From Temples to Museums: Afterlives of Classical Statues

Ever since their inception in classical Greece, lifelike freestanding statues representing real or ideal human forms have been prized as expressions of cultural, religious, aesthetic, and political values. This seminar studies their lives and multiple afterlives from antiquity to the present, asking how classical statues have been redefined, altered, relocated, replicated, and reinterpreted in different historical and geographical settings. Topics include the repurposing of votive statues in the ancient world, as well as the fate of ideal and honorific statues in the late antique and medieval periods. Beginning in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Rome, ancient statues were increasingly unearthed and displayed as symbols of dynastic or civic identity, often in novel settings and spaces. Special focus will be given to private and princely collections of the Renaissance and early modern period, as well as to the centrality of ancient statues to the invention and spread of state-sponsored museums in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Attention to economic and physical aspects (including the art market and changing technologies and philosophies of restoration) will be balanced with intellectual and aesthetic developments, including the historical and critical work of Winckelmann, Lessing, and others. We will also study the ways classical statues were reproduced in print and other media including bronze, marble, plaster, photography, and 3-D modeling, as well as the continuing debates about how best to display and interpret them for modern audiences. Throughout, the aim is to investigate how these objects’ changing settings, forms, functions, and meanings illuminate broader cultural and intellectual preoccupations. 3 Credits. Satisfies the pre-1800 requirement.