Alice Sharpless, a PhD candidate in Classical Studies, has received the Bothmer Fellowship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the 2019-2020 academic year. The Bothmer Fellowship supports a doctoral student writing a dissertation on a topic related to Greek or Roman art. Alice’s research will be hosted by Sean Hemingway, the John A. and Carole O. Moran Curator in Charge of the Department of Greek and Roman Art. During the fellowship, Alice will participate in the Met Fellow’s Workshop and present her work in the Colloquia series. During the fellowship, Alice will be continuing work on her dissertation entitled “The Value of Luxury: Precious Metal Tableware in the Roman Empire.” This project is a study of the multivalent concept of value through the lens of luxury objects, specifically silver tableware from the late Roman Republic through the third century CE. In it, Alice examines the factors that contributed to the value of precious metal tableware and the contexts in which different forms of value were created.
Alice will use the Bothmer Fellowship to complete three chapters of her thesis which focus on the material quality of Roman silver. These chapters address the aesthetic value of silver vessels, the use of weight inscriptions, and the changing value of silver over time. She plans to carry out scientific research in collaboration with the museum’s Department of Scientific Research, testing the composition of the metal alloy of the Met’s 36 Roman silver objects using X-Ray Fluorescence Spectroscopy (XRF). Most of the collections of Roman silver that have been tested so far were produced in the second and third centuries CE. By testing the objects in the Met’s collection, which date to the first century BCE and first century CE, Alice will establish a set of data for comparing the composition of silver objects over time in order to determine whether there were changes to the quality of silver, particularly in the third century when many silver mines seem to have gone out of use and silver coinage was being severely debased. The Bothmer Fellowship will also support six weeks of travel for Alice to study additional silver collections in European museums. See more about Alice Sharpless