Christoph Frank: From Courland to Nuremberg: A Long Trail of Enlightened Intention and Lasting Devastation

Evening lecture

The lecture will look in a first part into the former holdings of the "Kurländische Gesellschaft für Literatur und Kunst", no longer extant as a result of the territorial and nationalist conflicts of the Twentieth Century. The Courlandian Association, as one of those numerous regional historical associations which sprung up after the demise of Napoleon's throughout the German or German dominated territories, was founded in 1815/18 at Mitau, nowadays Jelgava, Latvia. Amongst its most prominent founding members was Heinrich von Offenberg, a pupil of the philosopher Immanuel Kant at Königsberg (1773) who might be regarded enlightened and cosmopolitan in outlook. Offenberg engaged in two major journeys to England (1778/79) and Italy (1784/85), the latter in the company of the hapless Duke Peter of Courland, which among other things laid the patrimonial foundations to the Courlandian Association at Mitau which we will be looking at and which must be nowadays considered literally forgotten. In a second part this period of patrimonial constitution will be confronted by its de-constitution in the Twentieth Century, during WWI and WWII in particular, and what appears to have led to it. This is involves notions of geo-politics, assumed "racial supremacy" and ideological conflict.

Christoph Frank, born in 1963 in Basel (Switzerland), studied the History of Western Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art of the University of London. In 1994 he received his Ph.D. in the History of the Classical Tradition from the Warburg Institute of the same University with a dissertation entitled "The Mechanics of Triumph: Public Ceremony and Civic Pageantry under Louis XIV" (amongst his teachers were Michael Baxandall, Louis Marin and Elizabeth McGrath). Before being appointed Professor of the History and Theory of Art and Architecture at the Accademia di architettura in Mendrisio in 2006, Christoph Frank worked at the Research Centre European Enlightenment in Berlin/Potsdam, the Technical University of Berlin and the Bibliotheca Hertziana - Max Planck Institute for the History of Art in Rome. Over the years he received prestigious fellowships from the German Historical Institute in Paris, Columbia University in New York, the Maison des Sciences de l'Homme in Paris, the Max Planck Association for the Advancement of Science and the Fritz Thyssen Foundation. Since 2009 he acts as Vice-Dean of Research at the Accademia and since 2011 as Director of the Mendrisio Institute for the History and Theory of Art and Architecture, which he has founded. Since the years of the collapse of the Berlin Wall (1989) Christoph Frank specializes from a comparative perspective in eighteenth-century European art and overlaying issues of twentieth-century art historical historiography. At Mendrisio apart from teaching general and specialized courses he is also responsible for a number of competitive research projects, some of which were generated by his post-1989 interest in the artistic situation of Northern and Eastern Europe in particular, as for example The Mitau Archives of Heinrich von Offenberg (1752-1827) (SNF Project 100012-120587) and Diderot, le concept de "civilisation" et les beaux-arts: La Réception des Lumières sous Catherine II (SNF Sinergia Project CRSII1-133048). In relation to his research interests see for example: Christoph Frank, "Voltaire entre les anciens et les modernes: L'œuvre de Jean-Antoine Houdon en Russie et en Pologne", in: Jean-Antoine Houdon: La Sculpture sensible, Exhibition Catalogue, ed. Maraike Bückling and Guilhem Scherf, Montpellier, Musée Fabre, 2010, pp. 239-257.

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