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Toynbee, J. M. C.

    Full Name: Toynbee, Jocelyn Mary Catherine

    Other Names:

    • Jocelyn Mary Catherine Toynbee

    Gender: female

    Date Born: 1897

    Date Died: 1985

    Place Born: Paddington, City of Westminster, London, England, UK

    Place Died: Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, England, UK

    Home Country/ies: United Kingdom

    Subject Area(s): ancient, archaeology, and Classical

    Institution(s): Newnham College (Cambridge University)


    Art historian and archaeologist of the classical era. Toynbee was the daughter of Harry Valpy Toynbee (1861-1941) and Sarah Edith Marshall (Toynbee) (1859-1939). Her mother had studied history at Cambridge at at time when women could not be granted degrees there. Jocelyn Toynbee attended Winchester High School for Girls and Newnham College, Cambridge, where she received an M.A., in 1919. She taught classics at Ladies’ College, Cheltenham (England) between 1920-1921 and then St. Hugh’s College, Oxford as a classical tutor between 1921-1924. In 1924 she was part of a mass resignation of tutors protesting the dismissal of the Italianist historian Cecilia Ady (1883-1955). She became a lecturer in classics at the University of Reading, until 1927. That year she accepted the position of director of studies in classics, and a fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge University. She continued work on a Ph.D. at Oxford University, which was awarded in 1930. Her dissertation, on Roman art, at a time when most art historians saw it as a decadent subset of Greek art, showed her tenacity. As a woman in the field of classical studies, she was much encouraged and maintained an professional correspondence with Eugénie Sellers Strong, whom she met during her visits to Rome. In 1951 she was named Laurence Professor of Classical Archaeology at Cambridge. She published with J. B. Ward-Perkins.  The Shrine of St. Peter and the Vatican Excavations in 1956. A converted and devout Roman Catholic, the project held special significance for her. The following year The Flavian Reliefs from the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome appeared. She retired emerita in 1962, being named an honorary fellow of Newnham College. In retirement she mounted a major exhibition of Roman-British art for the Guildhall Museum, London (today the Museum of London), and provided the catalog Art in Roman Britain. A companion Art in Britain under the Romans appeared in 1964. Toynbee retired with her sister, Margaret, in Oxford, to produce some final, broadly based monographs. Death and Burial in the Roman World,1971, and Animals in Roman Life and Art, 1973 were the products of these years. Her final book was Roman Historical Portraits (1977). Her brother was the eminent historian Arnold Joseph Toynbee (1889-1975).

    Richard Brilliant used Toynbee as an example of a traditional art historian who viewed late Roman art (from the third century onward) as continuum of late Imperial style and not an individual style of its own, as Aloïs Riegl (and Franz Wickhoff did. Her archaeological work in Roman Britain broadened to a wider appreciation of provincial and Celtic art.

    Selected Bibliography

    [dissertation:] Oxford University, 1930, published as, The Hadrianic School: a Chapter in the History of Greek Art. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1934; Animals in Roman Life and Art. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1973; The Ara Pacis Reconsidered and Historical Art in Roman Italy. Proceedings of the British Academy, 1953, vol. 39. London: British Academy , 1953; Art in Britain under the Romans. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964; Art in Roman Britain. London Phaidon Press/Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies, 1962; The Flavian Reliefs from the Palazzo della Cancelleria in Rome. 39th Charlton Lectures on Art. London: Oxford University Press, 1957; Roman Historical Portraits. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1978; Roman Medallions. New York: The American Numismatic Society, 1944; and Ward-Perkins, John. The Shrine of St. Peter and the Vatican Excavations. London: Longmans, Green, 1956; Some Notes on Artists in the Roman World. Brussels: s.n.,1951.


    Image and Mystery in the Roman World: Three Papers Given in Memory of Jocelyn Toynbee. Gloucester: Sutton, 1988; Brilliant, Richard. “Introduction.” Roman Art: from the Republic to Constantine. New York: Phaidon, 1974, p. 16, mentioned; Todd, Malcolm. “Toynbee, Jocelyn Mary Catherine (1897-1985).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004; [obituaries] Times (London) January 4, 1986; Reynolds, J. M. “Jocelyn Mary Catherine Toynbee, 1897-1985.” Proceedings of the British Academy 80 (1993):499-508.

    Contributors: Lee Sorensen


    Lee Sorensen. "Toynbee, J. M. C.." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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