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VIRTUAL - Ancient Cypriote Sculpture in New York: Cesnola, the Metropolitan Museum and 19th Century Spectacle

September 22, 2022 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm MST (AZ time)

This is an online event.

Dr. Ann-Marie Knoblauch
Associate Professor, Art History
Virginia Tech

In the 1870s, two massive shipments of ancient Cypriote art arrived in New York, forming the foundational collection for the city’s new universal museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The collection had been acquired from Luigi Palma di Cesnola, the notorious antiquities collector working on Cyprus. The material led to public controversy fairly quickly. While most welcomed with enthusiasm the large collection of original ancient Mediterranean objects, New Yorkers familiar with the Greco-Roman past had a hard time making sense of the Cypriote material and its perceived “otherness.” Furthermore, a scandal (and eventual public trial) about alleged improper restorations to some of the Cypriote sculpture by Cesnola (by now the director of the Met) raised questions about archaeological ethics and authenticity.

In this presentation Dr. Knoblauch explores the public reception of (and reaction to) the ancient Cypriote material in 1880s New York. Unintentionally, Cesnola caused a spectacle for the newly-opened museum, and cynical New Yorkers–familiar with the antics of P.T. Barnum when it came to creating spectacles—enjoyed poking fun at the large and bewildering Cypriot collection and the arrogant Cesnola.

For questions about the event or registration, please email the program coordinator, Casey Gipson, at

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September 22, 2022
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm MST
Event Category:


Casey Gipson


In-person or Virtual Event
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