Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley MA

Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, The Legend of the Lares


On view through May 28

The Legend of the Lares

In ancient Rome, the domestic gods called Lares Familiares took the form of bronze statuettes or painted figures and were worshipped daily in household shrines. The Legend of the Lares, curated by 2015 Mount Holyoke College graduate Taylor Anderson, provides an overview of these enigmatic and versatile gods, and the devotional tools of the Roman home. The gem-like installation features more than a dozen bronze Lares and other gods, ceremonial implements such as incense burners, lamps, and libation bowls, and a marvelous, recreated lararium, the small temple-like structure that housed the Lares and was a primary symbol of a Roman family's piety.

The Legend of the Lares is the first museum exhibition to focus specifically on these household deities. "While many people today are familiar with the marble temples of ancient Rome and the Olympian gods and goddesses --Jupiter, Venus, Mars, to name a few--the religious practice that took place in the privacy of Roman homes is new to most," explains Anderson. The exhibition is the culmination of original research Anderson conducted while an undergraduate at Mount Holyoke College and the capstone project for her Art Museum Advisory Board Fellowship.  

The impetus for the exhibition was the MHCAM's 2013 purchase of an exquisite Roman statuette from the 1st-2nd century CE, Lar holding a patera and cornucopia. An exemplary representation of a Lar Familiaris, this bronze is the most significant acquisition of Roman art in nearly 20 years for MHCAM, which has long been recognized for its stellar collection of objects from the ancient Mediterranean world. The Legend of the Lares also brings together more than 20 antiquities from 9 other prestigious collections, including the Colby College Museum of Art, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center at Vassar College, the Harvard Art Museums, the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, the Princeton University Art Museum, the Smith College Museum of Art, the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, the Yale University Art Gallery, and one private collection. Highlights include the Wadsworth Atheneum's Lar carrying an animal-shaped rhyton and the Harvard Art Museum's Aphrodite holding mirror and apple.

Museum Hours
Free and open to the public

11 a.m.–5 p.m.

1–5 p.m.

Closed Mondays

Mount Holyoke College Art Museum
Lower Lake Road
South Hadley, MA 01075


Mount Holyoke College

50 College Street

South Hadley, MA 01075.


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