Johann Joachim Winckelmann was born in Stendal on 9th December 1717 as son of a poor cobbler. Due to bursaries he was able to receive a good education. For a while he studied theology in Halle and medicine in Jena and worked as private tutor. At the same time he also pursued philologic, philosophic and historic studies. In 1748 he became a librarian at Count Heinrich von Bünau's famous library near Dresden. There he met Cardinal Alberico Archinto, who offered him an employment as librarian in Rome on condition that Winckelmann converts to the Catholicism. Also during that time King Augustus III of Poland became his patron. In 1754 he quitted his employment in von Bünau's library and moved to Dresden for a short time to learn how to draw. In 1755 he moved to Rome. Also in 1755 he published his famous Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture. During his time in Italy he visited many important ancient sites and art collections. He visited for example Florence, Neapel and Pompeii. In 1763 he became Commissario delle Antichità, the most important curator of monuments in the Papal States. Winckelmann's masterpiece The History of Art in Antiquity was published in 1764. In 1768 he wanted to visit his old friends in Germany, but had to terminate the journey before he reached his destination. On his way back to Rome he was killed in Trieste on 8th June 1768 by a robber. Johann Joachim Winckelmann is today considered to be the father of the modern archaeology and the discipline of art history and a pioneer of the Classicism in Germany.
Thanks to Winckelmann the Apollo Belvedere became one of the World's most celebrated art works when he championed it as the best example of the perfection of the Greek aesthetic ideal. It became one of the leading lights of Classicism and an icon of the Enlightenment.
In Stendal there are today a Winckelmann Statue and the only Winckelmann Museum in the World, which was opened in 1955.