Thursday – Friday 22-23 November: Classical Material Culture in the Nineteenth Century

When: Thursday – Friday 22-23 November 2018

Where: Keynes Library, Birkbeck School of Arts, 43 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PD


Classical Material Culture in the Nineteenth Century

This event has now finished. For more information and updates please visit the project website:



On 1st December 2018 the second cast court at the Victoria and Albert Museum will reopen to the public after an extensive programme of renovation, First opened in 1873 as the Architectural Courts, the two cast courts at the Victoria and Albert Museum contain casts of medieval and renaissance monuments from all over the world, as well as classical casts, including Trajan’s column from the second century AD.

This conference brings together scholars working across a range of disciplines (art history, classics, literature) to discuss the reception of classical material culture in the nineteenth century. It begins on the evening of Thursday 22nd November with a lecture by Holly Trusted, Senior Curator of Sculpture at the V&A on the redesigned cast courts and the following day, speakers discuss the mediation of classical material culture across a range of nineteenth-century cultural production including paintings, photographs, sculpture, book illustrations, and various writing genres including art criticism, theory, the novel and poetry. The conference will ask how writers and artists encountered the materiality of the ancient world. What was the role of reproduction in recreating the antique past? What kind of embodied relationships underpin nineteenth-century engagements with classical material culture? How did the remodelling of ancient histories shape questions of national identity, religion, gender?

Join us as we explore the nineteenth century’s fascination with the material culture of the ancient world.

Organised by the Birkbeck Centre for Nineteenth-Century Studies.

Please contact Dr Vicky Mills (v.mills@bbk.ac.uk) with any queries

Speakers and respondents: Rees Arnott-Davies (Birkbeck), Patrizia di Bello (Birkbeck), Jason Edwards (York), Catharine Edwards (Birkbeck), Stefano Evangelista (Oxford), Melissa Gustin (York), Shelley Hales (Bristol) Victoria Mills (Birkbeck), Kate Nichols (Birmingham) Lindsay Smith (Sussex), Holly Trusted (V&A), Caroline Vout (Cambridge) Rebecca Wade (Leeds Museums and Galleries)

Registration is free but required. Please book your free ticket here.


Thursday 22nd November

 Holly Trusted (Senior Curator of Sculpture, V&A) ‘Displaying Plaster Casts at the Museum: South Kensington and the Reproduction of Sculpture’ Introduced by Victoria Mills (Birkbeck)

6-7.30 pm followed by drinks

 Friday 23rd November

 9.20-9.50 Registration

9.50-10.00 Welcome

10.00-11.00 Jason Edwards (York) ‘Sodomising Edward Bulwer-Lytton, or Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s Last Days of Pompeii’. Introduced by Luisa Calè (Birkbeck)

11.00-11.30 Coffee break

11.30-1pm. Panel one: Visual and Textual Responses

Victoria Mills (Birkbeck) ‘Gender and sculpture in Antique Fiction: Female Bodies, Material Afterlives’

Catharine Edwards (Birkbeck) ‘Visions of ruin:  Volney’s Les ruines and Mary Shelley’s Rome’

Chair: Hilary Fraser, Birkbeck

1pm-2pm  Lunch

2-3:30pm Panel two: Sculpture, Reproduction, Aesthetics

Rees Arnott Davies (Birkbeck) ‘‘The most violent enthusiasm’ – Henry Hart Milman’s critique of Winckelmann’s aesthetic experience’.

Rebecca Wade (Leeds Museums and Galleries ) – ‘The Lost Leeds Cast Collection, 1888-1941’

Melissa Gustin (York) ‘American Psychopomp: Harriet Hosmer’s Pompeian Sentinel and Problems with Plaster’

Chair: Carrie Vout, (Cambridge)

3:30-4.00.pm coffee break

4.00-5.00pm: Lindsay Smith (Sussex), ‘Photographers in Athens 1840-1879’. Introduced by Patrizia di Bello (Birkbeck)

5.00-5.45pm – Response panel/discussion: Patrizia di Bello (Birkbeck); Shelley Hales (Bristol);  Kate Nichols, (Birmingham); Stefano Evangelista (Oxford)

5.45-5.50 Closing remarks

5.50-7.00 Drinks


sitemanagerThursday – Friday 22-23 November: Classical Material Culture in the Nineteenth Century

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