When you enter the Defining Beauty exhibition, you're instantly confronted by three very famous statues that have a significant meaning for anyone who's interested in Greek art - the Parthenon Illissos, the Doryphoros and the Discobolos. These three are examples of sculpture by three of the most famous Greek sculptors - Phidias, Polykleitos and Myron. It was a real joy to see these great statues together, and quite possibly the best moment of the exhibition. The rest of the exhibition looks at the statues by theme, linking them in with Greek society. A convincing link is made between the nude body and being kalos kai agathos ('beautiful and virtuous'), and this is a major theme of the exhibition. The other is the impact of Greek sculpture on our own perceptions of beauty, and walking through the exhibition it's easy to see that influence.
As with all the exhibitions I visit at the British Museum, I like to take the time to choose a favourite item that reflects what I've taken away from it. With the Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition, this was the fresco of Terentius Neo and his wife, which adorns the cover of my favourite Latin grammar book. Quite oddly, the item that I chose for this exhibition wasn't even an ancient sculpture, but modern cast, a statue of Athena that'd been painted in its original bright colours. Under the dim lighting, as it would have been inside a temple, the statue was simply beautiful, and that's what I took away from the exhibition - a new way of looking at Greek sculpture, and an interest in something that never especially interested me before. This statue was on loan from the Munich Glyptothek, which I'll be visiting over the summer when I go on a trip to Germany (help, I don't speak German!), so I'm rather looking forward to getting the chance to see this again, along with the original statue which is also housed there.