Johann Joachim Winckelmann, a German archaeologist, born in Stendal, Prussia, Dec. 9, 1717, murdered in Trieste, June 8, 1768. He was the son of a poor shoemaker, and struggled with adversity while pursuing desultory studies at Stendal, Berlin, Salzwedel, and the universities of Halle and Jena, attaining great. proficiency in the ancient languages and familiarity with writings on art. After teaching for five years at Seehausen, he was employed as librarian by Count Bünau at Nöthnitz near Dresden. The art gallery of that city, and Oeser and other painters whom he met, inspired him with a desire to visit Rome, and the nuncio Archinto promised him employment on condition of his joining his church, to which he consented in 1755, after five years of hesitation, but without change of belief. In the same year the pope granted him a small pension for two years, which enabled him to go to Rome, where he arrived in November. Here he met Raphael Mengs, who stimulated his love of ancient art, and became librarian to his Dresden patron, Cardinal Archinto, while the largest private library of Rome, that of Cardinal Passionei, afforded him vast materials for research.
His position was greatly improved by Cardinal Alessandro Albani, who appointed him librarian and lodged him in his palace and in his villa near the Porta Salara, and whose celebrated collections opened new sources of information. In 1763 he became prefect of antiquities and Hellenist of the Vatican library. He visited Florence, Naples, Portici, Herculaneum, and Pompeii, and was so much attached to Italy that he declined an appointment at Berlin. In 1768, after starting on a journey to Germany with the sculptor Cavaceppi, he became melancholy as soon as he had left the Italian soil, and could not be persuaded to go beyond Vienna. Returning to Rome by way of Trieste, he was assassinated by a professional thief named Arcangeli, who after winning his confidence killed him for the sake of some rare gold coins which Maria Theresa had presented to him. - Winckelmann is regarded as the founder of scientific archaeology and of the historical and critical investigation of antiquities; he modified all the old theories of the beautiful, and revived in art and poetry the classical spirit of ancient Greece. His views suggested Lessing's Laokoon, and under the influence of Heyne they imparted a powerful impulse to the Augustan period of German poetry, which was nobly appreciated in Goethe's Winckelmann und sein Jahrhundert, published in conjunction with H. Meyer and other writers (Tubingen, 1805). His most celebrated work is Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums (1764), with its supplement entitled Anmerkungen über die Geschichte der Kunst (1767), and included in the Vienna edition of 1776. It has been translated into French and Italian, and into English by Giles Henry Lodge (2 vols. 4to, Boston, 1849; new ed. with a life of Winckelmann, 4 vols*. 8vo, 1856-'72). His other works include Gedanken über die Nachahmung der griechischen Werhe in Malerei und Bildhauerkunst (Dresden and Leipsic, 1755); Description des pierres gravés du feu baron de Stosch (Florence, 1760); Monumenti antichi inediti (2 vols., Rome, 1767-'8; 2d ed., 1821); and several reports on Herculaneum and other sites, and minor though influential aesthetical essays, comprising Versuch einer Allegorie (Dresden, 1766; enlarged from manuscripts, 1866). Fernow began and Heinrich Meyer and Schultz completed an edition of all his writings (8 vols., Dresden, 1808-'20). Parts of his correspondence are 'contained in a reprint of this edition (1828 et seq.), in Winckelmann's Briefe, edited by F. Forster (2 vols., Berlin, 1824), and in other publications.
Rossetti published 11 sepolchro di Winckelmann in Trieste (Venice, 1823), relating to his grave in the cemetery adjoining the cathedral in that city, where a monument to him has been erected. Forchhammer and Otto Jahn instituted Winckelrnann festivals at leading German universities. His birthday is annually celebrated by the archaeological institute in Rome and by archaeologists in Berlin; and a branch of the former was on his anniversary in 1874 established at Athens. The best biography is Karl Justi's Winckelmann, sein Leben, seine Werke und seine Zeitgenossen (3 vols., 1866-'73).