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100 Highlights
of the MFAH
Take a tour through some of the most significant objects in the MFAH collections. On these pages, you can browse 100 highlights from collections throughout the institution. Then visit the MFAH in person to discover your own favorites.
 
 
 
GREEK
Myrtle Wreath
c. 330-250 BC
Gold

12 x 1 3/8 inches

 
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Gift of Miss Annette Finnigan

Department of Antiquities

 
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In ancient Greece, wreaths made from plants like laurel, ivy, and myrtle were awarded to athletes, soldiers, and royalty. Similar wreaths were designed in gold and silver for the same purposes or for religious functions. This example conveys the language of love.

A plant sacred to the goddess Aphrodite, myrtle was a symbol of love. Greeks wore wreaths made of real myrtle leaves at weddings and banquets, received them as athletic prizes and awards for military victories, and wore them as crowns to show royal status. 

By the Hellenistic period (300-30 BC), the wreaths were made of gold foil; too fragile to be worn, they were created primarily to be buried with the dead as symbols of life’s victories. The naturalistic myrtle leaves and blossoms on this wreath were cut from thin sheets of gold, exquisitely finished with stamped and incised details, and then wired onto the stems. Most that survive today were found in graves.