My research and teaching examine the relationship between artistic forms and ideological content in the art of the ancient world. I have published two articles
on the Emperor Constantine’s monuments in the city of Rome (one of which won the Art Bulletin’s Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize); another, which deals with a major monument associated with Constantine's predecessors, the Tetrarchs, is forthcoming in an edited volume. I have also given a number of talks on various instances of spoliation (the appropriation of older artworks and their redeployment in new monuments and settings) in Constantinian Rome. This will eventually be the topic of a book manuscript. You can also see me talk about the Arch of Constantine on an episode
of an eight-part TV series that aired recently on the History Channel
The interdependence of form and meaning is also the focus of my teaching, particularly at the 100 and 200 levels. In my survey courses (ARTS101 and ARTS105, an Introduction to Architecture), as well as in my 200-level classes on Greek Art, Roman Art, Medieval Art and Islamic art, I begin by asking students to tell me, “What choices did the designer of this monument make?” By isolating each work’s defining formal properties, we can link them to the particular needs or expectations of their ancient users and thence to their social function. This approach conveys both the importance of visual analysis and the inseparability of art and historical context. I am currently exploring ways to encourage more interactive learning in my classroom by "flipping" my classes -- that is, putting much of the content I usually deliver in lectures into videos which students will watch ahead of time, thereby freeing classtime up for discussion, debates, group work, review, etc.
The second focus of my scholarship and teaching is the reception and reuse of ancient monuments in the modern world, by scholars, collectors, governments and various other interest groups. I have developed this interest into two 300-level courses, one on Museums (syllabus
) and the other on the City of Rome from Antiquity to the Present (syllabus
), which considers how particular ancient monuments in the city were appropriated by the church, the city council, the national government, the fascists, etc. over the course of 1,700 years. I also taught a senior seminar in fall 2008 called Looting, Faking, Collecting and Understanding Antiquities (syllabus
). This course led to a conference paper, which turned into an article which turned into a book: Shaky Ground: Context, Connoisseurship and the History of Roman Art
(Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2013) reviewed in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review: http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2014/2014-07-45.html. A forthcoming article in the Journal of the History of Collections, on the collecting history of a 3rd-century Roman bronze, bridges my two interests in Roman art history and the uses of Roman art in the modern era.
Another recent (and ongoing) project that blurs the boundaries between my teaching and my research concerns a group of twenty late antique Egyptian limestone reliefs. They were donated to Colgate's Picker Art Gallery by an alumnus in two batches, one in 1966 and the other in the 1982. These reliefs, most of which depict pairs of animals frolicking among spiraling vine-scrolls, lack any information about their findspot. What, if anything, can we, as students of the past, say about these works? How far can connoisseurship get us? Should we even be studying these objects, thereby valorizing the practices of the art market that delivered them to our door, stripped of all of the archaeological context that might have helped us understand their ancient symbolism and function? How can we be sure they aren't forgeries? These issues and many others were explored by the students in my ARTS 481 seminar, who put their findings up on a website
. I also wrote a piece about the course for the Colgate Scene
, our alumni magazine.