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TU Berlin

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Catherine Olien



CatherineOlien2011[at] u.northwestern.edu

Scientific career

  • 2006-2010: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI, USA | B.A. in Art History, Certificate in Integrated Liberal Studies 
  • 2011-2013: Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA | M.A. in Art History, Certificate in Classical Receptions, Thesis (passed with honors): “Spiral as Tree, Tree as Goddess: Assessing the Meaning of the Double
  • Since 2011: Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, USA | Ph.D. in Art History, Dissertation (in progress): “Ancient Cyprus in the Universal Museum: A Comparative Study of European Reception ca. 1860-1914”

Research project

Ancient Cyprus in the Universal Museum: A Comparative Study of European Reception ca. 1860-1914 

My PhD dissertation investigates the way three nations—England, France, and Germany - presented the culture of ancient Cyprus in two contexts: the scholarly survey and the universal museum. I demonstrate how Cypriot works alternately fit and disrupted the established object categories of the universal museums as well as narratives about artistic “progress” and “influence” in the ancient Mediterranean. I analyze the practices of collection, classification, illustration, and display that shaped both the major texts and museum installations produced in Western Europe between 1860 and 1914. I aim to locate and define further examples of what Frederick Bohrer has termed the “visual logic of imperialism,” or the schematic, aesthetic evaluation and ranking of the artistic works of past and foreign cultures designed to promote the power and image of the nations in possession of those works. I employ a comparative approach, considering the three most significant collections of Cypriot art in Europe: the British Museum, the Louvre, and the Berlin Museums. I compare the reception of ancient Cyprus across three nations, each of which had a different archaeological and political presence on the island. I explore the relationships that existed between the museums and identify ways in which they share a joint history, one that unfolded together with the professionalization of the fields of art history and archaeology in the nineteenth century. In tracing the effects of a uniquely imperial bias in nineteenth-century scholarship, I argue that Cyprus’s place of assigned insignificance in the history of ancient art was largely determined by its liminal geographical position between “East” and “West,” and by factors such as the political, religious, and ethnic identities of its inhabitants - not only in the ancient world, but ultimately as they were understood under contemporary Ottoman and British rule.


“The  Cypriot Fragment at the Metropolitan Museum in the Late Nineteenth Century” Conference Proceedings, Medelhavsmuseet Stockholm “Ancient Cyprus Today”, in press, expected 2016

Conference Presentations


“The Collection, Restoration, and Display of the Cypriot Fragment at the Metropolitan Museum in the Late Nineteenth Century”, Medelhavsmuseet Stockholm “Ancient Cyprus Today”


“The Amathus Sarcophagus: A View of Art, Death, and Exchange in Classical Cyprus”, University of California-Riverside Art History Graduate Student Association Conference

“Fragments of a ‘New Antiquity’: The Collection, Restoration, and Display of Cypriot Limestone Sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the Late Nineteenth Century”, Northwestern University/University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Classical Receptions Workshop

Zusatzinformationen / Extras

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