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Antiquity in Italy (1 BC – 1800): Continuities and Refractions - 06-07/04/2016, London (England)

The aim of the conference is to examine the concept of the ‘classical past’ by analysing how ruling elites, civic communities, social groups and families in Italy in different periods and in different contexts invented and shaped their own ‘classical’ past according to their actual concerns.

The conference is conceived as the final international meeting of the HistAntArtSI project. Funded by an ERC grant, HistAntArtSI ( has been studying over the last five years (2011-2015) historical memory, antiquarian culture and artistic patronage in the cities and towns of southern Italy between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. In part­­icular, the project has been looking at how documents sanctioning the existence of local administrative institutions, and monuments from antiquity and from the more recent past, both surviving in conspicuous quantities, were central to the processes of constructing the local identities of urban centres throughout the Kingdom of Naples. Identity was expressed both through new literary works and new works of art and architecture. The results of the research are now established and are ready for comparison with similar researches relating to other areas and to other historical periods, with the aim above all of questioning, through this comparative approach, the underlying reasons which motivated the creation of urban and civic identity.

By examining a very wide chronological range, from ancient Roman times to the Neoclassical period, and focusing on various contexts in the Italian territory, the conference aims to look at how in different periods different areas shaped their notions of the ‘antique’ and their own idea of the past, an idea which was not necessarily confined to Greek and Roman remains, but could include examples from pre-Greek and pre-Roman indigenous pasts, as well as from more recent history. Real or fictive ruins, inscriptions, and literary works were used to express a particular vision of a place’s local origins, to rewrite its history or manifest its civic pride.

Speakers will select from their own research themes and cases addressing the idea of why and how ‘antiquity’ was reused, and examine the ways in which individuals or communities of patrons or artists, in looking back to the past, chose to select specific features from it. In particular, papers will deal with cultural operations in which the reuse or revival of ‘antiquity’ was not only intended as a formal and aesthetic element, but was guided by an ideological need to build a contemporary sense of identity, which took the past as its point of departure. Papers will also consider how the exchange or intermittence of past and present led to the strategic selection and display of ancestors and genealogies as part of the reconstruction of a family or centre’s history and therefore of their identity. They may also address the concepts of ‘geographical antiquity’ and ‘chronological antiquity’, that is to say, cases where ancient remains were reused because they were local and therefore in order to enhance local history (as in Capua or Milan during the fifteenth century), or because there was a need to refer back to a specific period of the past (as in the Paleochristian revival in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Rome).

FECHA/DATE/DATA: 06-07/04/2016

LUGAR/LOCATION/LUOGO: The Walburg Institute (London, England)

ORGANIZADOR/ORGANIZER/ORGANIZZATORE: Francesco Caglioti (University of Naples); Bianca de Divitiis (University of Naples)

INFO: web - info(at)

INSCRIPCIÓN/REGISTRATION/REGISTRAZIONE: gratis / free / online: info(at)


Day 1 - 6 April 2016

Registration: 13.30

Keynote Lecture (14.00-15.00)

Isabella Lazzarini, Y-a-t’il un État de la Renaissance? Myth and Reality of the Italian Renaissance

Session 1 (15.30-16.30)

Chair: Jill Kraye

Filippomaria Pontani, From Isis to Isis: Classical Past and Cultural Memory in Late Antique Rome

Francesco De Angelis, “Like Visitors in Our Own City”: Ancient Antiquarianism and the Topography of Rome

Session 2 (17.00-18.30)

Chair: Jill Kraye

Sible L. de Blaauw, An Experimental Papal Mausoleum? Emperors and Popes in Late Antique Rome

Julian Gardner, Off-shore Thinking: Insular Observers of Rome and Antiquity

Tanja Michalsky, "Italia illustrata": the Interpretation of Ancient Territory in the Works of Flavio Biondo and Leandro Alberti

Day 2 - 7 April 2016

Doors open: 10.00

Session 3 (10.15-11.15)

Chair: Caroline Elam

Howard Burns, Readings, Re-creations and Uses of Antiquity: the case of Venice and the Veneto cities.

Bianca de Divitiis, Ancient Origins, Medieval Past and Modern Creations in Renaissance Southern Italy

Session 4 (11.45-12.45)

Chair: Caroline Elam

Francesco Caglioti, Modern Sculpture and Ancient Models in the Roman Curia in the early Renaissance

Guido Rebecchini, Ars simia naturae: Titian, the Laocoon and the Imitation of the Antique

Session 5 (14.00-15.00)

Chair: Sheila McTighe

Tomaso Montanari, Civic Identity and archaeology in Rome in the Modern Age: the Third Mile of the Via Appia

Tod Marder, What did Antiquity Mean to Bernini

Session 6 (15.30-16.30)

Chair: Sheila McTighe

Susanna Pasquali, The Fate of the Pantheon in Rome as Debated in London in 1757

Anna Ottani Cavina, “Vivere all'antica”: The Past as a Model for Aesthetic Renewal

Conclusions (17.00-18.00)

David Abulafia

Nicholas Penny

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