Roman Portraiture

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Art 108: Ancient to Medieval

Art 108: Ancient to MedievalWestchester Community CollegeFall 2016Roman Portraiture

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Capitoline She-Wolf, 5thc BCEAccording to legend, Rome was founded in the 8thc by the twins Romulus and Remus Descendants of Aeneus, who fled the Trojan War

Established Greek origins for the Romans

Italy was inhabited by a variety of Latin and Italic tribesEtruscan kings ruled Rome, until the Romans revolted and established a Republic in 509 BCE

Significant expansion over the next few centuriesAs it expanded the Republic grew wealthy, but also unstable

The Roman Republic (509-27 BCE)Roman society was divided into three classes

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The Roman Republic (509-27 BCE)A trripartite government was created to be fair to all classes

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The Romans collected and copied Greek and Hellenistic statuary

They used it to decorate private gardens, and public baths, rather than temples or sanctuaries

These copies may tell us a lot about Roman taste, but they really dont tell us much about what was unique to Roman art

The development of realistic portraiture is often said by art historians to have originated with the Romans . . . . It is with the Romans, however, that portraiture became widespread among all levels of society.Power and Authority in Roman Portraiture, p. 29

Anna Sophia Robb flashed a giant smile for a red carpet selfie.The Romans invented the selfie!

Aule Metele (Arringatore), from Cortona, early 1st c. BCE, Bronze, 5 7Archeological Museum, FlorenceThis statue portrays a man named Aule Metele

Aule Metele (Arringatore), from Cortona, early 1st c. BCE, Bronze, 5 7Archeological Museum, FlorenceHe was Etruscan by birth, but his costume identifies him as Roman (the Etruscans were absorbed by the Romans in the Republican period)

Aule Metele (Arringatore), from Cortona, early 1st c. BCE, Bronze, 5 7Archeological Museum, FlorenceHis arm is raised as if he is about to address an assembly, hence he has been nicknamed the arringatore the orator

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Greek IdealismRoman RealismNudeClothedIdealizedRealistic portraitYouthfulOlderGeneralizedSpecificAthletic championPolitical role model

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What was distinctive about Roman [portraits during the Republican period?

The distinguishing characteristic of Roman political portraiture is its realismPortrait bust of a man, Roman, Late Republican Period, about 50 B.C.Terracotta, Museum of fine Arts, Boston

Portrait bust of a man, 1st century B.C.; Republican RomanMetropolitan MuseumThe portraits usually show older men -- balding, toothless, and wrinkled

Veristic portraiture: warts and all realism

Head of a Roman patrician, from Otricoli, Italy, c. 75-50 BCE. Marble, approx. 1' 2" high. Museo Torlonia, Rome.They are like mug shots -- blunt records of appearances without flattery or emotion

Classical Greek portraiture had valued an idealizing depiction of the individual . . . . .

Why did the Romans choose this veristic style what did it convey?

Republican Romans desired portraits that [stressed] age, experience, and lack of vanity . . . men were depicted with wrinkles, baldness, and physical imperfections that were thought to convey a sense of their virtus . . . . Power and Authority in Roman Portraiture, p. 35

Portrait bust of a man, 1st century B.C.; Republican RomanMetropolitan MuseumVirtus:duty to the statemilitary braverypublic responsibilitysober morality

Roman Patrician with Busts of his Ancestors (a.k.a. The Barberini Statue), marble, lifesize, c. 30 B.C. (Capitoline Museums, Rome)Influenced by the Roman tradition of collecting wax death masks (imagines) of their ancestors

Modern masks made of beeswax, imitating ancient Roman practicesImage source: http://io9.gizmodo.com/ancient-roman-funeral-masks-made-from-wax-were-freakish-1496284227

Ancient Roman Funeral processionImage source: http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?1619933

