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Hanfmann, George M. A.

    Image Credit: Harvard

    Full Name: Hanfmann, George M. A.

    Other Names:

    • George Maxim Anossov Hanfmann

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1911

    Date Died: 1986

    Place Born: St. Petersburg, Russia

    Place Died: Watertown, Middlesex, MA, USA

    Home Country/ies: Russia

    Subject Area(s): Anatolian (culture or style), Ancient Greek (culture or style), archaeology, Classical, Etruscan (culture or style), Lydian, Near Eastern (Early Western World), and Roman (ancient Italian culture or period)


    Scholar of classical Greek, Roman and Near Eastern art; renowned archaeologist. Hanfmann’s family migrated from Russia to Germany when was 10. In Germany he studied first at the University in Jena, and then at Munich where he studied under Ernst Buschor and Hans Diepolder. His degree was finally granted at the Friedrich Wilhelms Universität in Berlin. At Berlin he studied under the classicist Werner Jaeger (1888-1961), who would later also be his colleague at Harvard, Eduard Norden (1868-1941) and Gerhart Rodenwaldt. His dissertation, written under Rodenwaldt, on Etruscan sculpture, was granted in 1934 and published in 1936 as Altetruskische Plastik I. The same year, 1934, he married Ilse. The two were forced to immigrate to the United States because of his distant Jewish background (he was Russian Orthodox by faith and Lithuanian by citizenship). Thanks to a recommendation from Rodenwaldt, he found a position as an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University under the classical archaeologist and art historian David Moore Robinson. Robinson offered positions to both the Hanfmanns, and George was granted a second Ph. D. in 1935 for his assessment of the metal finds of the Olynthus excavations which Robinson and Hopkins were sponsoring. In 1935 Harvard’s Society of Fellows elected Hanfmann a junior fellow, bringing him to Harvard and Dumbarton Oaks for the years 1935-38. He traveled to Italy in 1937 to study Etruscan art first hand. Back at Harvard, he established a rapport with Paul J. Sachs and the museology course Sachs and Edward Waldo Forbes ran. He also assumed the publication of Lydian pottery begun by George Henry Chase at Princeton from the Sardis expeditions. He was naturalized an American citizen in 1940. During World War II Hanfmann served the U.S. Office of War Information in London as radio editor (where his knowledge of languages was useful) between 1943-45. Returning to Harvard after the war, the Hanfmann’s assisted the Tarsus excavations (under Hetty Goldman, 1881-1972), 1947-48. He became curator of Ancient Art at the Fogg art museum under John P. Coolidge. Hanfmann’s 1951 book, The Season Sarcophogus secured his reputation as a classical scholar. He progressed at Harvard from Fellow to full professor in 1956. His important “Ancient Art in American Private Collections” was also held that year. At the Fogg, he established the Department of Ancient Art and, with Cornelius C. Vermeule III the coin room. In 1958 he helped divide Robinson’s larger personal collection of ancient art between Harvard and Oxford, Mississippi. The same year he embarked on his own excavational examination of Sardis, reevaluating the strata in order to establish the urban development of the city. He continued these personally until 1976, resulting in the restoration of the gymnasium-bath of the site and a book of his personal correspondence, Letters from Sardis. (1972). Hanfmann’s issued Roman Art in 1964, an introductory text when highlighted his strong, clear writing skills. As a curator, he added many excellent pieces of Greek pottery, including a named piece by the Kleophrades painter (Watkins Collection). In 1971 he was named John E. Hudson Professor for Archaeology. His “Art and Technology: A Symposium on Classical Bronzes” also appeared that year. He retired emeritus in 1982. He founded the curatorial department of ancient objects at the Fogg museum, of which he was the first curator. He led a long-term archaeological dig at Sardis from 1958 to 1974, and his interested were wide-ranging, influenced by his position as Director of the antiquities collection a the Fogg Museum at Harvard. His students include Cornelius C. Vermeule III and Emeline Hurd Hill Richardson.

    Selected Bibliography

    [complete bibliographies:] “Bibliography of George M. A. Hanfmann, 1935-71.” Studies Presented to George M.A. Hanfmann. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1971, pp. xii-xx, and Bloom, Joanne. “Bibliography of George M. A. Hanfmann, 1971-86.” American Journal of Archaeology 91 no. 2 (April 1987): 264-266; Ancient Art in Private American Collections: A Loan Exhibition at the Fogg Art Museum of Harvard University. Cambridge, MA: Fogg Art Museum, 1954; From Croesus to Constantine. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1975; The Season Sarcophagus in Dumbarton Oaks. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1951 [actually 1952]; and Mierse, William E., and Foss, Clive. Sardis from Prehistoric to Roman Times: Results of the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis, 1958-1975. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1983; Altetruskische Plastik I: Die menschliche Gestalt in der Rundplastik bis zum Ausgang der orientalisierenden Kunst. Wurzburg: Buchdruckerei Konrad Triltsch, 1936; Classical Sculpture. The History of Western Sculpture 1. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society,1967; Observations on Roman Portraiture. Collection Latomus 11. Brussels: revue d’études latines, 1953; Roman Art: a Modern Survey of the Art of Imperial Rome. Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1964.


    Archäologenbildnisse: Porträts und Kurzbiographien von Klassichen Archäologen deutscher Sprache. Reinhard Lullies, ed. Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1988: 313-314; Medwid, Linda M. The Makers of Classical Archaeology: A Reference Work. New York: Humanity Books, 2000 pp. 138-140; Hanfmann, George M.A. Letters from Sardis. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972; Mitten, David Gordon, and Bloom, Joanne. “George Maxim Anossov Hanfmann 1911-1986.” American Journal of Archaeology 91 no. 2 (April 1987): 259-266.


    "Hanfmann, George M. A.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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