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September 2, 2004



Illustration in Exhibit

"The Invention of Antiquity," an exhibition in Canaday Library's Class of 1912 Rare Book Room, will look at how Renaissance humanists shaped the contemporary understanding of ancient Greece and Rome. Curated by History of Art Ph.D. candidate Benjamin Anderson, the show will present a wide variety of books and prints from the first five centuries of classical studies. The exhibition will open on Monday, Sept. 20, at 4:30 p.m. with a lecture by Professor of History of Art and Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dale Kinney; it will remain on display through Dec. 17.

"Today we divide Western history into three distinct periods: the ancient, the medieval and the modern," Anderson writes in the upcoming issue of the Friends of the Library newsletter, Mirabile Dictu. "We know what ancient art looks like, and we know that Homer, Plato and Vergil were classical authors. However, our notion of the ancient world as a discrete historical unit is a humanist invention."

"Even after the adoption of the Christian faith, most emperors, scholars and architects thought of themselves as the direct descendants of their Roman counterparts," Anderson continues. "They valued classical texts for their contemporary relevance, and used ancient columns to build new churches. Only in the 14th century, with the advent of Petrarch and his fellow humanists, did European writers and scholars begin to treat the texts and artifacts of the pre-Christian past as a distinct class of objects: antiquitates, or 'antiquities.'"

"The Invention of Antiquity" will give viewers an illustrated history of the development, over several centuries, of the ideal of classical antiquity and its powerful influence in the modern world. It will also show visitors why classical scholars from around the country are drawn to Bryn Mawr's library collections.

Included in the exhibition will be a 15th-century illustrated edition of Petrarch's Triumphs, poems that reflect the author's study of the ceremonies of ancient Rome and his desire for a contemporary renewal of Roman political power; a 16th-century study of ancient dining practices meant to clarify the circumstances of the Last Supper; a 1681 edition of a popular study of the Roman circuses featuring engravings of animal sacrifice and gladiator combat; and The Antiquities of Athens, a lavishly illustrated study that provided much of the raw material for the Greek Revival in British and American architecture.

The exhibition will be open Monday-Friday 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday 1-5 p.m.

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