Johann Joachim Winkelmann

Johann Joachim Winkelmann
Accession number: 
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Johann Winkelmann, the son of a cobbler, was one of the most significant figures in the Greek revival of the eighteenth century. He was an avid admirer of Homer, whom he first read in Alexander Pope’s English translation. His first encounters with Greek art came in 1748 as librarian to Count von Bünau at Nöthnitz near Dresden, where he wrote the formative essay, Gedanken über die Nachahmung der griechischen Werke in der Malerei und Bildhauerkunst, translated as Reflections on the Painting and Sculpture of the Greeks (1765). Here he maintained that “The only way for us to become great, or even inimitable if possible, is to imitate the Greeks.” His essay became a manifesto of the Greek ideal in education and art and was soon translated into several languages. Winckelmann's homosexuality and interest in the homoerotic shaped his aesthetic appreciation of Greek statuary and infused much of his admiration for the ancient world.

- Professor Christine Gerrard, University of Oxford (2018)