National Lecture Program

AIA Lecturer: Verity Platt

Affiliation: Cornell University

Verity Platt is Professor of Classics and History of Art at Cornell University, where she is currently chair of Classics. She holds her degrees from Oxford University (Ph.D. and B.A.) and the Courtauld Institute of Art, London (M.A.), and her research interests include the history of Greek and Roman art, ancient religion, the relationship between texts and objects, and later receptions of classical antiquity (especially in contemporary art). She is also curator (with Annetta Alexandridis) of Cornell’s plaster cast collection. Her publications include Facing the Gods: Epiphany and Representation in Graeco-Roman Art, Literature and Religion (Cambridge, 2011) and co-edited volumes on The Frame in Classical Art: A Cultural History (Cambridge, 2017) and The Embodied Object in Classical Antiquity (2018). Her current monograph, Imprint and Line: Making and Mediating between Classical Art and Text, is under contract to Oxford University Press.


Most collections of plaster casts in universities were put together in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, for the purposes of teaching the fine arts, art history, and classical archaeology. During the mid-20th century, casts fell out of favor and many were removed, dispersed, or destroyed. But how are those that remain displayed and experienced today? Taking Cornell University’s large collection as a representative case-study, this lecture explores how casts are used in modern-day pedagogical contexts, what they mean for contemporary students and scholars, and how they can spark important debates about issues such as the politics of classicism; whiteness, polychromy, and race; the ethics of collecting; and the relationship between casting and modern-day technologies of scanning and 3D printing.

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