Gaifman named Andrew Downey Orrick Professor of Classics and History of Art

Milette Gaifman is an international expert on Greek art and its use in religious practice.
Milette Gaifman
Milette Gaifman

Milette Gaifman, an international expert on Greek art and its use in religious practice, has been appointed the Andrew Downey Orrick Professor of Classics and History of Art, effective July 1.

She is a member of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in the departments of Classics and the History of Art.

A faculty member at Yale since 2005, Gaifman currently serves as chair of the Department of the History of Art. She previously held faculty appointments at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. A noted expert on Greek art and its use in religious practice, her areas of interest include the interaction between visual culture and religion, the variety of forms in the arts of antiquity (from the naturalistic to the non-figural), the interactive traits of various artistic media, and the reception of Greek art in later periods. In addition, her scholarship explores the historiography of the academic disciplines of art history, classics and archaeology.

Gaifman’s two path-breaking monographs have shed new light on ancient Greek art. “Aniconism in Greek Antiquity” (Oxford University Press, 2012) was the first English volume dedicated specifically to the topic of aniconism (the absence of figural images of gods) in Greek antiquity to be published since 1903. Now the standard work on the subject, it challenges the perception and place of non-figural objects in Greek religious art, shifting attention from the well-known territories of Greek anthropomorphism and naturalism. “The Art of Libation in Classical Athens” (Yale University Press, 2018) opened new understandings of depictions of libation, the ritual pouring of liquids. Gaifman shows that scenes depicting libation rituals provide essential insight into religious and social life in fifth century B.C. Athens. These images drew parallels between gods and humans and provide an important window onto ancient conceptions of power that continue to resonate today.

In addition to these field-defining books, Gaifman has edited two collections of essays and has published dozens of articles on ancient Greek art and religion, material culture, depictions of divinity, and other topics. In 2018, she delivered the Louise Smith Bross Lectures at the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Chicago. Her current book project, based on the lecture series, is “Classification and the History of Greek Art and Architecture.” It will show how classifications and taxonomies shape our understanding of Greek art and architecture in the modern era.

Her honors and awards include an appointment as the Jill and John Avery Distinguished Lecturer

In the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania in 2020, an invited visiting appointment at the University of Paris Diderot – Paris 7 in 2015, the 2013 Gaddis Smith International Book Prize from the MacMillan Center, and the 2009 Samuel and Ronnie Heyman Prize for Outstanding Scholarly Publication. She has given invited talks at the Boston Athenaeum, the University Club of New York, Johns Hopkins University, Columbia, New York University, Harvard, the Museum of the Olive in Sparta, and at other institutions. From 2019 to 2022 she served as co-editor-in-chief of the Art Bulletin, the flagship journal of art history, and she has served on or led key committees for the College Art Association, the Committee of the American Research Center in Sofia, the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, and the Society for Ancient Mediterranean Religions.

At Yale, prior to her appointment as department chair, Gaifman served terms as Director of Undergraduate Studies and Director of Graduate Studies in the History of Art. She serves on the Steering Committee of Archaia and has served on the Executive Committee of the Humanities Program, and numerous other university committees. A dedicated mentor, she has supervised dozens of undergraduate and graduate students, and she serves as Freshman Advisor in Silliman College. She offers courses on Greek art, religion, and myth; theory and methods in classical studies; and other topics. Her undergraduate lecture course on Art and Myth in Greek Antiquity regularly draws more than 200 students.

Gaifman earned her Ph.D. and a master’s degree from Princeton and a bachelor’s degree from Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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