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The standard concept of a portrait is the reproduction
of a single individual, living or deceased. The fundamental
aim of this operation is to reproduce some resemblance
to the model. In cultures historically concerned
with physiognomic and psychological research,
this reproduction has been mainly focused on the
human face, where the main elements of individual
identification, personal character, and human expression
are represented.
The portrait is a universal subject of figurative representation,
exploited in every medium.Many scholars
and practitioners have found in sculpture, however, a
great advantage over the pictorial, as the three-dimensional
quality of sculpture makes more concretely
manifest the portrayed individual. This has been particularly
true of funerary occasions, where sculpture has
been used as a means to simultaneously make present
and immortalize the dead.
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In considering the potential advantages and disadvantages
of sculpture as a medium for portraiture, one
must account for its tendency to oversimplify physiognomic
features. This should not imply that realism in
sculpture portraits is impossible; on the contrary, chief
examples by Antonio Pollaiuolo and Jean-Baptiste Pigalle
are marked by great technical virtuosity. Nevertheless,
the sculptural technique favors simplified and
nonanalytical forms with large uniform surfaces, so
idealization tends to overwhelm realism as a result.
A specific problem of realistic representation is
characterizing and bringing to life the figures eyes.
This challenge was resolved in ancient art with polychromy
the insertion of materials of different colors
(silver or ivory)in the eye socket, or with the piercing
of the figures eyeballs. This latter technique was
revived in 17th-century Baroque sculpture, such as Gianlorenzo
Berninis marble bust of Cardinal Scipione
Borghese (1632).

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Further difficulty arises, particularly with common
sculptural mediums like marble and stone (especially
porphyry), in the representation of costumes, so important
disadvantaged by the unyielding quality of the materials
in realizing details and differentiating surfaces. The
16th and 17th centuries saw great sophistication in realizing
sumptuous and richly refined costumes in
painting, as well as technical advances in the handling
of surfaces of marble and bronze in sculpture, such as
Benvenuto Cellinis bronze bust of Duke Cosimo I de
Medici (154548) and Alessandro Algardis marble
bust of Cardinal Laudivio Zacchia (1626). The use of
polychromatic marbles, a technique borrowed from ancient
Rome, was revived during this period.
Perhaps because of these technical problems, the
genre of realistic or idealized self-portraiture appears
as one of the fields that is more limited in sculpture.
Fine examples, however, came from Lorenzo Ghiberti,
Baccio Bandinelli, Louis-Francois Roubiliac, and Antonio
The sculptural portrait can take on one of many
forms: head only, bust to the shoulders, bust to the
chest, half figure, three-quarters figure, or full-length
figure. It is only in the relief, however, that the form
chosen by the artist helps determine the vantage point
of the observer. The bas-relief, for example, offers a
profile view, whereas the sculpture in the round offers
multiple points of view.
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Because of this dimensional access to the work on
the part of the viewer, formal limits are more difficult
to evade than they are in painting. One of the primary
challenges in the development of the bust genre, for
example, was how to allude to the presence of the rest
of the body, particularly of the arms of the figure. This
problem was solved by Bernini in his busts with the
body suggested by skillfully arranged drapery and rotation
of the head.
The historical development of portraiture in sculpture
can be synthesized by first considering the general
conception of the portraitthe problem of physical
resemblanceand the relationship between realism
and idealism. This relationship is very complex, considering
the specific functions of portraits and the anthropological
and social context of their production.
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Sculptural portraits can be found, although in minimal
forms, in some primitive cultures of Africa, North
America, Mesoamerica, and Melanesia, where they
held mostly ritual functions and were realized in wood,
stone, and terracotta. Sculptural portraits were also
produced in ancient and preindustrial India, China, and
Japan for funerary, ritual, and commemorative uses,
realized in stone, wood, lacquer, and various metals in
numismatics (coins or other forms of currency), in the
round, and in relief carving. Sculpted portraiture was
highly limited in the late ancient world, but it was
of far greater importance in earlier ancient cultures
(Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, ancient Greece, and
Etruscan and Persian [today Iran] civilizations), where
it was used for funerary and commemorative functions.
Physical resemblance became pertinent somewhat
in Egyptian, Hellenistic Greek, Roman, and modern
European art; these cultures were concerned with portraiture
in every medium. Identification of the portrayed
person, however, was independent from his or
her physical resemblance.
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Symbolic portraiture, which is quite different from
the modern idea of a portrait, was particularly important
to primitive cultures. Symbolic traits of the portrayed
person were expressed with size and attitude of
the figure, his or her attributes, and inscriptions. This
indifference toward physical resemblance is evident
by the practice of reemployment of the same images
to represent different personages with a simple change
of inscriptions.
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Preserved portrait sculpture from the Roman Republic
and Roman Empire depicts individuals in bust, statue,
or herm format; in the round or in relief; and in media
that range from bronze to cameo. The production of
portrait sculpture, especially marble portraits, flourished
in this period to an extent that has never been
matched. Portraits had an essential function in both
daily life and in the funerary realm. They were the
standard way to commemorate individuals of both
sexes and at all social levels. Moreover, most portraits
made during the Roman Empire can be closely dated
because the portraits of the emperors and their family
members, which were copied endlessly for propaganda,
provide a secure chronological framework of
trends in fashion and appropriate self-representation.
The widespread diffusion of portraits in the Roman
period is due to their important role in both the private
sphere of the family and the public political arena. The
literary record of the period reflects the Romans significant
adoration for the customs and behavior of their
forefathers (mos maiorum). This overwhelming devotion
produced a tradition that was influential in regard
to portraiture. In the homes of the elite, the imagines
maiorum (the images of the forefathers) were displayed
with labels noting names and accomplishments.

