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Lecture: Appropriation and Repatriation—Antiquities in Time of War in the Napoleonic Era

May 9, 2015
Fullerton Hall
Free with museum admission

The struggle to control the legacy of ancient Mediterranean civilization began in antiquity.  The armies of the Roman Republic that conquered the Greek city-states in the second century BCE were careful to remove much of the Greek artistic patrimony and send it to Rome.  Possession of the spoils of Greece was, to the Romans, a symbol of political and military superiority.  During the French invasion and occupation of Rome during the Napoleonic era, ancient masterpieces once again took to the road, this time north to Paris.

This lecture will examine the place of antiquities in the European imagination from the late 1790s until the Restoration of the French monarchy in 1815.  What was at stake in “owning” the artistic legacy of the ancient world?  How did the removal of ancient art from Rome help to expose the cultural vulnerability of works of art in time of war?  And finally, how was the museum world of the nineteenth century impacted by the massive displacement of works of a canonical tradition that in theory belonged to western civilization?  

Christopher Johns is the Norman and Roselea Goldberg Professor of History of Art at Vanderbilt University.  His publications include Antonio Canova and the Politics of Patronage in Revolutionary and Napoleonic Europe (1998) and The Visual Culture of Catholic Enlightenment (2014).

For more information, please call (312) 443-3698.

Sponsored by the Boshell Foundation Lecture Fund 

Affiliate Group: 

Antonio Canova. Bust of Paris, 1809. Harold Stuart Endowment; restricted gift of Mrs. Harold T. Martin.