The United States of AntiquitySean P. Burrus
The ancient world of the Mediterranean has loomed large in the American imagination for centuries, profoundly shaping the arts, politics, and national identity of the United States. The exhibition Antiquity & America: The Ancient Mediterranean in the United States considers this enduring impact through the history and collections of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.
I. Introduction Inventing ‘Antiquity’ in America: The Ancient Mediterranean World in American Culture
Tracing the role of the ancient past in across three centuries of change in the United States.
Even before ancient art and artifacts existed in America a “cult of antiquity” that venerated all things Greek and Roman had already taken root on American soil.
In the first half of the 19th century, travel abroad and a growing appreciation for the arts at home gave Americans increasing access to the ancient world.
The fortunes created during the Gilded Age gave rise to a new class of Americans whose wealth allowed them to collect antiquities on unprecedented scale and to found institutions devoted to ancient art.
The enduring impact of antiquity in the American imagination remains visible in our architecture, in the work of contemporary artists, and in critical conversation on the role of ancient history and ancient art in the present.