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THE USE OF ANTIQUITY FOR LIFE

 

THE OCCUPATIONS OF ANTIQUARIANS

 

THE AESTHETIC EDUCATION OF EUROPE

Evidences of Antiquity

Winckelmann and His Century

Athens, England, and Beyond

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

 

James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, The antiquities of Athens

The earliest antiquarians were explicitly ahistorical in their approach to antiquity. They found in pre-Christian texts "figures" of Christian truth, thereby claiming to demonstrate its eternal verity. Yet even these first inventors of antiquity were unsettled by the foreignness of the very land they were attempting to recover. In the Preface to his Geneologiae deorum, Boccaccio speculated that the work of "penetrating the hearts of the Ancients" and "eliciting their meaning" might be "a divine task - not human!" Yet he felt that he could elicit from the classical poets "certain natural truths." Over time the skeptical strain in classical studies grew stronger, and the search for natural truths was pursued with less confidence. Art presented itself as the last hope for direct contact with the ancients. Thus Winckelmann, writing in the 18th century, could still claim to "speak as though from the mouth of antiquity." But the truths he thus articulated depended on the political and geographic circumstances of ancient Greece, and were no longer tailored to agree with Christian doctrine. Greek antiquity became a distant golden age, one that combined, in Schiller's formulation, "the first youth of imagination with the manhood of reason in a glorious manifestation of humanity."

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[Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections]