Winckelmann and Curiosity in the 18th-Century Gentleman's Library

To commemorate the Winckelmann anniversaries 2017/2018, Christ Church Library has opened an exhibition and series of events in collaboration with the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, University of Oxford and the Ure Museum of Greek Archaeology, University of Reading (a particularly appropriate partnership, since the University of Reading owes its origins to an extension college - University Extension College, Reading - founded by Christ Church in 1892).

Like many antiquarians of his day, the German art historian and archaeologist Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768) first learned about the ancient world through immersion in literature. As a teacher then librarian in his native Germany, Winckelmann encountered the classics primarily through literary texts, as well as the souvenirs—coins, gems and figurines—that Grand Tourists and other travellers had brought north from their visits to Italy. Once he arrived in Rome, where he rose to prominence at Prefect of Antiquities in the Vatican, Winckelmann studied the remains of Greek, Graeco-Roman and Roman art on a larger scale. Through personal contacts, letters and other writings, Winckelmann influenced his and subsequent generations of scholars, aesthetes, collectors, craftsmen and artists both within and beyond Italy.

Winckelmann and Curiosity in the 18th-Century Gentleman's Library explores the scholar's varied influence on the arts in Britain, through printed media, architecture and decorative arts. This exhibition is part of the Anniversary celebrations of the work of Winckelmann and particularly his impact on the reception of Classical art in Britain. For more on the series of Winckelmann celebrations, please click here.

Winckelmann and Curiosity, was curated by Professor Amy Smith, Dr K. C. Harloe and Dr Cristina Neagu.

To learn more about Winckelmann and the exhibition, you can now watch a short film with the curators.

For exhibition review, please click here.

An online version of the exhibition has also become available. To view it, please click on the headings below:

The online exhibition will be launched on 20 November 2019 at 5:15 pm, in the Upper Library at Christ Church, with a talk "Drawing and Winckelmann’s taste for elegant simplicity", by Professor Amy Smith.


The Winckelmann physical exhibition was launched with a symposium on Ideals and Nations: New perspectives on the European reception of Winckelmann’s aesthetics. Keynote speakers: Professor Elisabeth Décultot (Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg) and Professor Alex Potts (University of Michigan). The symposium was the last of the triplet of workshops on the theme Under the Greek Sky: Taste and the Reception of Classical art from Winckelmann to the present. For details regarding these, please see Imitation and Geographies of Art after Winckelmann and Spreading good taste: Winckelmann and the objects of dissemination. The event is generously sponsored by the A.G. Leventis Foundation, Medieval and Modern Languages Oxford, and Christ Church. The Winckelmann anniversary events at Christ Church started on Friday 29 June 2018 at 10:15 in Sir Michael Dummet Lecture Theatre, at Christ Church College, University of Oxford. The symposium was followed by a drinks reception to launch the exhibition and the book accompanying the exhibition..

Other events include handling sessions and presentations on The Grand Tour and how Classical art went viral in England. Discover how antiquities became popular and how key books and travel to Italy helped to develop a taste for the Classics in Great Britain.
On: Monday 30 July, 6 and 13 August from 11.00am to 12.30pm at Christ Church Upper Library. Free admission but booking is essential at

For general information, please contact Dr Cristina Neagu ( For further details about the symposium, please contact Dr Lucy Russell ( and Dr Fiona Gatty (

The exhibition was open in the Upper Library from 29 June to 30 November 2018.
Visiting hours:
Monday – Friday: 10.00 am - 1.00 pm;  2.00 pm - 4.30 pm