Sheila Dillon— 2008 James R. Wiseman Book Award

Award Citation: 

 

The Archaeological Institute of America is pleased to present the 2008 James R. Wiseman Book Award to Sheila Dillon for Ancient Greek Portrait Sculpture: Contexts, Subjects and Styles (Cambridge and New York 2006).

In a reversal of traditional scholarship, Dillon focuses on the unidentified portraits of ancient Greek warriors, statesmen, writers, and philosophers. By leaving aside questions of style and identification, she illuminates aspects of these sculptures that indicate their importance both in Greece and in Rome. Thus, discussions of format and display add to our understanding of the production and acquisition of works of art in the Roman world. Comparing portrait types with datable examples from classical and Hellenistic grave stelae allows Dillon to decode the visual language of Greek portraits. While doing so, she demonstrates that portraiture became common in fourth-century B.C.E. Greece, rather than in the Late Hellenistic period, as has often been assumed.

As a counterpoint to Gisela Richter’s Portraits of the Greeks (1965), Dillon’s volume takes on a harder task, asking deeper cultural questions that are necessitated by the absence of identifications. In doing so, it rescues a significant body of work that has been largely ignored and makes it central to our understanding of the familiar, named portraits of figures such as Socrates or Demosthenes. From this point on, our understanding of Greek portraiture, and the Roman practice of reproducing and collecting it, will be based on this innovative, interesting, well-argued, well-researched, and beautifully illustrated book.

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