Winckelmann in Nineveh: Assyrian Remains in the Age of Classics

  • Yannick Le Pape (Musée d'Orsay)


By the middle of the 19th century, French and British diplomats managed excavations in the biblical land of legendary Assyrian kings, where Nineveh had been buried long before Greek classical era. Here was the opportunity to reconsider the way Winckelmann cristallised the art of Antiquity, but when Assyrian remains entered in museums, they had precisely been evaluated under the reputation of Greek art inherited from the History of the Art of Antiquity, in which few Near Eastern items were said to be the exact opposites of classical beauty: scientists questioned art values of such strange objects, and museums themselves hesitated to exhibit this unexpected heritage so close to Greek "high art" (Edmund Oldfield). However, Assyria had got too many supporters in a few years to be forgotten a second time, and instead of highlighting the value of Hellenic unrivalled items, the « chain of art » principle figured from Winckelmann was used to support how Assyrian remains, at the very end, had influenced the brighter well-known classical masterpieces.

Keywords: Antiquity, Museum, Assyrian remains, Winckelmann, 19th century

How to Cite:

Le Pape, Y., (2021) “Winckelmann in Nineveh: Assyrian Remains in the Age of Classics”, Journal of Latin Cosmopolitanism and European Literatures 6, 58–78. doi:

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Published on
30 Dec 2021
Peer Reviewed