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Ancient Cypriote Sculpture in New York: Cesnola, the Metropolitan Museum and 19th Century Spectacle
AIA Central Arizona Chapter Lecture Series 2022-2023

Join us as we kick off the 2022-2023 lecture season with a riveting tale of nineteenth century museum practices and scandal!

"Ancient Cypriote Sculpture in New York: Cesnola, the Metropolitan Museum and 19th Century Spectacle"
Dr. Ann-Marie Knoblauch
Director and Associate Professor
School of Visual Arts
Virginia Tech

In the 1870s, two massive shipments of ancient Cypriote art arrived in New York, forming the foundational collection for the city’s new universal museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The collection had been acquired from Luigi Palma di Cesnola, the notorious antiquities collector working on Cyprus. The material led to public controversy fairly quickly. While most welcomed with enthusiasm the large collection of original ancient Mediterranean objects, New Yorkers familiar with the Greco-Roman past had a hard time making sense of the Cypriote material and its perceived “otherness.” Furthermore, a scandal (and eventual public trial) about alleged improper restorations to some of the Cypriote sculpture by Cesnola (by now the director of the Met) raised questions about archaeological ethics and authenticity.

In this presentation Dr. Knoblauch explores the public reception of (and reaction to) the ancient Cypriote material in 1880s New York. Unintentionally, Cesnola caused a spectacle for the newly-opened museum, and cynical New Yorkers–familiar with the antics of P.T. Barnum when it came to creating spectacles—enjoyed poking fun at the large and bewildering Cypriot collection and the arrogant Cesnola.

**This lecture will not be recorded.

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Sep 22, 2022 06:00 PM in Arizona

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