Spring 2016

The Matter of Classical Art History

Verity Platt

Though foundational to the study of art history, Greco-Roman visual culture is often sidelined by the modern, and overshadowed by its own cultural and intellectual reception. Recent scholarship, however, has meticulously unpacked the discipline's formative narratives, while building on archaeological and literary studies in order to locate its objects of analysis more precisely within the dynamic cultural frameworks that produced them, and that were in turn shaped by them. Focusing on a passage from Pliny the Elder's Natural History (arguably the urtext of classical art history), this paper explores the perennial question of how the material stuff of antiquity can be most effectively yoked to the thinking and sensing bodies that inhabited it, arguing that closer attention to ancient engagements with materialism can alert us to models of image-making and viewing that are both conceptually and physically grounded in Greco-Roman practices of production, sense perception, and interpretation.

VERITY PLATT is Associate Professor in the Departments of Classics and History of Art at Cornell University. She is the author of Facing the Gods: Epiphany and Representation in Graeco-Roman Art, Literature and Religion (2011) and the forthcoming Beyond Ekphrasis: Making Objects Matter in Classical Antiquity. She also edited The Frame in Greek and Roman Art: A Cultural History (with Michael Squire, forthcoming with Cambridge University Press) and has published articles in Arethusa, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, and Art History.

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