It is the relative calm within the great altar complex from the Hellenistic kingdom of Pergamon that pervades the current exhibition at the Met. The masterly carved, fine-grained marble sculptures in the show are all from the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, which now combines on that city’s Museum Island the antiquities collections of former East and West Berlin.

Featured are twelve of the best preserved of fifty-one marble slabs surviving from the carved narrative of the life of Telephos, the mythical founder of Pergamon, which extended along the inner walls of the colonnaded court. The better known relief, depicting over-life-size Olympian gods at war with snake-legged giants—which surrounded the entire altar complex on the exterior and is traditionally considered the watershed of the so-called Hellenistic “high baroque” style—is of only contextual importance here. It is represented by a few fragments. The...

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