The Course of Empires: American-Italian Cultural Relations, 1770-1980

Sep 14, 2017 269

Info: Thursday, October 19, 6–8 p.m. at Keynote at the Embassy of Italy and Friday, October 20, 9:30 a.m.–6 p.m. at Symposium in McEvoy Auditorium, Smithsonian American Art Museum

This international conference will examine the persistent fascination of American and Italian artists with the cultural achievements of ancient Rome and the Renaissance. In creating national identities, both countries turned to history for similar reasons: to find inspiration for enlightened political practices; to locate models of artistic, political, and economic preeminence; and to seek ways to ward off imperial decadence and decline. Yet alongside this tendency toward emulation, some American and Italian artists looked askance at the myths of antique and Renaissance glories, demonstrating a skepticism toward the notion of imperial greatness. They utilized imagery of the Roman Colosseum, for example, as a multivalent symbol to articulate the rise, grandeur, terrors, and fall of empire.

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