Forever Young: The Monumental Kouroi of Ancient Greece

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Lecture by Caroline Vout in the Institute's seminar room, starting at 6pm

When we think about the sculptures of ancient Greece and Rome, we tend to think of the nude, naturalistic bodies that influenced Renaissance productions such as Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and Botticelli’s ‘Venus’. But what about the statues that populated Greece before the fifth century BCE when naturalism became the dominant language? What about the statues of the sixth century, the power of which was in their blockiness, frontality, relative abstraction, statues better suited to modernity than to ‘classicism’?

This talk brings us face to face with these statues, asking what it is about them, their relationship to the real, their individuality and anonymity, and their mode of address that still inspires today’s artists. These kouroi (a word that simply means ‘male youths’ in ancient Greek) and their female counterparts or korai served as funerary markers or stood in sanctuaries, where they functioned as commemorations to the dead or gifts to the gods. We ask how these male and female figures performed their duties, both singly and collectively, and how they used paint, adornment, attributes and inscriptions to instill wonder in their viewers. The answers refresh our relationship with Domanović’s ‘Votives’, creating a heightened sense of proximity and distance.

Caroline Vout is Reader in Classics at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Christ’s College. She is a historian and art historian who publishes on a wide range of topics related to Roman cultural history, Greek and Roman art history and its reception, and Latin literature. Her books include Power and Eroticism in Imperial Rome (2007) and The Hills of Rome: Signature of an Eternal City (2012), both Cambridge University Press, and Sex on Show: Seeing the Erotic in Greece and Rome (2013), The British Museum Press and University of California Press, and her exhibitions, Antinous: The Face of the Antique (Henry Moore Institute, 2006) and Following Hercules: The Story of Classical Art (The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, 2016). Recent speaking engagements include last year’s Jaipur Literature Festival. Her latest monograph, Classical Art: A Life History, will be published by Princeton University Press in early 2018. 

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