On Wednesday, October 26, Sarah Cantor, this fall’s Art History Artist House Teaching Research Fellow, delivered a lecture titled, “The Arch in Landscape: Natural History and Antiquarianism in Seventeenth Century Roman Landscape Painting.” Cantor’s lecture focused on the popularity of the arch and its various meanings in mid seventeenth century art.

The lecture centered on the landscapes of Gaspard Dughet, a painter who denied that his work was anything more than decorative. However, Cantor explores the religious connotations of the arch and its popularity in mid 17th century Roman art due to the excavation of an anonymous ancient Roman fresco depicting a rock arch.

Cantor also detailed the network of antiquarian scholars and artists interested in the natural world who were patrons of Dughet’s art, including Cassiano del Pozzo, Nicolas Poussin, and Cardinal Francesco Barberini. This Roman network of intellectuals was influential in ancient Rome, introducing and influencing new attitudes towards art either as a means of empirical observation in a time without photography or as a symbolic exploration of religion and nature. Cantor presented works of art that used the arch in both religious and nonreligious contexts and emphasized its more universal interpretation as a life-supporting structure.

Sarah Cantor is a visiting professor who has formerly held positions at the Bowdoin College Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the National Gallery of Art. She has published articles on pastoral landscapes in Europe in the early modern period as well as ancient fresco painting.  She currently teaches Art History courses while working in the artist house on campus.

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