Ostatnia podróż Johanna Joachima Winckelmanna

Joachim Śliwa


Thanks to his exploratory studies, Johann Joachim Winckelmann (1717–1768) is believed to be the father of two disciplines of science: classical archaeology and art history. He was mainly interested in Greek art which he put on the pedestal of the highest perfection, naming it an unattainable model of excellence. He was the first to show the past of art as a historical process, and through the application of the category of style enabled setting the artistic phenomena in a specific context, also chronological. It was Winckelmann who shaped the method and language of the description of the work of art, until today an essential element of our set of scientific tools and methods. The book that established his fame and strengthened his achievement is a ground-breaking Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums (Dresden 1764). In Poland he was admired by Stanisław Kostka Potocki (1755–1821), a lover of antique and collector, who in order to acquire original antiques carried out digs in Italy. Potocki’s great contribution is sharing Winckelmann’s main work with Polish readers in the form of an artistic adaptation entitled On the art of the ancient or Polish Winckelmann (Warszawa 1815).
From 1755 Winckelmann stayed in Rome, from 1758 as a librarian and a guardian of Cardinal Alessandro Albani’s collection. In 1763 he took over the duties of commisario delle antichitá della camera apostolica and the office of scriptor lingue teutonicae in the Vatican Library. In the spring of 1768 Winckelmann decided to go to Germany, his mother country, which he had left a couple of years before. At a certain moment of his journey he suffered from some kind of a psychological breakdown and he decided to immediately return to Rome. However, he managed (via Münich and Regensburg) to visit Vienna, where he was received with honours by the Empress Maria Theresa. From Vienna he irrevocably set off on a journey back to Rome. On the 1st of June 1768 he reached Trieste with the intention to get to Ancona by ship and then follow the overland route to Rome. Despite the hurry, in view of lack of a suitable connection, he was forced to spend a whole week in Trieste waiting for a ship. Unfortunately, on the 8th of June he was brutally murdered in a hotel room. The motives of the murder have never been found out. It is not known whether it was a random robbery murder, or an element of a big conspiracy in which Winckelmann was entangled in Vienna, or whether there was a homoerotic background to the crime.
Wickelmann’s body was buried in Trieste, in a common grave of one of the religious fraternities. Thus, when, on the initiative of Domenico Rosetti (1774–1842), the inhabitants of Trieste decided to honour Wickelmann in a proper manner, the only possible way to do it was to erect a cenotaph. After many efforts, a proper monument, designed by Antonio Bosa (1780–1845), was placed in Orto Lapidario near San Giusto Cathedral, initially in a special niche (1832), then in a Corinthian temple, also functioning as glyptothek (1934). This building was renovated in the 90s of the 20th century. This is the present state of the complex housing Winckelmann’s monument, located in the upper part of the Trieste lapidarium (Civico Museo di Storia ed Arte – Orto Lapidario).