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Caspar Meyer
Professor, Bard Graduate Center

“Connoisseurship: Between Craft and Cybernetics”

A connoisseur is a person who knows a great deal about art and uses that knowledge to attribute artworks to specific periods, places, or makers. Scholarship has expressed skepticism about the knowledge claims advanced by connoisseurs, often dismissing their classifications as dilettantish, subjective, even inimical to the real work of social and historical interpretation. In this paper Meyer will explore the techniques of visual memorization that underpin connoisseurial skill and the challenges which the associated procedures present to the ever more dominant definitions of disciplinary knowledge as propositional and computable aggregates of fact. His case study revolves around the notebooks of John D. Beazley (1885–1970) recently made available by the Beazley Archive Pottery Database in Oxford. Containing hundreds of pencil drawings of Greek vase paintings, the notebooks shed intriguing light on the development of his connoisseurship. The struggles he experienced in framing his engagement with artefacts as a legitimate academic undertaking also resonate with the difficulties which many scholars still face in coming to grips with the interdependence of cognitive and manual labour in generating new knowledge.

Tuesday, October 6, 12:15 pm

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A Zoom link will be circulated the morning of the talk.