Masks were worn or carried in funeral processions

Roman Patrician with Busts of his Ancestors (a.k.a. The Barberini Statue), marble, lifesize, c. 30 B.C. (Capitoline Museums, Rome)More ancestors = higher status

Portrait bust of a man, 1st century B.C.; Republican RomanMetropolitan MuseumMany Roman portraits exist in the form of busts, reflecting the Roman belief that the face was the most distinguishing feature of the individual

Cippus (funerary altar) of Cominia Tyche, ca. 90-95 A.D.; late Flavian Roman Metropolitan Museum

Funerary altars and tombs were adorned with portrait reliefs, or they were displayed in communal tombs known as columbaria

Via Appia (Rome, Italy), the second columbarium of Vigna Codini, west and north sidesImage source: http://aarome.idra.info/index/index2/tsk/pkpr

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Columbarium of the family of Augustus, a.D. 20, at Vigna Codini along the Via Appia, RomeWikimedia

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Marble funerary relief of Lucius Antistius Sarculo and Antistia Plutia, c 10 BCE 30 CEBritish MuseumCouples were often depicted together, recalling Egyptian and Etruscan customs

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Portrait head of an elderly woman, Late Republican or Early Imperial, Augustan, ca. 4020 B.CE, .RomanMetropolitan MuseumRoman patrician women were also honored with portraits

Portrait head of an elderly woman, Late Republican or Early Imperial, Augustan, ca. 4020 B.CE, .RomanMetropolitan Museum

Portrait of an old woman, late 1st century BCE, National Museum of RomeWikimedia

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Portrait Bust of Livia, from Arsinoe, Egypt, eary 1st century CE. Marble, Carlsberg Glyptotek, CopenhagenUnder the Emperor Augustus a new classicizing style of portraiture was introduced

Bust of a Flavian Woman, c. 90 CECapitoline MuseumHairstyles became more elaborate during the Imperial period

Bust of a Roman woman, ca. 80 CEGlypthotek, MunichWikimediaBut many portraits retained a high degree of realism

Funerary Relief of a vegetable vendor, from Ostia, Italy, 2nd c. CEThe practice of commissioning funerary portraits eventually filtered down to more common people

Funerary Relief of a vegetable vendor, from Ostia, Italy, 2nd c. CEThis plaque exemplifies the style of plebeian art that coexisted with official style

Vegetable and Poultry shop sign from Ostia

Imperial PortraitureWhen slaves were freed they often had portraits made to proclaim their new social status. This funerary relief depicts three members of a family Tomb Relief of the Publius Gessius family, c. 30-20 BCEMuseum of Fine Arts Boston

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Tomb Relief of the Publius Gessius family, c. 30-20 BCEMuseum of Fine Arts BostonPublius GessiusFausta freed slave and wifePrimus -- son

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Grave Monument of Publius Curtilius Agatus, Silversmith; Roman, made in Italy A.D. 1-25, marbleThis freed slave was a silversmith, and is depicted with the tools of his trade

Portrait of a husband and wife, from a house in Pompeii, c. 70-79 CE, Archaeological Museum, NaplesPainting was also used for portraiture, though few survive

Portrait of a husband and wife, from a house in Pompeii, c. 70-79 CE, Archaeological Museum, NaplesThis one depicts a baker and his wife, holding a stylus and scroll to show that they are educated

Mummy with an inserted panel portrait of a youth, ca. A.D. 80100 Metropolitan Museum

In Roman Egypt the veristic style was adopted for mummy portraits

Portrait of a woman, A.D. 10020, Encaustic on limewood; British MuseumPanel painting of a woman in a blue mantle, Roman, 54-68 CE, from EgyptMet Museum

Portrait of the Boy Eutyches, Encaustic on wood100150CE Metropolitan Museum

Portrait of a man, ca. A.D. 12550, Encaustic on wood; Antikensammlung, Munich

Portrait of a priest of Serapis, from Hawara (Faiyum), Egypt, c. 140-160 CE