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Winckelmann and the Invention of Antiquity: History and Aesthetics in the Age of Altertumswissenschaft
23.06.2021 Katherine Harloe
archaeology
Johann Joachim Winckelmann

Ein Versuch eines Lehrgebäudes (‘an attempt at a systematic framework’): that is the professed aim of Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums , inscribed in the opening paragraph of his ‘history of ancient art’. More than any other Enlightenment writer, Winckelmann has been hailed the Enlightened founder of Altertumswissenschaft —that is, of the complete and holistic historical study of Greek and Roman antiquity. 

At the same time, Winckelmann’s Geschichte would exert a profound influence on Enlightenment aesthetics: this German thinker, as Christian Felix Weisse declared already in 1764, ‘was the first man to provide something systematic from the art of the ancients [ etwas systematisches von der Kunst der Alten ]’ ( Bibliothek der schönen Wissenschaften und der freyen Künste 11:...

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