Friday, September 4, 2009


Version at BMCR home site
Adolf H. Borbein, Thomas W. Gaethgens, Johann Joachim Winckelmann: Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums. Katalog der antiken Denkmäler. Erste Auflage Dresden 1764. Zweite Auflage Wien 1776. Schriften und Nachlass Bd. 4,2. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 2006. Pp. 614; ills. 1402. ISBN 978-3-8053-3745-8. €82.00.

Adolf H. Borbein, Max Kunze (ed.), Johann Joachim Winckelmann: Anmerkungen über die Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums. Dresden 1767: Texte und Kommentar. Schriften und Nachlass Bd. 4,4. Mainz am Rhein: Philipp von Zabern, 2008. Pp. xxvi, 280; ills. 86. ISBN 978-3-8053-3844-8. €46.00.
Reviewed by A. A. Donohue, Bryn Mawr College

The two volumes under review are part of the excellent series presenting the published and unpublished works of Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768), one of the most important figures in the emergence of the disciplines of classical art history and archaeology. The series is directed by a distinguished team of editors under the auspices of the Akademie der Wissenschaften und der Literatur, Mainz, the Akademie gemeinnütziger Wissenschaften zu Erfurt, and the Winckelmann-Gesellschaft of Stendal. The intelligent editorial conception and principles, fine scholarship, and beautiful production by Philipp von Zabern make the series an indispensable and effective work of reference.

The work for which Winckelmann is best known, the Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums (History of the Art of Antiquity), appeared at the end of 1763 but is conventionally cited by the date on the title page, 1764. Although Winckelmann planned an improved and expanded second edition, he decided to publish his preparatory notes separately as the Anmerkungen (Dresden, 1767) and did not live to carry out his original intention. Posthumous editions and translations of the Geschichte often integrate the Anmerkungen. For some time, too, attempts were made to maintain the scholarly currency of the text. Anglophone readers since the mid-nineteenth century, for example, have relied on the translation by G. Henry Lodge, which combines the various stages of Winckelmann's own contributions with annotations and updatings made by subsequent editors and translators.1 The attempt to prolong the authority of the Geschichte by producing a seamless text and adding new documentation could not be infinitely sustained--one thinks, for example, of the series of revised and expanded editions of H.W. Janson's standard History of Art--not only because of the sheer logistical difficulty of incorporating new information and interpretations, but also because it is ever more apparent that every scholarly work is shaped by historical, cultural, and intellectual factors that make it a document of its own time. The present edition fosters such an approach to Winckelmann's works. The four volumes of the Geschichte and the Anmerkungen clarify the formation and transformation of the texts and the intellectual and scientific context that gave them meaning and value. The first volume (4,1; 2002) presents, on facing pages, transcriptions into Roman type of the Dresden edition of the Geschichte of 1764 and the posthumous second edition published in Vienna in 1776; the layout permits easy comparisons of corresponding sections.2 The third volume (4,3; 2007) is a detailed commentary that explains Winckelmann's references and allusions and situates his text within his own and other scholarship; references to the monuments and works of art he mentions are keyed to the second volume (4,2), the Katalog der Denkmäler. The separate volume (4,4) of the Anmerkungen includes references to the first three.

One problem that motivated the successive updatings of the Geschichte is no less a challenge for historiographic approaches: the difficulty of identifying the works mentioned or even discussed by Winckelmann. Eighteenth-century practices of documentation were not in general as rigorous as the standard expected now; furthermore, Winckelmann often referred to objects he had seen but had not yet been published--indeed, one of his principal goals was always to make such objects known and available for study. The Geschichte was originally illustrated only with a small number of engravings for the most part marking the major divisions of the text.3 Most of the monuments were thus not illustrated (Winckelmann in fact omitted discussing objects that he thought could not be adequately explained without illustration [4,4, 7.19-22]), and identifying them now is sometimes hampered by the imprecision of Winckelmann's references, shifts in the understanding and hence designation of even well-known pieces, and changes in the location of objects as well as in their condition. Generally, however, it is a question of the standard corpus, and the small number of objects that remain unidentified or lost may yet be traced.

The catalogue is clearly organized and presented. It is easy to consult in conjunction with the other volumes and will also be useful to the reader whose research, whether on specific objects or more general topics, is not centered on Winckelmann.4 The foreword sets out the purpose and principles of the catalogue. Editorial conventions and general abbreviations are conveniently presented, as are the abbreviations for the extensive and well-organized bibliography. The two indices keyed to the catalogue allow the reader to find individual works by both their present location and their location in Winckelmann's time.

