Elizabeth Marlowe

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Elizabeth Marlowe

Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Chair in Liberal Arts Studies; Associate Professor of Art & Art History; Director, Museum Studies Program

Department/Office Information

Art and Art History
  • BA, Smith College, 1994
  • BA, Cambridge University, 1996
  • MPhil (1999), PhD (2004), Columbia University

Ancient art, late antiquity, the city of Rome, Roman imperial monuments, modern uses of the classical past, museum studies, critical museum theory, decolonizing museums, the art market, cultural property, antiquities looting and repatriation.

  • “Further Reflections on Groundedness,” in Peter de Staebler and Anne Kontokosta, eds., Roman Sculpture in Context. Selected Papers in Ancient Art and Architecture, v. 6 (2020) 277-89. (This is an edited volume in which thirteen scholars respond to the idea of “groundedness” as a way of thinking about ancient art, a concept introduced in my book Shaky Ground: Context, Connoisseurship, and the History of Roman Art.)
  • “Archaeology and Iconography,” in Lea Cline and Nathan Elkins, eds., Oxford Handbook of Roman Imagery and Iconography (Oxford University Press), forthcoming 2020.
  • “Pairing and Sharing in the University Museum: Making Students the Experts,” in Ian Berry, Mimi Hellman, and Rachel Seligman, eds. Teaching and Learning with Museum Exhibitions: Innovations Across the Disciplines (Saratoga Springs: Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery, 2020), 66-69.
  • The Reinstallation of the Getty Villa: Plenty of Beauty But Only Partial Truth,” American Journal of Archaeology 124.2 (2020), 321-32.  
  • The Met’s Antiquated Views of Antiquities Need Updating,” Art Newspaper 308 (January 2019).
  • Seizure of Looted Antiquities Reveals What Museums Want Hidden,” Hyperallergic (September 5, 2018).
  • "American Museums First? A Response to Gary Vikan," West 86th St: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design, History, and American Culture, May 12, 2017. This is a reply to this article, "Why U.S. Museums and the Antiquities Trade Should Work Together," which I found very troubling.
  • "What We Talk About When We Talk About Provenance: A Response to Chippindale and Gill," International Journal of Cultural Property 23 (2016), 217-36. The journal also commissioned three scholars to write responses to my article for the same volume; I wrote a final piece, "Response to Responses to 'What We Talk About ..." as well (pg. 257-66). 
  • "Back to the Age of Anxiety / Età dell'Angoscia," Journal of Roman Archaeology 29 (2016), 747-53.
  • Shaky Ground: Context, Connoisseurship and the History of Roman Art (Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2013)
    • Reviewed in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review (July 2014); Classical Review (April 2015); Gnomon (March 2016) and on the blogs Looting Matters(1/20/14) and Anonymous Swiss Collector (9/11/15) 
  • "The Multivalence of Memory: the Tetrarchs, the Senate, and the Vicennalia Monument in the Roman Forum," in K. Galinsky and K. Lapatin, eds., Cultural Memories in the Roman Empire (Getty Museum Press, 2016), 240-62. 
  • "Said To Be Or Not Said To Be: The Findspot of the So-Called Trebonianus Gallus Statue at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, Journal of the History of Collections 27 (2014), 147-57. 
  • "Liberator Urbis Suae: Constantine and the Ghost of Maxentius," in B.C. Ewald and C.F. Norena, eds., The Emperor and Rome: Space, Representation and Ritual (Cambridge University Press, 2010), 199-219
  • "Framing the Sun: The Arch of Constantine and the Appropriation of the Roman Cityscape," Art Bulletin 88, 2006, 223-42 (winner of the 2006 Arthur Kingsley Porter prize)
  • "'The Mutability of All Things': The Rise, Fall and Rise of the Meta Sudans Fountain in Rome," in D. Arnold and A. Ballantyne, eds., Architecture as Experience. Radical Change in Spatial Practice (Routledge, 2004), 36-56
  • What Is a Man? Changing Images of Masculinity in Late Antique Art (with N. Kampen and R. Molholt), exhibit at the Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery at Reed College;exhibition catalogue: University of Washington Press, 2002
  • "Cold War Illuminations of the Classical Past: The Sound and Light Show on the Athenian Acropolis." Art History, 2001

Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome

My research and teaching examine the relationship between artistic forms and ideological content in the art of the ancient world. I have published three articles on the Emperor Constantine’s monuments in the city of Rome (one of which won the Art Bulletin’s Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize). I have also grown increasingly interested in the social, political and economic contexts in which ancient art is used, studied and presented in the modern world. A seminar I taught called "Looting, Faking, Collecting, and Understanding Antiquities" (syllabus) eventually became Shaky Ground: Context, Connoisseurship and the History of Roman Art (Bloomsbury Academic Press, 2013). The book focuses on the epistemology and historiography of Roman art history -- how we know what we think we know about ancient art and how that knowledge has been shaped by various institutional forces. It argues that much of what we treat as "fact" in the discipline is a house of cards, built on famous, unprovenanced artworks whose history and authenticity are more a matter of convention than of secure evidence. It is a call for greater methodological self-awareness on the part of those who teach, write about, and curate Roman art. A forthcoming volume of the Archaeological Institute of America's Selected Papers in Ancient Art and Architecture gathers papers written in response to this argument. I've also teamed up with Smarthistory/Khan Academy to produce some videos aimed at students and the general public on topics such as what we learn from archaeological evidence, why it's so easy to get it wrong when we don't know where ancient artworks come from (even the really famous ones), and the harm caused by looting.

My recent work engages more with museum practices than with academic ones. I am fascinated by how museums present objects in their collections, particularly the messy ones -- the ancient ones that may have been looted; the ones that other people consider their own cultural property and want back; and the ones that scholars think might be forgeries. My recent articles in the American Journal of Archaeology, the Art Newspaper, Hyperallergic, the Journal of the History of Collections and the International Journal of Cultural Property explore these themes. Most recently, I have collaborated with colleagues in Art History, Anthropology and History who share these interests to develop a new interdisciplinary program at Colgate in Museum Studies.

Currently, these interests are coming together in a longterm project on antiquities and university museums, which was also first developed with students in a seminar. We studied a group of twenty late antique Egyptian limestone reliefs that 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, which depict pairs of animals frolicking among spiraling vine-scrolls, lack any information about their findspot. The seminar considered what, if anything, can be learned about the past from such objects. How far can connoisseurship get us? How can we be sure they aren't forgeries? 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? Do university museums have a special responsibility not to engage in such ethically compromised practices? Or rather, are university museums the only appropriate home for illicitly trafficked antiquities, given the potential for such objects in that setting to educate students and the public about issues such as looting, forgery, and cultural heritage? With sponsorship from the Kress Foundation, I convened a large group of experts on this topic for a one-day workshop at the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy at Princeton University in Fall, 2019. University museums may offer a way out of the current stalemate that has pitted archaeologists against collectors for more than three decades.

Colgate is home to a vast collection of natural history specimens. These specimens have been used extensively in teaching throughout the last 150 years, beginning in 1868 with their arrival in the luggage of Albert Bickmore, former professor of zoology and geology and founder of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.