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Johann Joachim Winckelmann on Art, Architecture, and Archaeology

Johann Joachim Winckelmann on Art, Architecture, and Archaeology

Johann Joachim Winckelmann
Translated with an Introduction and notes by David Carter
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Johann Joachim Winckelmann on Art, Architecture, and Archaeology
    Book Description:

    Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768) has long been recognized as one of the founders of modern art history and a major force in the development of archaeology and the study of ancient Greek architecture. He also exerted an influence on the Weimar Classicism of Goethe and Schiller, for whom his description of Greek sculpture as evoking "edle Einfalt und stille Grösse" (noble simplicity and a calm greatness) became a watchword. He contributed to modern scientific archaeology through his application of empirically derived categories of style to the analysis of classical works of art and architecture, and was one of the first to undertake detailed empirical examinations of artefacts and describe them precisely in a way that enabled reasoned conclusions to be drawn about ancient societies and their cultures. Yet several of his important essays are not available in modern English translation. The present volume remedies this situation by collecting four of Winckelmann's most seminal essays on art along with several shorter pieces on the topic, two major if brief essays on architecture, and one longer essay on archaeology. Paired with this is an introduction covering Winckelmann's life and work. David Carter is retired as Professor of Communicative English at Yonsei University, Seoul, Korea, and is former Lecturer in German Studies at the University of Southampton, UK. Among his recently published translations from German are Klaus Mann's novel Alexander (2008) and On Cocaine (2011), a collection of Sigmund Freud's writings on the topic.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-846-0
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Translator’s Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-28)

    Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–68) has long been recognized as a founder of modern methodologies in the fields of art history and archaeology. He also contributed considerably to studies of classical Greek architecture, and applied empirically derived categories of style to the analysis of classical works of art and architecture. He was also one of the first to undertake detailed empirical examinations of artifacts and describe them precisely in a way that enabled reasoned conclusions to be drawn and theories to be advanced about ancient societies and their cultures.¹

    The present volume provides a selection of Winckelmann’s essays ordered thematically,...

  5. On Art

    • Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and the Art of Sculpture (1755–56)
      (pp. 31-56)

      Good taste, which is spreading more and more throughout the world, first started to develop in the climate of Greece. All the inventions of foreign peoples came to Greece only as the first seed, as it were, and acquired a different character and form in the country that Minerva, it is said, allocated as an abode for the Greeks, above all other countries, because of the temperate seasons she found there, and because it was a country that would bring forth wise men.

      The taste with which this nation imbued its works has remained unique to it. It has rarely...

    • Open Letter on Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and the Art of Sculpture (1755–56)
      (pp. 57-80)

      You have written about Greek arts and artists, and I would have liked you to have proceeded in your work as the Greek artists did with theirs. They exposed them to the eyes of the whole world, and especially to those of experts, before they released them from their own hands, and the whole of Greece passed judgment on their works at the great games, especially at the Olympic Games. You know that Aetion took his painting of Alexander’s marriage to Roxane there. You would have needed someone greater than Proxenides,¹ who passed judgment on the artist there. If you...

    • Explanation of Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and the Art of Sculpture and Response to the Open Letter on These Thoughts (1755–56)
      (pp. 81-114)

      I could not believe that my little work would deserve such attention and stir up such judgments. It was written only for a few experts on the arts, and for this reason it seemed superfluous to lend it a certain learned air, which a work can acquire through the citation of books. Artists understand what is written in a few words about art, and since most of them “consider it foolish,” and must consider it so, “to spend more time on reading than on writing,” as an ancient orator has taught us, then if one cannot teach them anything new,...

    • More Mature Thoughts on the Imitation of the Ancients with Respect to Drawing and the Art of Sculpture (1756–57)
      (pp. 115-116)

      Almost a century has flowed by since a great part of the nation, struck with blindness, treasured nothing but that which was new, and they called this period the Golden Age of the Arts. This blindness was indeed a general malady of those times, and in Rome, the seat of the arts, it had much more dangerous consequences. It was the period when the vain splendor of the courts got out of hand and encouraged feebleness, laziness, and servitude among peoples. The various branches of knowledge were in the hands of fashionable scholars, antechamber scholars, and people only tried to...

    • Description of the Most Excellent Paintings in the Dresden Gallery (1752)
      (pp. 117-126)

      The greatest work by Correggio, which is the height of three men, is likewise a seated Madonna with several saints and a bishop in a sumptuous vestment, and is painted on canvas, just like a another Madonna of the same size with an Evangelist and a Saint Francis at her side, with a nun next to each of them. They are in his earliest style, which is in the style of Andrea Mantegna. But Richardson¹ made a poor observation when he compared the style of the first of these two last-mentioned works with the Saint George.

