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CaixaForum showcases ancient Middle Eastern luxury

New exhibition in Barcelona features some 200 treasures dating back to between 900 and 300 BC from British Museum's collection

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04 April 2019 05:16 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

'An Age of Luxury: The Assyrians to Alexander' is the name of a major new exhibition at CaixaForum in Barcelona, which opened on Thursday.

Displaying some 200 items from the British Museum's collection, the exhibit showcases luxury items from the empires of the Middle East, from between 900 and 300 BC.

Among the treasures on display from the Assyrian, Babylonian, Phoenician and Persian empires are wall reliefs from the palace of Nineveh, and gold and silver miniatures from the Oxus collection.

The treasures are accompanied by audiovisuals explaining how the raw materials were turned into luxury items, as well as an interactive map showing their geographical origin and other details.

From the Iberian Peninsula to India

The eastern empires that produced the treasures occupied a geographical area that today goes from the Iberian Peninsula to India, forming a corridor between the Mediterranean and Asia.

The territories along this corridor were plagued by constant warfare and conquest, but also an intense trade in raw materials, precious stones, and manufactured luxury items.

Between 900 and 300 BC, the Middle Eastern elites of the time built sumptuous palaces and elaborate gardens that they filled with treasures, and luxury items even became military objectives.  

From the emergence of the Assyrian empire until the conquests of Alexander the Great, this was an interconnected world in which the production of luxury items was a crucial element of the economy.

The display of wealth was important for reinforcing political power and intimidating enemies, with the demand for luxury items spreading to all levels of society, leading to the production of more affordable copies.

La Caixa and the British Museum

The fourth collaboration between La Caixa and the British Museum since 2016, the exhibition arrives in continental Europe for the first time after its debut in the Hong Kong Museum of History.

The curator of 'An Age of Luxury: The Assyrians to Alexander', Alexandra Fletcher, says the focus on luxury items provides a "different view" of the items in the British Museum's collection.

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  • Ancient artefacts on display at the CaixaForum (Photo: Pau Cortina)

  • Ancient artefacts on display at the CaixaForum (Photo: Pau Cortina)

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