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Ancient Bronzes as Art Objects: Roman Collectors and “Corinthian Bronzes”

Lecture by UrbNet Visiting Professor Christopher Hallett (University of California, Berkeley). Lecture 2/6 in the lecture series "New research on the materials of ancient sculpture".

2021.01.28 | Lasse Rievers Olesen

Date Tue 13 Apr
Time 13:00 14:00
Location Virtual + Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet), Aarhus University, Moesgård Allé 20, 8270 Højbjerg, Denmark (Building 4230-232).


An art market came into being in the late Hellenistic period that supplied bronze statues, large and small, to rich collectors.  With the emergence of competitive art collecting by the super-rich at Rome, bronze figurines seem to have acquired a new function; and this dramatically changed their form and their appearance.  The result was a novel kind of bronze statuette, well attested in the ancient literary sources, and referred to as aes Corinthum, or Corinthia — ‘Corinthian bronzes’.

This paper argues that many of these notorious ‘Corinthian bronzes’ actually survive from antiquity; we can even date their first appearance in the archaeological record, and chart something of their evolution over time.  The popularity of the collectible bronze figurine in contemporary culture also had a more profound effect on Roman visual culture.  It gave rise to the employment of bronze statuettes in domestic cult in Roman homes, and in rituals and public ceremonies throughout the Roman world.

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History and archaeology, Lecture/talk