Lecture Program
Lecturer Information

Kenneth Lapatin
The J. Paul Getty Museum

Kenneth Lapatin is Associate Curator of Antiquities with the J. Paul Getty Museum. He holds his degrees from the University of California, Berkeley (Ph.D.), and Oxford University (M. Stud.), and his areas of specialization are ancient Mediterranean Art and archaeology (particularly the Aegean Bronze Age, Greek and Roman), historiography, forgery, reception, and luxury arts. He has conducted fieldwork in Caesaria Martima (Israel), Roma and Corinth, and his main publications include “Chryselephantine Statuary in the Ancient Mediterranean World”, and “Mysteries of the Snake Goddess: Art, Desire, and the Forging of History”. Dr. Lapatin is the AIA’s 2009/2010 Joukowsky Lecturer.

Lecture Abstracts

Archaeological Forgeries: Why Fakes Matter
As long as ancient artifacts have been valued, forgers have created fakes to satisfy the desires of collectors. Although forgeries contaminate the archaeological record and are dangerous misrepresentations of the past, they also have considerable value as indices of contemporary taste and preconceptions about antiquity. This lecture surveys some notable instances of archaeological forgery and suggests ways in which we can learn from them.

Beyond Ceramics and Stone: The Luxury Arts of Greece and Rome
According to Herodotos (1.164), when the inhabitants of Phokaia evacuated their city rather than submit to the Medes, they “loaded onto their ships their children, women, and household property, and above all the images of the gods from sanctuaries and other dedications, everything, in fact, except bronzes, stonework, and paintings.” Modern histories of art, however, focus on painting and sculpture, which the Phokaians abandoned, while artifacts fashioned from more sumptuous materials—gold, silver, precious stones, ivory, amber, fine woods, elaborate textiles—have been marginalized as “minor arts.” This lecture attempts to reintroduce luxury arts to their rightful place among the masterpieces of ancient art while examining ancient and modern typologies of material culture and investigating how objects celebrated by classical authors and employed in the most significant social, political, and religious contexts have come to be displaced by better preserved painted pottery and marble statuary.

Reconstructing Lost Wonders of the World: Pheidias’ Zeus Olympios and Athena Parthenos
The Athenian sculptor Pheidias was the most celebrated artist of classical antiquity. Greek and Latin authors praised his work, in particular his monumental gold and ivory statues of Zeus at Olympia and Athena in the Parthenon on the Akropolis. This lecture presents some of the evidence for the reconstruction of these lost masterpieces and investigates the revolutionary techniques of their production, as well as their widespread religious, political, and artistic impact, both in antiquity and afterwards.

Repatriation in Antiquity
Calls for the repatriation of cultural property are increasing, and American museums have recently returned numerous artifacts to source countries. Yet artworks have always been potent symbols of civic, religious, and cultural identity, and their movements, licit or illicit, rarely went unnoticed. Even in antiquity the confiscation and repatriation of significant objects were important enough to be recorded by Greek and Latin authors. Then, as now, artifacts were returned for diverse reasons. This lecture examines several instances, revealing that issues vexing us today were also faced by the ancients. For some of the most famous artworks from classical antiquity are among those known to have been repatriated: for example the Tyrannicides by Antenor, at Athens and Apollo Philesios by Kanachos, Eros by Praxiteles, and Apoxyomenos by Lysippos. Today’s arguments for the repatriation of significant artworks, particularly antiquities, are frequently couched in ethical and philosophical terms. But if the past is any guide, political and economic interests must also be acknowledged.

The Last Days of Pompeii: Decadence, Apocalypse, and Redemption
Pompeii is perhaps the best known archaeological site in the world. It and other sites destroyed by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in AD 79 have been the subject of numerous books, articles, exhibitions, films, television documentaries, etc., all of which, rightly, tend to focus on ancient artifacts and their recovery, with reception included, if at all, as a coda. This lecture, in contrast, examines the paradigmatic role of the destruction of Vesuvian sites on the modern imaginary, exploring the allegorical constructs of decadence, apocalypse, and salvation through painting, sculpture, and other media from the rediscovery of sites in the eighteenth century to the present day. The interplay between history and science, on the one hand, and staged fiction on the other, will be a major sub-theme, for the tragedy of these cities’ demise has long been the foil to empirical and archaeological interest, with its focus on excavation, classification, and recovering a sense of daily Roman life. Pompeii has persisted in western culture as the archetype for a destroyed civilization to the point to which other disasters—from the 1755 Lisbon earthquake to the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina—are regularly compared to it. Catalyzed by the publication of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s Last Days of Pompeii, a wildly popular 1834 novel that melded a Victorian love story with sensational narratives of pagan decadence, Christian subculture, and volcanic eruption glossed with a thin veneer of archaeology, Pompeii has become a platform on which fascination with apocalypse is inexorably linked to (mis)understandings of antiquity. Although seemingly the site where we can recover directly the everyday the life of the ancients, Pompeii is regularly treated anachronistically, in the sense of the disaster being inevitable, cataclysm predestined, portents ignored, and punishment deserved. Indeed, today it is impossible to imagine Pompeii without thinking about the disaster. This lecture will examine how successive generations made the ancient tragedy their own as they vicariously relive the dramatic events of AD 79, albeit from a comfortable temporal distance, and will illustrate these acts of cultural appropriation and projection through some of the finest visual and literary imaginations of the last three centuries.

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