Roman Sculpture

The portrait as a record of an individual’s personal appearance is one of the most successful and enduring genres of ancient Roman art. Romans surrounded themselves with the Greek sages, whom they admired and placed them in their homes. Today we would have no difficulty recognizing Julius Caesar from his surviving portraits, because statuary of his likeness was replicated and placed throughout the main forums of the Empire. During the reign of the Emperor Augustus Greek sculptors rendered their aristocratic Roman patrons with elegance and cool distinction. Under later Roman Emperors naturalism became compelling as sculptors experimented. They would generally complete the body of a woman first and model her head last, fitting it into place. This had a practical application because if a man decided to divorce his wife he could just have his second wife’s head placed onto the first wife’s body.

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