      One can perceive with...

    • Reflections on Art (date unknown)
      (pp. 127-128)

      There is a similarity between judging works of art and reading books: you believe that you are understanding what you read, but when you have to explain it, you do not understand it. It is one thing to read Homer, but it is quite different to translate him while you are reading. Looking at art with good taste and looking at it with understanding are two different things, and from one generally valid thought you cannot conclude that someone has knowledge of it. Just as it does not follow that Cicero had thoroughly understood what he had written when he...

    • Recalling the Observation of Works of Art (1759)
      (pp. 129-136)

      If you wish to pass judgment on works of art, then first look beyond that which draws praise by its diligence and hard work, and pay attention to what has been produced by understanding. For diligence can be in evidence without talent, and this is also noticeable where diligence is lacking. An image created very laboriously by a painter or sculptor can as such be compared with a book produced laboriously. For just as writing in a learned way is not the greatest art, so an image that has been thoroughly painted in a fine and smooth way is no...

    • On Grace in Works of Art (1759)
      (pp. 137-142)

      Grace is what is intellectually pleasing. It is a concept that covers a broad range of things, because it also extends to all actions. Grace is a gift from heaven, but not like beauty, for heaven grants only the promise of it and the capability of achieving it. It is developed through education and reflection, and can become part of nature in those with the capacity for it. It cannot be forced in any way and is free of any labored wit, but it requires attentiveness and diligence, and naturalness in all actions, in which it reveals itself according to...

    • Description of the Torso in the Belvedere in Rome (1759)
      (pp. 143-148)

      I provide here a description of the famous torso in the Belvedere, which is generally called the Torso of Michelangelo, because this work was especially highly regarded by Michelangelo, and he made many studies of it. As is well known, it is a mutilated statue of a seated Hercules, and the master who made it is Apollonius, the son of Nestor of Athens. This description only concerns the ideal represented by the statue, especially because it is ideal in its conception. And it is one work from a similar description of several statues.

      The first work I applied myself to...

    • Treatise on the Capacity for Sensitivity to the Beautiful in Art and the Method of Teaching It (1763)
      (pp. 149-168)

      Concerning the delay of the draft text promised to you on the ability to appreciate beauty in art, I shall explain myself in the words of Pindar. When he had made Agesidamus, a noble youth from Locri, “beautiful of form and permeated with grace,” wait a long time for an ode he had intended for him, he said “A debt paid with interest removes the reproach.” My Kind Lord can relate this to the present treatise, which has turned out to be more elaborate than was intended originally, when that which was promised was to appear together with other so-called...

  6. On Architecture

    • Remarks on the Architecture of the Old Temples at Agrigento in Sicily (1759)
      (pp. 171-182)

      These remarks will not appear superficial to those who know the great work of Giuseppe Pancrazi,¹ in which Sicilian antiquities are explained, because he reports very little or not at all on the architecture of the temples and buildings he has reproduced as copper engravings. Wise scholars do not like to depart from their fixed track. For this reason Canon Mazzocchi,² one of the foremost scholars of our time, in his merely scholarly treatise on Paestum, which together with other works is included with his explanation of the Hercules tablets, passes over in silence the temples at Paestum as though...

    • Preliminary Report on Remarks on the Architecture of the Ancients (1762)
      (pp. 183-188)

      I owe the public an explanation concerning theHistory of the Art and Especially the Sculpture of Ancient Peoples, Primarily of the Greeks, which I announced several years ago. I could have brought it out at that time, but it will be more useful to me and to the reader that this did not happen. For when I took over theDescription of the Deeply Incised Stones in the Stoss Museumin Florence, I had to become involved again with many investigations that I had previously not carried out with the same attentiveness. This work, which was composed in French,...

  7. On Archaeology

    • Open Letter on the Herculanean Excavations (1762)
      (pp. 191-250)

      As I had the pleasure of accompanying you on your journey from Rome to Naples during the carnival in 1762, I decided to set down something on the unusual things that you saw in the Royal Museum at Portici, to remind you of the most remarkable things, and at the same time to provide instruction to other travelers, who are not able, during a short stay there, to give everything their full attention.

      I have had more opportunity than others, both strangers and local people, to examine these treasures of antiquity, as I stayed for almost two months on my...

  8. Notes
    (pp. 251-270)
  9. Select Bibliography
    (pp. 271-272)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 273-273)