Roman Portraiture Comparison Both the Head Term Paper

Pages: 2 (716 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 2  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

Roman Portraiture Comparison

Both the head of the emperor, and as great a Roman emperor as Marcus Aurelius, could be commemorated in stone, and the head of an anonymous Roman matron. In an age before photography, art was used to both capture the essence of the national leadership of the Roman emperor, and used as a kind of status calling card for the aspiring bourgeois of Rome, within the context of the art galleries of their own homes, to be displayed to ordinary visitors.

In her short chapter, "Portraiture and Commemoration" Eve D'Ambra writes in her book Roman Art notes that the commissioning of a portrait head in marble or stone played a crucial role in Roman society for the aspiring Roman elite. By commemorating one's self in stone, much like an emperor or a great noble, one could make a display of both one's wealth and culture. If one were not wealthy, one would not have the money to employ an artist to carve one's face, nor the time to sit for the bust. If one were not cultured, one would not have the ambition to make one's face and form a work of art. Faces were especially important, as facial configurations, such as the shape of one's nose or forehead, were thought to speak well or ill of one's innate character, and thus the predominance of the bust or facial portraiture.

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Commissioning such portraits was a social necessary, according to the author, in the acquisition of social power and also to maintain the image one's self as part of the intellectual and political elite of Rome. Identity was an issue of anxiety for Romans, because of the society's social permeability by freedmen, once they were released from bondage, as well as the fact that so many foreigners were common in Roman and eventually became citizens or at least Latin-speaking persons in the city.

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The "Portrait of Marcus Aurelius" in stone is of the emperor during the autumnal flowering of the empire. It is a portrait thus of a man with an already secure and high social position in the Roman social order -- at its very… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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