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Casts of Greco-Roman statuary in the Museum of Classical Archaeology in Cambridge. Photo, Caroline Vout, Director of the Museum
Museum of Classical Archaeology

Reflecting on Professor Carrie Vout's Masterclass on Classical Art

From March 27 to 31 Byvanck Professor Carrie Vout gave the intensive masterclass Classical Art - Definitions, Politics, Limits. This special lecture series was open to students and PhD candidates in Archaeology and Classics. One of the attendees, Nicky Schreuder, on the class: 'It was a critical and engaging course from the outset that allowed us to actively think about what art and its styles do and how subjective it is. '

The classical canon

As the course description states, when we think of ‘classical art’, we privilege the same sorts of object (Greek and Roman figurative sculpture, exquisitely carved gems, Pompeian painting, and the post-antique artworks inspired by them). Why do we do this, and is it the whole story? 

‘We learned that the classical (think of naturalistic marble statues of heroes and gods) is a canon that has been centuries in the making: no surprise it is now a big part of our cultural consciousness,' PhD candidate Nicky Schreuder reflects. 'This, of course, also means we looked at what isn’t considered ‘classical’ nowadays: the aniconic; terracotta figurines of disabled bodies; statues of drunk women; images of black persons; the Other. This urged us to think of what we now would consider as ‘art’ and whether these objects should not also be part of the classical.'

The masterclass was concluded with a closing dinner

Rethorical prowess

Aside from the fascinating contents of the course, the attendees were also enthusiastic about Carrie Vout's style.

PhD candidate Merlijn Veltman: 'With her rhetorical prowess and engaging lectures, prof.dr. Caroline Vout manages to produce an informative and stimulating masterclass on Classical Art that I would heartily recommend to anyone interested in Art History, Museum Studies, Archaeology and/or the Mediterranean world.'

Nicky Schreuder agrees: 'Carrie Vout’s knowledge of so many pieces of art from antiquity to the present day and her confronting us with it made the subject of the class all the more inviting – not only that, it was also fun to be able to discuss such a variety of objects that could teach all of us new things.'

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