Skip to content

Collignon, Maxime

    Image Credit: ArchInForm

    Full Name: Collignon, Maxime

    Other Names:

    • Léon-Maxime Collignon

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 08 November 1849

    Date Died: 15 October 1917

    Place Born: Verdun, Occitanie, France

    Place Died: Paris, Île-de-France, France

    Home Country/ies: France

    Subject Area(s): ancient, Ancient Greek (culture or style), archaeology, Greek sculpture styles, and sculpture (visual works)


    Archaeologist and art historian of ancient Greek sculpture. Collignon studied in Paris at the École normale supérieure beginning in 1868 under Georges Perrot. He was appointed professor of rhetoric in 1872 at Chambery teaching French literature. In 1873 he was made a member of the École française d’Athènes (French School of Athens) under the direction of Albert Dumont. In 1876 he traveled with the Abbe [Louis] Duchesne (1843-1922), the future director of the French School of Rome, to Asia minor making notes and drawings. When he returned to France in 1876, the university at Bordeaux created a chair for him in Greek and Latin inscriptions. His report written the following year, “Rapport sur un voyage archéologique en Asie Mineure” was eventually published in the Bulletin de correspondance hellénique in 1897. The same year, 1877 he published the essay “Essai sur les monuments grecs et romains.” He taught archaeology at Bordeaux beginning in 1877. Collignon was awarded his doctorate and appointed professor of Greek antiquities at the university at Bordeaux in 1879. French universities offered few classes in archaeology at that time. He accepted an invitation by the German government to examine the German model of archaeological pedagogy, which, as a discipline, existed in Germany even in the smallest universities in that country. The result was his “L’Enseignement de l’archéologie classique et les Collections de moulages dans les universités allemandes.” He issued his Manuel d’archéologie grecque in 1881 to standardize and teach the science of archaeology to French students. In 1883 he left Bordeaux to accept the chair in archaeology (created only in 1876) at the Sorbonne in Paris and a position of deputy to Perrot, head of the École normale supérieure in Paris. The same year he issued his Mythologie figurée de la Grèce. He began an association with the publishing series Maîtres de l’art, books intended for general readership, with Phidias in 1886. His works appeared in English translations with his Manuel d’archéologie grecque, in 1886 and the Mythologie, expanded and translated by the British classicist Jane Ellen Harrison into English in 1890 as Manual of Mythology in Relation to Greek Art. The result was Collignon enjoyed a considerable readership in the English-speaking world. Between those years, Collignon took over the work left at the death of his colleague, Olivier Rayet, publishing their Histoire de la céramique grecque in 1888. A second on Greek sculpture, Histoire de la sculpture grecque: des origines au IVe siècle in 1892. Still only 45, he was admitted into the Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres in 1893. He was a member of the digs at Pergamon and Delphi, writing extensively on the finds. A skilled artist, he made pencil and watercolor “notes” on the objects. His memoirs of his travels to the east were published with these illustrations in 1897. In 1897, too, the second volume of his Histoire de la sculpture grecque, maîtres du cinquième siècle, le quatrième siècle, l’époque hellénistique, l’art grec après la conquête romaine, was issued. Collignon was promoted to professeur d’archéologie à la faculté des lettres in Paris in 1900 succeeding Perrot as chair. A monograph on Pergamon was issued the same year. In 1904 he was elected President of the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-lettres. Together with Louis Couve he published the Catalogue des vases peints du Musée national d’Athènes in 1902 and 1903. Collignon rose to president of the l’Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres in 1905. The second of his books in the “Masters of Art” serie, Lysippe appeared that same year and Scopas et Praxitèle in 1907. The same year while inspecting art objects in a storage vault of a provincial museum in Auxerre, France, he discovered one of the most important intact archaic Greek free-standing sculptures known today. Subsequently dubbed the “Lady of Auxerre,” no explanation of how the sculpture got to Auxerre has ever been determined, but Collignon brought the piece to the Louvre where it is one of the musuem’s masterworks. He produced a book on classical archaeology in general (1913) and on one the Parthenon (1914). At Perrot’s death in 1914, he succeeded him as director of Monuments Piot (Monuments et Mémoires publiés par l’Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres). Collignon, together with his mentor, Parrot, introduced archaeology as a discipline in French universities. He layed the foundations for this new science, having studied the techique from Duchesne in the field. Like Schliemann, he employed Greek mythology to interpret classical monuments. His Manual of Greek Archaeology (1882) was one of the early required texts to be listed in the course catalog for the art history classes of Princeton University. His l’Histoire de la sculpture grecque volumes used the latest excavational information, grouping the work into regional schools.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Quid de collegiis Epheborum apud Graecos, excepta Attica, ex titulis epigraphicis commentari liceat. Paris, 1877, published, Paris: E. Thorin, 1877; Essai sur les monuments grecs et romains relatifs au mythe de Psyché. Paris: E. Thorin, 1877; Manuel d’archéologie grecque. Paris: A. Quantin, 1881, English, A Manual of Greek Archæology. New York: Cassell Publishing Company, 1886; Histoire de la sculpture grecque. vol. 1:Les origines, les primitifs, l’archaïsme avancé, l’époque des grands maîtres du cinquème siècle. vol. 2 L’influence des grands maîtres du cinquième siècle, le quatrième siècle, l’époque hellénistique, l’art grec après la conquête romaine. Paris: Firmin-Didot et cie, 1892-1897; “L’Enseignement de l’archéologie classique et les Collections de moulages dans les universités allemandes.” la Revue internationale de l’enseignement 3 (January-June 1882); Mythologie figurée de la Grèce. Paris: A. Quantin, 1883, English, and Harrison, Jane Ellen. Manual of Mythology in Relation to Greek Art. London: H. Grevel, 1890; and Rayet, Olivier. Histoire de la céramique grecque. Paris: G. Decaux, 1888; La polychromie dans la sculpture grecque. Paris: Leroux, 1898; Pergame: restauration et description des monuments de l’acropole. Paris: L. H. May, 1900; and Rayet, Olivier. Histoire de la céramique grecque. 2 vols. Paris: G. Decaux, 1888; Lysippe. Paris:H. Laurens, 1904; Scopas et Praxitèle, la sculpture grecque au IVe siècle jusqu’au temps d’Alexandre. Paris: Plon-Nourrit, 1907; Les statues funéraires dans l’art grec. Paris: E. Leroux, 1911; Le Parthénon: l’histoire, l’architecture et la sculpture. Paris: Hachette et cie, 1914; Charle, Christophe, and Bruneau, Philippe, eds. Études d’archéologie grecque. Paris: Picard, 1992.


