Date of Degree

6-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Classics

Advisor(s)

Ronnie Ancona

Committee Members

Dee Clayman

Jennifer Roberts

Elizabeth Macaulay-Lewis

Subject Categories

American Studies | Architectural History and Criticism | Classics | Sculpture

Keywords

John D. Rockefeller Jr., Rockefeller Center, Classicism, Classics, Mythology, New York City

Abstract

This dissertation situates the mythologically-inspired artwork of Rockefeller Center in the classical education of its sole proprietor, John D. Rockefeller Jr. I argue that his extensive classical education at the Browning School and Brown University led to an adult interest in the Classics. Through extensive, original archival research at the Rockefeller Archive Center and the Rockefeller Center Archive Center, I demonstrate that this interest was expressed through his philanthropy of prestigious institutions such as the American Academy in Rome, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, and the excavations of the Athenian Agora. Colonial Williamsburg and Versailles are also examined as important examples of Rockefeller’s restoration projects prior to Rockefeller Center. This biographical and historical investigation into the education and philanthropy of Rockefeller Jr. contextualizes his decisions during the construction of Rockefeller Center. I analyze the art program and design of Rockefeller Center, placing its development in the context of previous Rockefeller enterprises and the City Beautiful movement. Special attention is given to the most prominent mythologically-inspired artworks such as Paul Manship’s Prometheus, Lee Lawrie and Rene Chambellan’s Atlas, and several representations of Mercury. Lastly, I examine the ancient source material for v the myths of Prometheus and Atlas and explore their reception histories in literary and art, in order to better understand the context and symbolism of these myths at Rockefeller Center.

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