Mycroft Zimmerman: Examined and contextualized ancient Greco-Roman art and architecture, Oxford England

Research Travel Award Winner (Undergraduate): Summer 2017

With the generous award that I received from the Teasley Family Antiquities Fund, I spent the summer at St. Hugh’s College at the University of Oxford doing exciting research on an existing project called “Anachronism and Antiquity” with Professor Timothy Rood.

The goal of the project was to examine and contextualize ancient Greco-Roman art and literature in order to better understand anachronism as it relates to that time period. Additionally, the project studied modern and Italian Renaissance art and literature relating to the subject of Greco-Roman antiquity to better understand how anachronism has helped to form the concept of antiquity itself.

Dressing up for a fancy dinner at my college!
Dressing up for a fancy dinner at my college!

While participating in this project, I studied a wide range of art both ancient and modern. I began by researching the works of Giorgio di Chirico, a twentieth century painter whose work presents classical images in modern settings. I worked on interpreting the context and reasoning behind his use of the famous image of “Sleeping Ariadne” (based on a statue in the Vatican showing Ariadne in repose) in a series of paintings where he juxtaposes the statue with a harsh, industrial modern setting.

My most substantial area of study, however, was an analysis of ancient architecture and its influence on modern style, with a special focus on the architectural styles present on university campuses. I studied the writings of Vitruvius and how his treatise on classical style led to the development of Neoclassical style. Then, I studied how Neoclassical architecture is present in different ways throughout the United States and the unique impact that it has in each setting.

This is me, on a weekend trip, checking out the Ancient Roman Baths at Aquae Sulis (in the British Midlands).
This is me, on a weekend trip, checking out the Ancient Roman Baths at Aquae Sulis (in the British Midlands).

Because this was my first foray into academic research, I gained not only a wealth of knowledge about the subject, but also invaluable research skills. Having had this experience and opportunity, I am much better prepared to engage and understand classical scholarship as well as to continue doing research at Duke.

I was also extremely fortunate to have conducted my research at the University of Oxford which offered a myriad of academic opportunities for me to take part in to supplement my research. Frequently, I visited the Ashmolean Museum’s Classics and Antiquities collection to reference the seemingly endless collection of artwork housed there. I also had the opportunity to listen to several lectures at the Department of Classical and Byzantine studies and attend a graduate seminar that my research advisor taught.

Now that I am back at Duke, I plan to use what I have learned to continue researching ancient art (and/or its impact on later art). I am in the process of developing and proposing an independent research project to complete at the Nasher next semester which will focus on the impact of classical style on Italian Renaissance art.

Thank you, Duke CLST and the Teasley Family Antiquites Fund for giving me the opportunity to have this incredible experience!