30 JULY 2009, PHILADELPHIA, PA—One of the great archaeological illustrators of the 20th century, Piet de Jong spent the summer of 1957, at the invitation of excavation director Rodney Young, working at the renowned site of Gordion in central Turkey. While de Jong set about on a series of watercolors reconstructing wall paintings from a previously uncovered “Painted House,” ca. 500 BCE, Penn Museum excavators were making a now-famous discovery: they penetrated a large, exceptionally well-preserved grave mound, known as the “Midas Mound” for its association with the legendary King Midas and his family. There, they found a wealth, not of gold, but of royal artifacts and information about the Phrygian people of 2700 years ago.
His Golden Touch: The Gordion Drawings of Piet de Jong, a new exhibition at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology 26 September 2009 through 10 January 2010, pays tribute to the famous illustrator’s visit and his summer’s work, carried out during a most auspicious season at Gordion, Turkey, where the Penn Museum has been excavating since 1950. More than 35 original watercolors, chiefly from the “Painted House” project, and several drawings of renowned artifacts from the “Midas Mound,” form the core of His Golden Touch, which also features artist’s tools that belonged to de Jong, a small selection of objects from the Museum’s excavations at Gordion, reproductions of several artifacts from tombs at the site, and excerpts from two rare color films made at the site in the 1950s.
The Museum celebrates His Golden Touch with an afternoon celebration, Turkish Delight! from 1pm to 4pm. Turkish Delight! is part of our World Culture Days program, featuring Turkish music, dance, talks, tours, and more, all FREE with Museum admission donation.
Born in 1887, Piet de Jong originally trained in England as an architect. He made his reputation as an archaeological illustrator with both watercolors of excavated objects, as well as with elaborate architectural reconstructions at sites in Greece, including the Palace of Minos at Knossos and the Palace of Nestor at Pylos.
The exhibition highlights Piet de Jong’s method of reconstructing archaeological remains. Thousands of plaster fragments had been recovered in the excavation of the Painted House and painstakingly assembled into larger pieces, and it was this piecemeal evidence that de Jong used in his sometimes elaborate reconstructions of people and processions. A series of pencil drawings reveal his preliminary studies of the “Painted House” figures as he worked to place the fragments that would form the backbone of his reconstruction. A small collection of artist supplies that belonged to de Jong, including his handmade drawing grid, helps bring his work to life. In addition, two exactingly rendered drawings of objects from the Midas Mound tomb—elegant ram and lion-headed bronze situlae, or drinking cups (designed so that the imbiber had to finish the drink before putting the cup down)—are included in the exhibition.
Most of the objects excavated at Gordion have remained in Turkey at the Gordion Museum. In His Golden Touch, several terracotta architectural elements from buildings at Gordion, as well as a few reproductions of artifacts from the site, including a large cauldron that originally contained lamb stew for a funerary feast of the Midas Mound tomb owner, are on view. A plaster cast of the head of the royal person found in the Midas Mound tomb, once believed to be King Midas himself, now believed to be a father or grandfather of the infamous ruler, is on display, along with information about how the face was reconstructed.
Ann Blair Brownlee, Associate Curator in the Mediterranean Section, and Alessandro Pezzati, the Museum’s Senior Archivist, are co-curators of the exhibition, developed with the assistance of Peter Cobb and Colleen Kron, graduate students in Penn’s Art and Archaeology of the Mediterranean World program, and Gareth Darbyshire, Gordion Archivist. The exhibition, to be displayed in the first floor Merle-Smith Gallery, is sponsored by the Turkish Cultural Foundation and an anonymous donor.
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, located at 3260 South Streets on the Penn campus in Philadelphia, is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 400 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage. For general information, visitors may call (215) 898-4000, or visit the Museum’s award-winning website at http://www.penn.museum.