The 1365 numbered entries (it is a testament to the planning of this immense project that only a very few are blank) are organized by culture and typology. The importance of the Geschichte for the study of classical art has overshadowed the fact that Winckelmann treated antiquity beyond Greece and Rome and incorporated the art of several ancient cultures in an overall pattern of development. The catalogue largely follows Winckelmann's own organization of the Geschichte in devoting sections to Egyptian (and Egyptianizing), "Oriental" (Near Eastern), and Etruscan (and Italic) art; while Winckelmann treated Greek and Roman art for the most part separately, his understanding of the relationship between them and consequently his judgements of individual works have been superseded, and Greek and Roman here share a section arranged by currently accepted criteria. Within the cultural sections, monuments are organized by medium, encompassing, as required, architecture, painting, sculpture, ceramics, inscriptions, coins, and the minor arts, and then by the categories appropriate to each medium. Works believed by Winckelmann to be ancient but subsequently recognized as inauthentic are included. The entries are efficiently laid out and provide (again, as known and appropriate) a basic identification of each monument, the phrase with which Winckelmann referred to it, its findspot, past and present location and inventory number, basic measurements, a list of references in the 1764 and 1776 editions, and significant bibliography through the present. The discussions include information about the pieces such as condition, restorations, dating, and identification, as well as consideration of their significance for Winckelmann and other scholars. The entries do a very good job of providing both concise treatments of works that have generated extensive scholarship and helpful remarks on the lesser-known and even quite obscure pieces. Uncertainly identified works are not illustrated, but for nearly all the others photographs or contemporary engravings are provided. The quality of the photographs is more than adequate for their stated purpose of convenient reference; for more extensive illustration, the reader is referred (15) to the electronic database "Antiken, die Winckelmann kannte."5

The new edition of the Anmerkungen (4,4) follows the principles adopted for the Geschichte. As noted above, Winckelmann intended to correct and expand his history in a second edition; his decision to publish his notes separately, he explains in his preface dated September 1, 1766, was taken partly in recognition of flaws in the first edition and partly out of disgust with its essentially pirated French translation published that year.6 He intended, too, to treat works of art he had either excluded from treatment or not known. The pieces discovered after the publication of the Geschichte serve as a useful reminder of the rapid expansion of the corpus of antiquities beyond the materials known since the Renaissance and of the changing understanding of ancient art during this period.

The front matter comprises an editorial foreword explaining the genesis of the Anmerkungen, clear presentations of the editorial conventions, corrigenda, and general abbreviations, and a bibliography with abbreviations. Four indices are keyed to the page and line numbers of the transcribed text: general subjects; location of monuments in Winckelmann's time and today; and passages from ancient authors. Indices are a valuable clue to scholarly conceptions and practices, and it is interesting to compare the modern ones with Winckelmann's own (127-150): ancient and modern authors explained and emended; Greek words explained; a varied group of subjects including names of people and places, ancient terms, and iconographic subjects; and a list by location of cited works of art.

The text proper is a transcription into Roman type that does not maintain the original pagination in layout, but indicates it clearly. It also preserves a point of format that was important to Winckelmann: marginal summaries of content. One of his bitterest complaints against the French translation of the Geschichte was that they had been eliminated in favor of headings that broke the continuity of his text ("Vorrede" 16.22-37). These marginal summaries and the original detailed table of contents (19-26) are not only useful for navigating the Anmerkungen, but also helpful for grasping the structure of the Geschichte itself. Winckelmann's own notes are printed, as in the original, at the bottom of the page; they consist of references to ancient texts and extremely abbreviated citations of scholarly literature, much of which is no longer generally familiar. The detailed commentary that follows the text is extremely useful in clarifying Winckelmann's references and allusions, providing background information on authors and works as well as full bibliographic citations. Monuments are treated in the order in which they are mentioned in the text, again with good basic information and bibliography, brief discussion of significant points, and a good selection of convenient illustrations. For text and monuments alike there are plentiful cross-references to the three volumes of the Geschichte. Also included is a discussion of the manuscript (Tibal no. 59) in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, a draft of the Anmerkungen, from which passages that were not published are transcribed (X-XII, 151-164).

