London: A major exhibition on the human body in ancient Greek art is to open at the British Museum from Thursday, exploring notions of ideal beauty as rendered in marble, terracotta and bronze.
"Defining beauty: the body in ancient Greek art" will trace representations of the body in ancient Greece from simple figurines to the height of realism achieved under Alexander the Great.
Among the 150 objects shown will be "some of the most important loans that the museum has really ever received", according to British Museum Director Neil MacGregor.
These include a statue of a nude athlete which was raised from the seabed off Croatia in 1999, which will be shown in Britain for the first time after years of conservation.
It is rare for bronze sculptures to have survived, as many were melted down, with most being known to art historians through Roman marble copies in marble.
This is "one of the great archeological discoveries of the last 30 years and with extraordinary generosity (the) Croatians have lent it," MacGregor said.
"This is a national treasure and it is a chance for us to grasp what those Greek bronzes actually looked like."
It will also be the first temporary show to feature some of the Elgin Marbles -- sculptures taken from the Parthenon in Athens that Greece has demanded be returned.
Six Parthenon sculptures will be moved from their permanent position in the Parthenon gallery for the exhibition, including the marble sculpture of the river god Ilissos loaned to a Russian museum last year.
The exhibition will explore the greatest achievement of ancient Greek artists and philosophers "exploring what it is to be human", MacGregor said.
Other loaned treasures include the Vatican Museums` Belvedere Torso, a seated hero that inspired Renaissance artist Michelangelo, who saw it as the greatest example of Greek sculpture known at the time.
It will be shown alongside a reclining nude from the Parthenon and Michelangelo`s drawing of Adam for the Sistine Chapel, bringing together the Italian artist`s school and the school of ancient Greek sculptor Phidias for the first time.
"The grand finale is that meeting of the school of Michelangelo and the school of Phidias," said curator Ian Jenkins.
"We had no idea that they would look so well together, that they would be ideal for each other."
The exhibition is the first in a series designed to showcase the permanent collection of the British Museum, and will run until July 5.