Nathaniel B. Jones

Associate Professor of Art History and Archaeology
Director of Graduate Studies, Art History and Archaeology
PhD Yale University
research interests:
  • Ancient Greco-Roman art
  • Especially painting, space and time in ancient art, the collection and display of art, artistic replication, perspective, visual narratives, art theory and criticism from antiquity to modernity.
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    contact info:

    office hours:

    • Tuesdays 1:30-3:30 PM (Kemper 214)
    • Open Hours

    mailing address:

    • Washington University
    • CB 1189
    • One Brookings Dr.
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
    image of book cover

    Nathaniel Jones studied Classics and Art History at Grinnell College and received his Ph.D. in the History of Art from Yale University.

    My primary avenue of research focuses on the intersections of artistic production, art theory, and social practice in Greco-Roman antiquity. My first book explored the representation of panel painting within Roman mural ensembles of the first centuries BCE and CE, arguing that such depictions functioned as meta-pictorial reflections on the ethical and aesthetic value of art itself in the Roman world. A second book examines the intertwined temporal and spatial aspects of Roman art, from the Late Republic to Late Antiquity. It treats works of art not just as reflections of pre-existing ideas but as generative phenomena capable of producing new modes of experience. Further areas of research interest include the collection and display of art, perspective, artistic repetition and replication, art and death, the development of Greek and Roman art-historical thought, connoisseurship, and the reception of the classical world. My research has been supported by the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin, the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and Washington University’s Center for the Humanities. 

    I teach courses across the visual and material culture of the ancient Mediterranean world and beyond. In these courses I aim to cultivate the development of a critical perspective onto the past and of the analytical and rhetorical tools necessary to present ideas clearly. I encourage students to make arguments based on visual and material evidence and to trust the validity of those arguments, and I believe that the development of this skill happens most vividly in front of actual objects. My courses also seek to emphasize, however, that ‘vision itself has its history,’ as Heinrich Wölfflin put it: that in various times and places, people have valued different aspects of and attributed different qualities to the visual and material worlds, and that their artistic cultures should be understood accordingly. It is, I believe, in this productive crux between historical inquiry and contemporary experience that the study of art is most vibrant and compelling. 

    Selected Publications


    Painting, Ethics, and Aesthetics in Rome. Greek Culture in the Roman World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2019.

    Winner of The Classical Association of the Middle West and South 2021 First Book Award


    Articles and Book Chapters

    "Space and Time, from Greek Myth to Roman Art,"  in Comparing Roman Hellenisms, ed. Riemer Faber and Basil Duffallo.  Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. In Press.

    "Material and Immaterial Religion in Pompeian Painting," in Material Religion in Pompeii, ed. Jessica Hughes. Special issue of the Open Arts Journal, 10 (2021): 52-65.

    With Sara Ryu, "Distance and Proximity in Hubert Robert," Classical Receptions Journal 11 (2019): 476-507.

    "Truth from Fiction: Connoisseurship in Greco-Roman Antiquity." RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics 71/72 (2019): 229-240.

    "Exemplarity and Encyclopedism at the Tomb of Eurysaces." Classical Antiquity 37 (2018): 63-107.

    "Starting from Places: Continuous Narration and Discontinuous Perspectives in Roman Art." The Art Bulletin 100 (2018): 7-35.

    "Phantasms and Metonyms: The Limits of Representation in Fifth-Century Athens." Art History: The Journal of the Association of Art Historians 38 (2015): 814-837.

    "Temple inventory and fictive picture gallery: ancient painting between votive offering and artwork." in Museum Archetypes and Collecting in the Ancient World. Monumenta Graeca et Romana, 21. ed. M. Gahtan and D. Pegazzano. Leiden: Brill, 2015. 118-128.

    "Ancient Painted Panels: Terminology and Appearance." Mnemosyne: A Journal of Classical Studies 67 (2014): 295-304.


    Recent Courses

    L01.1040 First Year Seminar. The Trojan War in Myth, Art, and Reality

    L01.232 Myths and Monuments of Antiquity

    L01.331 Greek Art and Archaeology

    L01.334 Roman Art and Archaeology

    L01.3330 Greek and Roman Painting

    L01.3001.06  Writing Intensive Topic. The Age of Augustus: Rome from Republic to Empire

    L01.4376 Pictorial Illusion in the Ancient Mediterranean

    L01.4295 Stories in Stone: Visual Narratives in the Ancient World

    L01.439 Greek Art in Rome: Discourse, Dedication, and Reflection

    L01.428 The Invention of the Image: From Classical Art History to Modern Visual Studies

    L01.429 Art and Death in Ancient Rome

    Distance and proximity in Hubert Robert

    Distance and proximity in Hubert Robert

    This essay focuses on questions of distance and proximity, both chronological and spatial, in the painting of eighteenth-century French artist Hubert Robert. It argues that, through the manipulation of different modes of distance in his paintings, Robert sought to articulate an aesthetic attitude which highlighted the remoteness of the past at the same time as he brought it into dialogue with the present. This aesthetic of distance is variously enacted by Robert's pictorial reflections on the ancient Roman system of roads, the virtual creation and collection of antiquities, and the actual movement of the physical remnants of the ancient world. The result, the essay suggests, is that Robert's work straddles the border of fiction and reference to both acknowledge and deny the presentness of the past.

    Classical Receptions Journal, Volume 11, Issue 4, October 2019, Pages 476–507

    Starting from Places: Continuous Narration and Discontinuous Perspectives in Roman Art

    Starting from Places: Continuous Narration and Discontinuous Perspectives in Roman Art

    A spectacular fresco from early first-century Pompeii is featured on the cover of the March 2018 issue of The Art Bulletin. Drawing on a palette of aqua, yellow, and deep red, it depicts Perseus rescuing Andromeda from captivity on a rocky promontory. The fresco appears in Nathaniel B. Jones’s essay “Starting from Places: Continuous Narration and Discontinuous Perspectives in Roman Art,” which explores how the painters of the time represented multiple temporal moments in a single visual field.

    Painting, Ethics, and Aesthetics in Rome

    Painting, Ethics, and Aesthetics in Rome

    In the first centuries BCE and CE, Roman wall painters frequently placed representations of works of art, especially panel paintings, within their own mural compositions. Nathaniel B. Jones argues that the depiction of panel painting within mural ensembles functioned as a meta-pictorial reflection on the practice and status of painting itself. This phenomenon provides crucial visual evidence for both the reception of Greek culture and the interconnected ethical and aesthetic values of art in the Roman world. Roman meta-pictures, this book reveals, not only navigated social debates on the production and consumption of art, but also created space on the Roman wall for new modes of expression relating to pictorial genres, the role of medium in artistic practice, and the history of painting. Richly illustrated, the volume will be important for anyone interested in the social, ethical, and aesthetic dimensions of artworks, in the ancient Mediterranean and beyond.