The new editions of the Geschichte and the Anmerkungen are impressive in scope and quality, combining current scholarship on the monuments with detailed knowledge of Winckelmann's texts, the works of his predecessors and contemporaries, and the circumstances that shaped the information available to them. Such documentation will assist the evaluation of Winckelmann's work. Adolf Borbein's foreword to the catalogue observes that the attention paid to Winckelmann as a theorist has overshadowed recognition of his achievements as an archaeologist (4,2, 11-12). By focussing attention on his treatment of the monuments and providing context for his opinions, the new edition will undoubtedly improve understanding of Winckelmann's contributions and help clear up misconceptions. For example, the frequent assertion in current scholarship on sculptural polychromy that Winckelmann disparaged or even denied the existence of painted statuary is not supported by his remarks on the physical and textual evidence for practice in antiquity, as is clear from the documentation in both the commentary and the catalogue of the new edition; the misunderstanding results from ignoring certain passages and decontextualizing others that relate to different artistic questions.7

Beyond extending the documentary value of Winckelmann's texts and furnishing a valuable tool for insuring the accuracy of the scholarly record, the new edition invites us to consider more generally how the work of Winckelmann and other early figures relates to current ideas and practice. Winckelmann is not our contemporary. We know monuments and texts he did not know and could not have known, just as much of the material that was familiar to him is no longer common knowledge. It takes effort to unsee, as it were, our own view of the corpus, to try to see as he saw, and on that basis determine what of his work we would put aside, what holds its place in the foundations of our scholarship, and even what observations and opinions might yet be part of ongoing discourse. (His conviction, for example, that specific subject-matter is often to be identified in scenes dismissed as generic [4,4, 11.23-12.10] remains relevant to iconographic research.) It is now more possible than before to observe Winckelmann in the process of teaching himself to see--an unending process in the study of ancient art.

In short, the volumes under review represent a significant addition to the documentary basis for classical art history and archaeology as well as for broader areas of intellectual and institutional history and the history of reception and collections. The series is an indispensable work of scholarship.


1.   The translation by G.H. Lodge began to appear in 1849 with the second volume, treating Greek art (he made the decision on the basis of "[e]steeming this volume the most interesting and important of the series"): The History of Ancient Art, Translated From the German of John Winckelmann II (Boston, 1849) vi; the other volumes appeared through 1873. It was republished in several formats through the early 1880s and reprinted in facsimile with additional material in 1968 (Frederick Ungar, New York); the 1880 edition is reprinted in C. Bowman, ed., Essays on the Philosophy and History of Art by Johann Joachim Winckelmann (London, 2005). The Geschichte of 1764 is available in a translation by H.F. Mallgrave with an introduction by A. Potts as part of the series Texts and Documents published by the Getty Research Institute: Johann Joachim Winckelmann. History of the Art of Antiquity (Los Angeles, 2006); BMCR 2007.07.38.
2.   Facsimile editions: Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Kunsttheoretische Schriften 5. Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums [Dresden, 1764] (Studien zur deutschen Kunstgeschichte 343; Baden-Baden and Strasbourg, 1966); KS 6. Anmerkungen über die Geschichte ...[Dresden, 1767] (Studien 344; 1966). Digitized facsimiles of high quality are available, e.g., through the "Quellen zur Geschichte der Kunstgeschichte" (Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg); others, of variable quality, are offered by Google Books, the Internet Library, etc..
3.   The engravings for both the first and second editions are reproduced in their correct locations in the text volume (4,1). Those of the Dresden edition, together with Winckelmann's explanations of them, are gathered in a separate section (81-109) in the Getty edition (note 1 above).
4.   Cf. the scope of the database "Corpus der antiken Denkmäler, die J.J. Winckelmann und seine Zeit kannten" (the title also appears on the Dyabola website as "Corpus der antiken Kunstwerke, die Johann Joachim Winckelmann und seiner Zeit bekannt waren" and elsewhere as "Corpus der Antiken Bildwerke, die Johann Joachim Winckelmann und seine Zeit kannten"), conceived as a supplement to the "Census of Antique Art and Architecture Known to the Renaissance" (also called on the website "Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture Known in ..."); these databases are available through DYABOLA.
5.   See note 4 above.
6.   For his decision: 4,4, 7.8-15 and 16.22-17.13; see 168 ad 7.7 (sic for 7.10; the line references for the Vorrede are slightly shifted) for Winckelmann's criticism of the translation, Histoire de l'art chez les anciens (Paris, 1766).
7.   I discussed the misunderstanding of Winckelmann's treatment of polychromy in "The Polychromatic, the Achromatic, and the Lifelike in the Historiography of Classical Statuary," presented at the symposium "Rediscovering Color: New Perspectives on Polychrome Sculpture," The Getty Villa, Malibu, May 2-3, 2008.

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