Middlebury

Recently recovered evidence supports Pantheon of Agrippa reconstruction in Middlebury College professor's research

May 23, 2006

MIDDLEBURY, Vt. ? Middlebury College Associate Professor of History of Art and Architecture Pieter Broucke was awarded three major humanities fellowships for his research project titled "Reconstructing the Pantheon of Agrippa: Architecture, Sculpture, and Meaning." Broucke's research investigates the architecture of the Pantheon of Agrippa in Rome based on evidence gathered from a wide variety of sources. It also addresses the fundamental challenge of assembling conclusive information about a building that was constructed long ago, burnt twice, and had its ruins removed to make a place for its larger and still-standing successor, the Hadrianic Pantheon.

His interest in the Pantheon of Agrippa began in a 1990 graduate seminar at Yale, for which he explored the political dimensions of Agrippa's building program in Rome. More recently, his renewed interest grew from teaching a course on Roman architecture at Middlebury College, and was triggered in part by a 1982 article by William Loerke that appeared in "Modulus," an architectural review published by University of Virginia. The piece discussed the work at the Pantheon by the French 18th-century architect Georges Ch├ędanne and the drawings it contained raised questions about the generally accepted reconstruction of Agrippa's Pantheon. The article led Broucke to re-examine the publication of the late 19th-century excavations in and around the Pantheon and travel to Tivoli and various sites and in and around Rome.

Trained as a professional architect in his native Belgium, Broucke went on to receive a master's degree in archaeology from the University of Minnesota and a doctorate in art history from Yale University. He has studied ancient buildings in Greece and Italy using both archaeological fieldwork and excavation notes of 19th-century explorers, and he has been involved with exhibitions on neoclassical art and architecture, archaeological work in Greece, and the British architect Charles Robert Cockerell.

"A six-month NEH Fellowship awarded in 2001 allowed for the completion of the bulk of the research for my book," explained Broucke. "I presented several chapters as papers at the Archaeological Institute of America meetings between 1998 and 2003, and at a meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians in 2002. These in turn led to several lecture invitations here in the United States and abroad that allowed me to present more synthetic ideas about the building and to discuss my specific findings with specialists in the field."

Broucke anticipates that the results of his research will help contribute to a better understanding of Roman architecture and sculpture - and the Pantheon of Agrippa in particular - as instruments of political propaganda. "Certainly I hope to engage the scholarly community of architectural historians," said Broucke. "But I also hope to appeal to the general public as well. The process of collecting evidence from a variety of sources and combining them into a largely complete reconstruction of such a well known and important building is fascinating to anyone interested Roman art and architecture." 

Broucke accepted two of the fellowships, from the American Philosophical Society and the National Endowment for the Humanities, but declined a fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies. He will begin his leave in Spring 2007 and will spend the academic year 2007-2008 in Rome.