Alice Goff is an assistant professor of German history at the University of Chicago. At the American Academy, she is exploring the idea that a work of art can create modern liberal society....
Nina Maria Gorrissen Lecture
Stepping onto the Pedestal: An Animating History of Restitution from the Napoleonic Wars
At the turn of the nineteenth century, German intellectuals argued that the fine arts had a transcendent power to cultivate free political subjects with shared moral values. This idea was dramatically altered by the reality of cultural looting during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1792-1815), which, Alice Goff argues, “made works of art come alive in a new way.” In this talk, Goff focuses specifically on the ad hoc and partial efforts by German cultural administrators and custodians of art collections to restitute art objects to Germany from France after 1814-15. Her assessment offers a novel view of the contradictions within nineteenth-century Prussia’s liberal cultural politics—and the consequences for our own understanding of restitution and museology in Germany today.