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Michaelis, Adolf

    Full Name: Michaelis, Adolf

    Other Names:

    • Adolf Theodor Friedrich Michaelis

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1835

    Date Died: 1910

    Place Born: Kiel, Schleswig Holstein, Germany

    Place Died: Strasbourg, Hesse, Germany

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): ancient, Ancient Greek (culture or style), Classical, Greek sculpture styles, Roman (ancient Italian culture or period), Roman sculpture styles, and sculpture (visual works)


    Historian of ancient Greek and Roman sculpture; professor at the University in Strasbourg, 1872-1910. Michaelis’ uncle was the classical art historian Otto Jahn, who first interested him in ancient studies. Michaelis began classical studies in philology and archaeology from in 1853 at the university in Leipzig. In addition to his uncle, he also attended classes in Leipzig under Johannes Overbeck. He traveled to Berlin where he further studied with Gerhard Böckh (1785-1867) and Ernst Curtius. After a study trip to Rome in 1857 and the fortuitous acquaintance of scholars at the DAI (deutsches Archäologisches Institut or German Archaeological Institute), Michaelis went to Greece with Alexander Conze. He taught briefly at the universities of Greifswald (from 1862) and Tübingen (from 1865-1872). In 1871, Michaelis published a monograph of the Parthenon. The following year he accepted the chair for Classical Archaeology at the recently established University of Strasbourg (1872), where he remained the rest of his career. In 1882 Michaelis published a catalog of private English collections of classical sculpture, requiring him to travel throughout the English countryside, collecting information about sculptures purchased in Italy by English aristocrats. Ancient marbles in Great Britain, in addition to a scholarly work on classical sculpture, serves as one of the most complete accounts of English collecting habits in the 19th century. Michaelis followed this in 1906 with Die archäologischen Entdeckungen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, one of the first historiographies of classical art in the 19th century. In 1911, Michaelis’ volume on classical art for the early art-history survey for Anton Springer‘s Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte appeared posthumously. He was influential for the dissertation of the medievalist Karl Franck-Oberaspach. Methodologically, Michaelis is credited as an early pioneer of the technique of cataloging collections using detailed sketches or pictures, as opposed to only written descriptions. His teaching so influenced the art historian Aby M. Warburg that Warburg’s dissertation was co-dedicated to Michaelis.

    Selected Bibliography

    Ancient Marbles in Great Britain. Cambridge: Cambridge, University Press, 1882; Die archäologischen Entdeckungen des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts. Leipzig: E.A. Seemann, 1906, English, A Century of Archaeological Discoveries London: J. Murray, 1908; Geschichte des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, 1829-1879. Berlin: A. Asher, 1879; Der Parthenon. Leipzig: Breitkopf und Härtel, 1870-71; Das Altertum. volume 1 of, Springer, Anton, editor. Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte. Leipzig: E. A. Seemann, 1911.


    Dohl, H. Archäologenbildnisse: Porträts und Kurzbiographien von Klassichen Archäologen deutscher Sprache. Reinhard Lullies, ed. Mainz am Rhein: Verlag Philipp von Zabern, 1988: 61-62; Dictionary of Art; Encyclopedia of the History of Classical Archaeology. Nancy Thomson de Grummond, ed. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996, vol. 2, pp. 752; Steuben, Hans von, ed. Archäologische Reisen in Griechenland 1860 und 1886. Möhnesee: Bibliopolis, 2004.


    "Michaelis, Adolf." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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