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Roman Portraiture

The Romans practiced the art of capturing an image of a person, otherwise known as Roman portraiture, which is a significant period in the field of portrait art. This practice continued for almost five centuries starting from Ancient Rome. It can be seen that during this period, portraits spoke a lot about a specific person thus it became an integral part of society. The way one was depicted through portraiture became very important for the Romans as it reflected not only them but their history as well. They executed this in various forms of media. Its most popular mediums were coins and sculptures but they were also done in paintings, glass, and gems. These were done in various materials such as for example; the sculptures were made with the use of marble, terracotta and even bronze. With portraiture being done through various mediums, it can be noted how it had both uses for the public such as it appearing on coins and of course for their own private uses or display.

Roman portraiture constantly had changing styles, which can be characterized by a stylistic cycle. It can be seen that it had an alternating shift from realistic to idealistic elements. Emperors and public officials portrayed themselves in a way that would benefit their endeavors by switching from one style to the other. For example, since one’s military prowess and devotion to public service were attributes that were highly looked after, public officials would have their portraits made in such a way that it captured all the details of one’s face from the wrinkles to all the imperfections on one’s skin. This brought about the concept of Verism where in the face of the sculpture was realistic but the body was still idealized. On the other hand it can be seen in this portrait head of Emperor Augustus (see fig. 1) that he had an idealized version of himself commissioned. It...

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