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Classical AntiquitiesPermanent exhibition
The Collection of Classical Antiquities occupies a special position in Hungarian culture: it is the only comprehensive collection of ancient art in Hungary, which provides a unique opportunity for a direct encounter with the artistic heritage of classical antiquity. This fact defines the work conducted here: the Collection is both a department of the Museum of Fine Arts, and a research centre that focuses on classical archaeology. The two areas are inseparably related.
As a museum department, the Collection of Classical Antiquities primarily focuses on the safekeeping, study and presentation of about 6,000 artefacts that were unearthed outside the borders of Hungary. The collection spans the entire period of classical antiquity (3rd millennium BC – 7th century AD), and provides a comprehensive overview of its artistic traditions. It is especially rich in Greek and Etruscan antiquities, while the arts of the Roman imperial period and Graeco-Roman Egypt are also represented by significant artefacts. The Collection houses about a dozen, internationally renowned works of art.
The precursor of the Collection was constituted by plaster casts of ancient sculpture created at the end of the nineteenth century. In 1908 the Museum of Fine Arts purchased a group of 135 marble sculptures from the German archaeologist Paul Arndt. This was followed by an acquisition of terracotta statuettes in 1914. By the end of the Second World War, a comprehensive collection of antiquities was formed, largely through assembling the artefacts formerly preserved in other Hungarian public institutions, and owing mainly to the work of Aladár Dobrovits (1909–1970) and János György Szilágyi (1918–2016). The present structure of the Collection evolved by the end of the twentieth century. From the 1990s onwards regular purchases have also contributed to its enlargement. In November 2001 János György Szilágyi and László Török established the Eunomia foundation with the sole purpose of enlarging the ancient art collection and enhancing the library material, since the collection also manages the 35000-volume library branch of the Museum of Fine Arts specialised in classical archaeology. This is the only internationally renowned library of classical archaeology in Hungary, which serves as an indispensable resource to scholarly research. A 50,000-item photo archive documents the artworks preserved in the Collection.
The platform for transmitting the ancient classical tradition to the wider public is Eos, the museum education programme of the Collection. Established in 2002, Eos has helped visitors interested in the classical tradition widen their knowledge and enhance their museum experience through various programmes and events.