Roman portraiture

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Roman portraiture

Postby Casta Didius on Tue Jul 01, 2003 8:45 pm

Hello! I'm new here, and would like to ask for some assistance. I read in the article featured here (Roman Art III by Dyonisus Mus) that no Roman portraits can be dated to before the 1st centure BC...

Now, I'm thinking about the bronze portrait of Scipio Africanus. Do I take the above statement to mean that this particular bronze was made later, after Scipio's death, and not during his lifetime - which would place the bronze in the 2nd century BC?

I hope someone can clarify this for me. Thank you so much!!
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Postby Curio Agelastus on Tue Jul 01, 2003 9:26 pm

Salve Casta Didius!

I know that a lot of amateur archaeologists in the 19th century simply put a name to statues of people who seemed to share those physical characteristics. Perhaps this is why the famous bronze of Scipio Africanus is said to be of him? It does of course mean that there's probably a lot of inaccuracy in the more obscure statues, but then didn't Napoleon say that history was a fable agreed upon? ;-)

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Re: Roman portraiture

Postby Publius Dionysius Mus on Tue Jul 01, 2003 10:39 pm

P. Dionysius Mus Casta salutem

Casta Didius wrote:Now, I'm thinking about the bronze portrait of Scipio Africanus. Do I take the above statement to mean that this particular bronze was made later, after Scipio's death, and not during his lifetime - which would place the bronze in the 2nd century BC?


Indeed, we know of no Roman sculptured portraits that date before the first century BC. The bronze bust of Scipio Africanus, very recognizable with the bald head, black colour and white eyes, was found in Herculaneum. This may be the oldest known sculptured portrait, but it can not be dated before the first century BC. I have searched for more exact information on this particular item, but I am not able to find more than is written here.

As Curio already mentioned, there are indeed a lot of busts that are said to represent Scipio or other famous Romans. Archaeologists like their findings to be spectacular, especially in previous centuries...

Hope this has helped you somehow.

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Dating portraits...

Postby Casta Didius on Fri Jul 04, 2003 3:42 am

Publius and Marcus, salve!

I am very grateful for all your help; indeed, after posting my query, I tried to find more information on the bronze bust said to be of Scipio Africanus, the one found in Herculaneum. About this particular one, there is little more than the basic "who and where".

Searching in Italian, in a site on portrait busts at the National Museum of Naples - and they have a marble bust very similar to the Herculaneum bronze one, also identified as Scipio Africanus - I read that heroes such as Scipio would have had their likenesses displayed publicly for virtually all time, and that it is reasonable to suppose that the facial features would be copied over and over from an original (presumably accurate) portrait, long after his time.

Then again, the Capitoline Museum in Rome has a red marble. a too handsome and blank piece - also identified as Scipio Africanus, all of which leads me to believe that portraits reproduced ad infinitum are a bit like the game "telegraph"...

Thank you! The main point for me was a clarification of the "cannot be dated before the 1st century BCE" statement. And, of course, you are both right regarding archaeologists and their urgency.

I know now where to come with sticky questions! Thanks again.
Casta Didius
 


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