Greek Statues, Roman Cults and European Aristocracy: Examining the Progression of Ancient Sculpture Interpretation

Andrew Lusher

Abstract


In 1747 Frederick II of Prussia acquired a rare and highly valuable statue from antiquity and gave it the description of Antinous (the ill-fated lover of the Roman Emperor Hadrian). Although the bronze statue had always been accepted as an original from ancient Greece, the statue eventually assumed the identity of the Roman Antinous. How could Frederick II, an accomplished collector, ignore the blatant style and chronological discrepancies to interpret a Greek statue as a later Roman deity? This article will use the portraiture of Antinous to facilitate an examination of the progression of classical art interpretation and diagnose the freedom between the art historian and the dilettante. It will expose the necessary partition between the obligations of the art historian to provide technical interpretations of a work within the purview of the discipline with that of the unique interpretation made by individual viewers. This article confirms that although Frederick II lived before the transformative scholarship of Winckelmann, the freedom of interpreting a work is an abiding and intrinsic right of every individual viewer.  


Keywords


Antinous, Art History, Berlin, Frederick II, Sculpture, Winckelmann.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18533/journal.v6i12.1313

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