Hippolytus Reloaded

A small but distinguished group of scholars joined the second Hippolytus workshop 10.10.2022 in Hollands College’s historical refectory. The main focus was on the the material and stylistic aspects on the statue on the one hand and on the implications of the 16th century reconstruction of the statue on the another.

Hans Goette’s presentation was not only a firework of stunning visual material, but also a condensation of 40 years of expertise in a single presentation. He elaborated on all aspects of the – one has to say layers of the – reconstruction(s) and showed the immense impact of Ligorio. His main argument regarding the one of the most burning issues of the workshop can be condensed into one single word: “male”.

Second speaker was Ginette Wagenheim, who presented the circle of erudites and antiquarians (remarkably, Ligorio did not consider himself as scholar, but a practitioner) in which Ligorio was at home. She successfully rebutted some wildly repeated but obviously incorrect readings about the role of Ligorio in the (re)discovery and restoration of the statue and entangled the evidence. She suggested that the Gregorian calendar reform and thus the renewed interest in ancient calendars, pagan and Christian alike, could be behind the (possible) forgery of the inscriptions on the seat.

Epigraphic forgeries and Ligorio’s share in it was the topic of Lorenzo Calvelli and Cristina Vernier. They introduced us to the world of epigraphic forgeries. The extent is of the phenomenon is impressive: CIL VI – Rome lists some 4000 false inscriptions, for which mainly one single person is responsible for: Ligorio. Cristina presented a case study of Ligorio’s approach of forgeries and outlined a strategy which Ligorio seems to use. Remarkably, he was driven by ‘scientific’ motivation and his forgeries served a supportive argument e.g. for a specific reading or word.

Finally, Williem Stenhouse presented the afterlife of the statue in 16th and 17th century (scholarly) publications and manuscripts. The statue did pop up here and there, but the interest remained rather limited to scholars living and working in Rome and/or Vatican. Remarkably, the calendars reception was not as straight forward as one would expect. Some authors were surprisingly critical, others blamed external circumstances (inability of the craftsman, poor state of condition) for the shortcomings of the engraved calendars. A particularly compelling example was an entry of the statue in a guidebook, which discusses it, but does not reveal where to find it.

The workshop was a workshop in the best sense: Participants engaged in discussion already during talks, handwritten notes were deciphered on the flight, additions or corrections were made directly to the slides on display… This meeting has again demonstrated the superpowers of small and focused gatherings.

Thanks for all presenters, participants and last but not least, for all who made this event possible!