Academic journal article Journal of Art Historiography

Alexander Conze, 'Greek Relief Sculpture'

Academic journal article Journal of Art Historiography

Alexander Conze, 'Greek Relief Sculpture'

Article excerpt

Editor's introduction: Alexander Conze: The Bureaucrat and Art- Historiography

Like a number of his colleagues, Alexander Conze (Hanover December 10,1831- Berlin July 19,1914), came to classical archaeology after first studying law. His interests and gifts seem to have tended more toward curatorial and administrative work rather than lecturing, and he will be primarily remembered for his part in bringing the Pergamon Altar to the Berlin museums. It may therefore seem ironic that he nevertheless had a great influence as a teacher and probably the greatest influence in another field, which was only later to be defined and brought to fruition in academia by his students as 'the history of art.'

For the purposes of art historiography it is therefore significant that after nearly ten years at Halle as Extraordinarius, he was called to the University of Vienna as Ordinarius, taught from 1869 to 1877, where Franz Wickhoff, Alois Riegl, Emanuel Löwy and Julius Schlosser, among others, were influenced by his teachings. In the lectures given by Conze to the Prussian academy later in his career, it is not difficult to recognize a similarity to Schlosser in the binocular attraction of more abstract questions on the one hand and the aesthetic appeal of the individual object on the other. Conze also anticipated and presumably inspired the later studies made by Ernst Garger on the ground in relief sculpture and the historical place of the Monument of the Julii.

Conze's theoretical bent towards the origins and early developments of art must have been a primary feature of his lectures in Vienna. There was also an idealistic and bureaucratic aspect to his approach. At the time he was preparing his comprehensive edition of Attic stelae, whilst also inaugurating institutions and serving to sponsor further collective projects. It was during his years in Vienna that he set out on the excavation of Samothrace with two campaigns. Here and later at Pergamon, the ambition was to excavate all parts of a Greek city - something continued by the Austrian excavation of Ephesus. At the university in Vienna he co- founded the Archäologisch-Epigraphisches Seminar with Otto Hirschfeld in 1873 and was instrumental in publishing the Archäologisch-epigraphische Mitteilungen aus Österreich-Ungarn (continued by the Jahreshefte des Österreichischen Archäologischen Institutes in Wien). He was succeeded more briefly in this by Hirschfeld and then Eugen Bormann who also hosted the informal meetings of the 'Wiener Eranos' attended by Wickhoff and Riegl as well as publishing the Eranos Vindobonensis from 1893 onwards.1 These meetings became a centre for the definition of objectivity in this and related disciplines. They were also informal and popular and inspired the relative flexibility which later attracted other students with different interests such as Fritz Saxl.2

When Conze returned to Berlin in 1877 to become director of the collection of antiquities in the Berlin museums, he became involved with the excavation of the monuments from Pergamon and was instrumental in their installation. They were something of a centrepiece for the Berlin museums and certainly felt to compare with the Elgin Marbles which had inspired him during his travels undertaken after the completion of his studies. At this moment in German political history, soon after the unification of the realm, the curatorial work of the museums was being done in conscious comparison with other national showpieces of various origins, primarily London and Paris, but also Vienna, St. Petersburg and others. The Berlin museums persisted as a centre for scholarship in a way that had not appeared self-evident elsewhere. While ancient Rome had a more natural symbolic resonance for the political undercurrents of the time, Conze stands out for his particular interest in Greece and might to his colleagues have recalled J. J. Winckelmann.

In 1887 Conze became secretary of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut, but also had a hand in founding the Römisch-Germanische Kommission which further reflects his interests in prehistory, with the local traditions and to some degree national flavour. …

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