Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Antonine Female Portraiture

 This nobly restrained composite statue depicts a virtuous Roman matron of a distinguished family. She is commemorated as both a chaste wife and mother of children, and her portrait celebrates marriage as an enduring value and symbol of Roman life. This figure provides a notable contrast with the DMA's luxuriant Roman portrait head of a youth (1984.163) in both style and character. Whereas the boy exudes exuberant youth with his active gaze and foppish curls, the Roman matron embodies the discreetly refined dignity of an aristocratic lady.  She holds her mantle like a veil over her shoulder and stands in modest dignity, as though she were a priestess of the home.

Often found in imperial female portrait statues, the body type is based on Greek draped figures from the 4th century BCE. Associated with the work of Late Classical sculptors such as Praxiteles or Lysippus, figures like this of the so-called Small Herculaneum type were frequently adapted in Roman art. Here the heavily draped figure, suggesting the virtuous character of the woman, was either a commemorative funerary portrait or a civic/religious dedication. The portrait head used with this standard body type is graceful and pensive. The complete figure radiates a gentle nobility that embodies the best traditions of Roman family life and the high value accorded to distinguished Roman women. In appearance, the lady recalls imperial Antonine women such as the younger Faustina, wife of Marcus Aurelius, though the figure is not sufficiently close to either her or her daughter, Lucilla, to be an actual royal portrait.  - Dallas Museum of Art

 Figure of a woman Roman 2nd century CE photographed at the Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas, Texas.

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