorful mosaic pavements from the great metropolis of Antioch-on-the-Orontes.

The arts of Byzantium and the Islamic world receive equal attention, with painted icons, silver and gold jewelry, and delicate ivories from the Byzantine capital of Constantinople that share a gallery with painted pottery, intricately patterned metalwork, and glazed tiles from Syria, Egypt, Iran, and other centers of Muslim civilization.

In addition to the works on view, an ancient study gallery with hundreds of additional objects is open for the convenience of students and visitors. The collections of Greek and Roman sculpture are published in comprehensive scholarly catalogues, and many other works have been published in the Museum’s scholarly journal, the Record.

Carolyn M. Laferrière

Associate Curator of Ancient Mediterranean Art

Carolyn M. Laferrière was appointed Assistant Curator of Ancient Mediterranean Art at the Princeton University Art Museum in 2022. She is the author of Divine Music in Archaic and Classical Greek Art: Seeing the Songs of the Gods, published in 2024 with Cambridge University Press. Before coming to the Art Museum, she was a postdoctoral scholar and teaching fellow at the Center for the Premodern World and the Department of Classics at the University of Southern California (2020–22). There, she taught courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels, oversaw a lecture series on Iconoclasm in the Premodern World, and played a crucial role in organizing The Silk Roads: Connecting Communities, Markets, and Minds Since Antiquity, an exhibition on view at Doheny Library. Previously, she was a postdoctoral associate with Archaia, Yale University’s program for the interdisciplinary study of the ancient world, and a lecturer in the Departments of the History of Art and Classics. In 2018–19, she curated Sights and Sounds of Ancient Ritual at the Yale University Art Gallery. She earned a BA summa cum laude in Art History, Classics & Religion from Carleton University, an MA in Classical and Near Eastern Archaeology from the University of British Columbia, and an MA, MPhil, and PhD in History of Art from Yale University.