A World Within Reach: Greek and Roman Art from the Loeb Collection

, University Research Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

Weary Herakles, Hellenistic, Smyrna (modern Izmir, Turkey), c. 50–25 BCE. Terracotta. Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek, Munich, SL 257, TL42482.39. Image: © Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek.

University Research Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

Glimpse into ancient Greek and Roman worlds—and see your own with fresh eyes.

A World Within Reach invites visitors to explore the experiences and imaginations of people who lived in the Mediterranean basin some 2,000 to 2,500 years ago. Clay and bronze depictions of ordinary people (with a few gods and heroes as well), small-scale animal sculptures, and stunning jewelry are all arranged under three themes—power, desire, and wonder—reflecting human concerns then and now.

The more than 60 ancient Greek and Roman objects at the core of this exhibition are drawn from the collection of James Loeb (1867–1933), who graduated from Harvard College in 1888. Convinced that ancient literature could enrich contemporary lives, he established the Loeb Classical Library. This series, now published by Harvard University Press, makes ancient Greek and Roman texts widely accessible by placing them side by side with their English translations. The objects from the Loeb Collection have come to Cambridge with the generous collaboration of Munich’s Staatliche Antikensammlungen und Glyptothek, where they reside today.

As a collector, Loeb was particularly attracted by small terracotta figurines. He felt that encounters with these humble objects brought ancient Greek and Roman lives within reach, transmitted humanity and values across the ages, and had the potential to expand modern perspectives. Today, we ask different questions about antiquity than Loeb did a century ago. These fresh views help us query the past in new ways and reconsider our own presence in the world.

The final component of the exhibition reflects how members of the local community see ancient Mediterranean objects today. Teens in Cambridge Community Television’s 2022–23 School Year Production Program made short videos catalyzed by encounters with ancient Greek and Roman objects in the Harvard Art Museums collections. These films can be viewed on a monitor in the exhibition.

Join the dialogue and allow James Loeb’s objects to help you see worlds, ancient and modern, with fresh eyes.

Curated by Amy Brauer, Curator of the Collection; Caitlin Clerkin, 2021–23 Frederick Randolph Grace Curatorial Fellow in Ancient Art; and Frances Gallart Marqués, 2018–20 Frederick Randolph Grace Curatorial Fellow in Ancient Art, all in the Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art at the Harvard Art Museums.

Support for this exhibition is provided by the Kelekian Fund.