In his collection of sources first published in 1868, “Die antiken Schriftquellen zur Geschichte der bildenden Künste bei den Griechen” (The Ancient Sources on the History of Greek Art), Johannes Overbeck (1826–1895), professor for archaeology at the university of Leipzig from 1853 to 1895, gathered a total of around 2500 literary and epigraphical texts. The Greek and Latin texts, composed between the 8 th century B.C. and the 12 th century A.D., refer to statues and paintings created between the archaic period and late antiquity. Together with the surviving monuments, they make provide the core of our knowledge of ancient sculpture and painting.
Funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (= DFG; German Science Foundation), the aim of the research project “Der Neue Overbeck” (The New Overbeck) based in the Freie Universität Berlin (Free University of Berlin), is to produce the successor to this volume, regarded for almost 150 years as the standard work on the subject, and to adapt it to the needs of modern archaeology. The decisive steps in the revision of this work are:
- To complete the material with about 1300 epigraphical and 500 literary sources,
- The critical verification of the textual basis using modern academic editions,
- The translation of all the written sources as well as a commentary on their context,
- The philological, epigraphical, and archaeological commentary on all written sources as well as the work of art mentioned in them,
- Bibliographical references to every work of art and artist, and
- A detailed philological, epigraphical, and archaeological introduction, summarizing the results of the research project.
The “New Overbeck” will consist of between four and five volumes and is to be published by Walter de Gruyter in 2012. The new edition will include many illustrations: of all of the sculptures which have been retained either in original or copy as well as of the upper side of statue bases, which will enable the reader to ascertain the material, the size and in some cases the stance of a statue. In addition, a succession of epigraphs will be photographed and included in the edition. How far important comparison pieces, reconstructions, and works of art attributed to an artist falsely or only hypothetically, will be illustrated is yet to be decided. In addition to the book publication, it is planned that the “New Overbeck” will also appear in digital form on a CD, providing the user with a range of search functions (e.g. by artists, site locations, materials, Greek or Latin words).
In co-operation with a group of 20 academics, an editorial team of five classical archaeologists and philologists, will produce a new edition of a book, which has long been a desideratum not only for classical archaeology, but also for neighbouring disciplines interested in ancient art, such as for example ancient history, art history or classical philology.
The first results of the research project have been presented in an exhibition held in the Abguss-Sammlung Antiker Plastik Berlin (Cast Gallery of Ancient Sculpture Berlin) between 20 July and 14 October 2007 under the title “Text und Skulptur. Berühmte Bildhauer und Bronzegießer in Wort und Bild” (Text and Sculpture. Famous Sculptors and Bronze Casters of the Ancient World in Word and Picture), for which a comprehensive catalogue has been issued. Using a representative selection of 40 exhibits and the appendant written sources, the exhibition discusses important questions regarding text and sculpture and in this way makes a contribution to an improved understanding of ancient sculpture. One question to be pursued is what exactly is the basis for the appellation of a sculpture, its ascription to a particular artist and its dating. In addition to numerous high-quality castings of ancient sculptures, the exhibition pieces also include a Hellenistic papyrus listing the names of sculptors and a series of duplicate Greek epigraphs.