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Join the Johnson Museum of Art and Dr. Verity J. Platt, Professor of Classics and the History of Art at Cornell, for a talk on Pliny the Elder, the Roman author, natural philosopher, and statesman at the center of the Johnson’s exhibition “Wonder and Wakefulness: The Nature of Pliny the Elder,” curated by Dr. Platt and Dr. Andrew C. Weislogel, the Seymour R. Askin, Jr. ’47 Curator of Earlier European and American Art at the Johnson Museum.

Pliny’s multivolume “Natural History” has been profoundly influential on Western ideas about humanity’s relationship to the natural world, from geography, zoology, and botany to the history of art. But how are we to read it today, two thousand years after his birth in 23/24 CE and at a time when we are radically rethinking our own relationship to nature and to the legacies of the Roman Empire?

This talk explores how the “Wonder and Wakefulness” exhibition addresses Pliny’s many different concepts of nature, including how his role as a member of the Roman elite and an imperial administrator existed in tension with his ethical approach to materials and the environment, as well as its implications for his understanding of art—both the ingenious “discoveries” of artists and the creative power of Nature herself.