Past Event

2017-2018 Bettman Lecture Series: Caroline van Eck

April 2, 2018
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
612 Schermerhorn


The Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University hosts the next event in the 2017-2018 Bettman Lecture Series. Caroline van Eck (Cambridge) will discuss, "The Material Presence of Absent Antiquities: Collecting Excessive Objects and the Revival of the Past c. 1800."

The lecture is free and open to the public, and it will be followed by a reception in the Stronach Center on the 8th floor of Schermerhorn Hall.

Inaugurated in 2004, the Bettman Lectures are an annual program of lectures in art history sponsored by Columbia University's Department of Art History and Archaeology. Endowed with a bequest from Linda Bettman, a former graduate student of the department, the lectures are named in her honor.

Near the end of his life Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) created three colossal candelabra from fragments of sculpture excavated near the Villa Hadriana in Tivoli, two of which are now in the Ashmolean Museum, and one in the Louvre. Although they were among the most sought-after and prestigious of his works, and fetched enormous prizes during Piranesi's life, they suffered a steep decline in appreciation from the 1820s onwards, and even today they are among the least studied of his works.

The subject of lecture is the intense investment, by artists, patrons, collectors and the public around 1800 in objects that somehow, by their design or style, by their presence and what we would now call their agency or materiality, make Graeco-Roman Antiquity present again. It is about how these objects make their makers or viewers feel that they are again in the presence of Antiquity, that not only Antiquity has revived, but that classical statues become alive under their gaze; about what it takes to make such objects, and what it costs to own them; and about the psychological and anthropological ramifications of such intense if not excessive attachments to artefacts. In other words, this lecture will take a fresh look at what usually is called Neo-Classicism, and the Neo-Classical culture of collecting; but from a different perspective, because the artists, patrons, or collectors or other persons are not the point of departure here. Instead, the objects themselves are the starting point. Their material presence, their agency, or materiality staged and shaped their discovery, design, fabrication, and display, which are all episodes in their cultural biography that together make up the Neo-Classical style.