The God behind the Marble

The God behind the Marble
A history of Germans' attempts to transform society through art in an age of revolution.

For German philosophers at the turn of the nineteenth century, beautiful works of art acted as beacons of freedom, instruments of progress that could model and stimulate the moral autonomy of their beholders. Amid the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, Germans struggled to uphold these ideals as they contended with the destruction of art collections, looting, and questions about cultural property. As artworks fell prey to the violence they were supposed to transcend, some began to wonder how art could deliver liberation if it could also quickly become a spoil of war. Alice Goff considers a variety of works--including forty porphyry columns from the tomb of Charlemagne, the Quadriga from the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, the Laocoön group from Rome, a medieval bronze reliquary from Goslar, a Last Judgment from Danzig, and the mummified body of an official from the Rhenish hamlet of Sinzig--following the conflicts over the ownership, interpretation, conservation, and exhibition of German collections during the Napoleonic period and its aftermath.

Publication Date: 
January 10, 2024

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