Reflections on the Painting and Sculpture of the Greeks 1755
After converting to Catholicism, Winckelmann moved to Rome where he became librarian to the cardinal-secretary of state and, in 1736, president of the collection of antiquities in the Vatican and Vatican librarian.
Winckelmann’s ideas became widely influential. In the Reflections he defined the essence of Greek art as ‘noble simplicity’ and ‘tranquil grandeur’.
Geschichte der Kunst des Altertums (History of the Art of Antiquity) 1764
Winckelmann’s masterpiece, written between 1756 and 1762. Winckelmann treated Greek culture and art as a cycle of growth and decline. He distinquished four periods: early or primitive; the age of Phidias, comparable in simplicity and grandeur to the Doric order; the era of the ‘graceful and charming’ style of Praxiteles, similar to the Ionic; and the period of imitation and decline following the death of Alexander the Great.
Goethe called Winckelmann a new Columbus who had discovered art as a living entity, as a part of a developing cultural organism.