Graphs, Statues and Social History

Chronological overview of the dedication of confederate monuments, by Southern Poverty Law Center. Large version available here.

I first became aware of this graph of the chronological distribution of confederate monuments last year when Jen Trimble gave a virtual paper for our sculpture seminar. Not all of these monuments are statues, but many are…..The graph has since then appeared in Alexander Bauer’s JSA paper, “Itineraries, iconoclasm, and the pragmatics of heritage“. It was first published as part of a fantastic resource by the Southern Poverty Law Center: “Whose Heritage? Public Symbols of the Confederacy.”

The graph is a really nice representation of the social contexts in which a specific group of (modern) sculpture was dedicated and is as such a wonderful resource for studying statues as social history. In the context of the ancient world, it resonates with the slightly more crude graph below that represents the slow, steady decline in numbers of new imperial portrait statues and that is taken from a classic long review piece by Bert Smith (and which since then has been followed up in work by the Last Statues of Antiquity project).

What these graph don’t do, of course, is to represent how people have engaged with individual statues after the singular moment of dedication, a topic that we began to discuss in more detail in our volume, “The Afterlife of Greek and Roman Sculpture“, published a few years ago, and on which future research will hopefully provide new ways of representing using both quantitative and qualitative methods.

The “end” of imperial portrait statues as illustrated by Smith 1985, Fig. 1.

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