    Charle, Christophe, ed. Dictionnaire biographique des universitaires aux XIXe et XXe siècles. vol. 2. Paris: Institut national de recherche pédagogique/Editions du CNRS, 1986, pp. 1909-1939; Wichmann, Sharon. “Collignon, Léon-Maxime.” Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archaeology. Nancy Thomson de Grummond, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996, vol. 1, p. 304; Bruneau, Philippe. “Précédé de L’Archéologie grecque en Sorbonne de 1876 à 1914.” in Charle, Christophe, and Bruneau, Philippe, eds. Études d’archéologie grecque. Paris: Picard, 1992; Therrien, Lyne. L’Histoire de l’art en France: Genèse d’une discipline universitaire. Paris: 1998, pp. 494-496; Gran-Aymerich, Ève. “Collignon, Maxime.” Dictionnaire biographique d’archéologie : 1798-1945. Paris: Éditions du CNRS, 2001, pp. 185-187; Martinez, Jean-Luc. La Dame d’Auxerre. Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2000; [obituaries:] Reinach, Salomon. Review Archéologique 4 (1917): 455-457; American Journal of Archaeology. 22 no. 3 (July-September 1918): 343.


    Contributors: Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen


    Emily Crockett and Lee Sorensen. "Collignon, Maxime." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

    More Resources

    Search for materials by & about this art historian: