The event also served as a finale to a very successful one-day workshop on Ideals and Nations: New perspectives on the European reception of Winckelmann’s aesthetics, organised by Dr Fiona Gatty and Lucy Russell, under the auspices of the Department of Modern Languages, Oxford University. (This was the last of our triplet of workshops on the theme Under the Greek Sky: Taste and the Reception of Classical art from Winckelmann to the present, of which Spreading good taste: Winckelmann and the objects of dissemination—in Reading on 15 September 2017—was the second). On this auspicious occasion Professor Alex Potts from University of Michigan, formerly Professor of the History of Art & Architecture at University, served as one of the workshops’ keynote speakers and proposed a toast to Winckelmann.
This exhibition is a collaboration between UoR Classics’ Ure Museum and Christ Church, co-curated by Reading’s Dr Katherine Harloe and Prof Amy Smith (Curator of the Ure Museum) and Christ Church’s Cristina Neagu (Keeper of Collections). The exhibition of vases, coins, gems (and casts thereof) and even a piece of painted Pompeian plaster kindly lent by the Reading Museum Service, is displayed in Christ Church’s recently restored upper library, which IS in fact the very embodiment of the collecting curiosity that Winckelmann influenced with his enthusiasm for the study of artefacts alongside texts. The library, completed in 1772, boasts large Venetian windows at either end, fittings that date mostly from the 1750s and plasterwork replicating some of the musical instruments once contained in the library.
The exhibition is accompanied by a 134-page book, edited by Drs Harloe & Neagu & Prof Smith, with essays and a handlist of the objects on display, available from either Christ Church or the University of Reading for £10. We are grateful to the Friends of the University of Reading for funds in support of this publication.
Portrait of J.J. Winckelmann by A. von Maron (1768)
Today marks the 250th anniversary of the untimely death of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, a pioneering scholar of antiquity and arbiter of taste in 18th-century Europe. As part of the Winckelmann anniversaries 2017-2018 (we celebrated the 300th anniversary of Winckelmann’s birth 9 December 2017) we are pleased to launch a special online exhibition curated by Connell Greene, currently a third year student in our BA in Classical Studies: Longing for what we have lost: An influential explorer’s pursuit of classical antiquity. This exhibition considers how, since his death, Winckelmann’s life and scholarship have continued to fascinate artists, writers and thinkers, and thus elevate his significance within European cultural history in general and LGBTQ history in particular. Connell worked on this exhibit as part of his UROP, under the supervision of Dr Katherine Harloe and Prof. Amy C. Smith.
Our collaboration with Christ Church is particularly appropriate, since it recalls the University of Reading’s origins as an extension college—University Extension College, Reading—founded by Christ Church in 1892.
‘Classical reception’ is the study of the afterlife of classical literature and artefacts, in whatever medium. So it can include topics as diverse as theatre and film based on classical myths, political philosophy based on Plato and Aristotle, classicising sculpture of the Renaissance, or classicising architecture of the British empire. In Reading we currently teach reception via modules like ‘Ancient World on Film’ and ‘Transformations of Helen’. This weekend I encountered classical reception in other forms. I am on the advisory panel for the the AHRC-funded project ‘Classics and Class’, which is investigating how working-class readers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries engaged with the Greek and Roman classics, and on Friday I attended a workshop to discuss the latest findings. The principal investigators have trawled through published and unpublished archival sources in order to reconstruct the reading experience of hundreds of ordinary people who were not professional classicists, or even particularly educated, but who made the classics their own out of sheer interest and dedication. Of particular note was Dirty Dick of Aberdaron, a Welsh vagrant who knew several languages including Ancient Greek and Latin, and who hand-wrote numerous dictionaries – which were all stolen from him in the various hostels where he had to stay. The project has an extensive website, http://www.classicsandclass.info/, where you can read his story as well as many others.
One member of the workshop, David Movrin from the University of Ljubljana in Slovenia, brought along a new publication, Classics and Communism: Greek and Latin behind the Iron Curtain (2013) (http://www.classics.si/classics-and-communism/). This is a fascinating volume which outlines the careers of several mid-twentieth century classicists in former Soviet countries as they negotiated the difficulties of pursuing ‘humanist’ studies under authoritarian rule. The book has 150 pages of reproductions from Soviet archives including photographs, report cards, trial records, and hand-written poems from the labour camp where a classics professor was imprisoned for ‘contra-revolutionary propaganda’. A copy of Oedipus Tyrannus was sent to him, but it was interpreted as a slur on Stalin. These classicists were a very different set of people from the working-class readers, but they too pursued classics under impossibly hostile conditions.
On Monday I attended a less disturbing meeting, of the executive committee of the Classical Reception Studies Network. This Network brings together students and scholars of any discipline who have an interest in classical reception. It is ten years old this year, which is a source of great pride as well as a stimulus to reflection. In the relatively short space of ten years the focus on reception has transformed the field of classics, fostering connections both with other disciplines and with colleagues in other countries. Recent publications in reception include topics like Greek tragedy in prisons, Pompeii in the public imagination, Electra in film, Julius Caesar in American politics, and the Olympics in the modern world (http://www.open.ac.uk/arts/research/crsn/some-publications). Very few of these subjects would have been considered part of ‘classics’ ten years ago, but they all enrich our understanding both of the ancient world and of the modern. It was an inspiring weekend.
Bringing together literary, epigraphic, and legal sources, with a wealth of archaeological data collected in recent years, Marzano shows that these marine resources were an important feature of the Roman economy and, in scope and market-oriented production, paralleled phenomena taking place in the Roman agricultural economy on land. The book also examines the importance of technological innovations, the organization of labour, and the use of the existing legal framework in defence of economic interests against competitors for the same natural resource.
Winckelmann’s eloquent articulation of the cultural and aesthetic value of studying the ancient Greeks, his adumbration of a new method for studying ancient artworks, and his provision of a model of cultural-historical development in terms of a succession of period styles, influenced both the public and intra-disciplinary self-image of classics long into the twentieth century. Yet this area of Winckelmann’s Nachleben has received relatively little attention compared with the proliferation of studies concerning his importance for late eighteenth-century German art and literature, for historians of sexuality, and his traditional status as a ‘founder figure’ within the academic disciplines of classical archaeology and the history of art. Harloe restores the figure of Winckelmann to classicists’ understanding of the history of their own discipline and uses debates between important figures, such as Christian Gottlob Heyne, Friedrich August Wolf, and Johann Gottfried Herder, to cast fresh light upon the emergence of the modern paradigm of classics as Altertumswissenschaft: the multi-disciplinary, comprehensive, and historicizing study of the ancient world.