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These imagines, perhaps originally made of wax, were
certainly portraits and were likely to have been masks
or busts. Intended to evoke a sense of a specific individual
as well as his virtue, the imagines functioned
as a visual prop that aimed both to instill in young men
a desire to emulate their illustrious ancestors and to
impress the visiting public with ones clearly established
connections. Publicity of ones ancestors was
important because the family name and its renown
were decisive factors for a young man. On the strength
of these, he would be elected to his initial public post,
from which his career could then develop.
The world of government careers in Rome was
highly competitive, especially during the republic.
Only about 20 young men, almost all of senatorial
rank, were chosen every year to enter the lowest level
of government as a quaestor. As one progressed upward
in the ranks, the yearly number elected decreased
markedly; for instance, at the outset of the empire, only
about 8 men were annually elected to the desirable
praetorian positions that would qualify them for important
senatorial and imperial posts.
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During the empire
a similar competition developed among men of the
equestrian order. This difficult and prestigious world

of the cursus honorum, the path of career positions,

caused individuals to be proud of the accomplishments
of their family members and led to the need to publicize
these accomplishments. The so-called Togatus
Barberini demonstrates exactly this type of family
pride. The statue shows a togate man (whose head is
a restoration) holding two busts, presumably the depictions
of two of his illustrious forefathers.
A second use of the imagines maiorum that promoted
portraiture and at least pseudoveristic reproduction
was their public presentation in funeral ceremonies.
Public funerals at Rome, initially for all elite and
then almost exclusively for the imperial family during
the empire, featured a parade of these images, each of
which represented an ancestor of the family. On arrival
in the forum, the individuals with the images of the
ancestors would sit in a row on the platform as the
living male relatives gave the eulogy. After the eulogy,
the speaker would then say a few words about each of
the seated ancestors. The images without doubt presented
a realistic physical appearance for the ancestors
and again had both a self-assertive and an educational
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This tradition of the ancestral image enhanced two
concepts, public statues and funerary honors, which
already established in the Greek worldflourished
and developed during the Roman period. Portrait statues
erected in public places were considered among
the highest honors for a man because they had to be
granted by a public organization. They provided a way
for the community and not just the family to honor an
individual who had contributed to the communitys
glory, generally either by bringing it status by means
of his own fame or by improving its appearance or
well-being by means of monetary donations. The purpose
was no different from the purpose of the ancestral
portraits; the audience was merely larger. Rather than
to spur family members to greatness and to assert the
place of the family in the community, it was often to
spur the members of the entire society onward and to

assert the position of the community in the empire. By

the 2nd century CE, such honors had become standard
practice, with a standard visual vocabulary, and were
almost a requirement for any outstanding individual
and his or her family.
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The established format of the
honor consisted of a portrait head, a statue body, and
an inscribed base that identified the individual by name
and by deed. In general, the repertoire of the statue
body was limited; for instance, in the case of men, they
were represented as nude, or as wearing a toga, cuirass,
or a himation. These provided easily legible associations
with public roles (Roman official, military,
Greek, senatorial, etc.). The portrait head allowed for
greater freedom because it, just as the individuals
name, was specific to only one person. The social
range and contribution of the honored individuals were
wide. They included local government officials, any
individual who erected or repaired a public building,
priests and priestesses, young children of elite families,
and even performers such as actors and boxers. The
type of statue (gilded bronze, marble, or equestrian),
the size of the statue (under-life-size, life-size, overlifesize, or colossal), and the location (forum, building
facade, public portico, or sanctuary) corresponded to
the status and contribution of the honored. The most
prestigious statues were gilded bronze and colossal and
had central locations. A statue in the Forum in Rome,
for instance, was a greater honor than a statue in the
forum of a small municipality or even than a statue in
another location in the city of Rome.
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Funerary monuments, which lined the streets leading
out of every city, also featured abundant sculpted
portraiture in the form of life-size reliefs or statues,
busts in relief or in the round, and small-scale relief
figures on elaborate sarcophagi. Such sculpture might
have been placed either on the facade of a tomb or
within it. The forms of funerary portraiture were dictated
by burial formstrends in inhumation as opposed
to cremationand by restrictions on the space
available and the size permissible for monuments. For
instance, late republican monuments tended to be
large, with life-size sculpture on the exterior facades,
whereas elaborate sarcophagi appear from the mid 2nd
century onward. The motivation for portraiture on funerary
monuments was again familial pride and an assertion
of self-identity, as well as the human desire
never to forget or be forgotten. Freedmens tombs of
the late republican and early Imperial periods often
featured a series of busts in relief, sometimes each in
a separate niche, that seem to be based on the elite
mans display of his imagines maiorum in his house.
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These freedmen, having proudly achieved new status
and money, appear to call attention to who they were
and what they achieved by use of the same visual devices
employed by their former masters. The appearance
of portraiture on funerary monuments is a tradition
still upheld in the Western world, where
photographs of dead individuals are commonplace.
For most people the words Roman portraiture
bring to mind images of the emperors and the vast
series of studies, beginning in the mid 19th century,

that have attempted to identify various extant portraits

with imperial names. Imperial portraiture had a prominent
position during the Roman Empire and deservedly
plays an important role in the modern perception of
Roman portraiture. The identification of sculpted portraits
in the round with emperors depends mainly on
numismatic evidence and secondarily on imperial portraits
preserved with inscriptions. Extant coins and
medallions feature portraits of individuals (who during
the empire were all imperial family members) and written
legends that identify the portrait. Thus comparisons
of the coin portraits, although they show only a profile,
with portraits in the round are the principal means by
which to identify imperial portraits.
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From studies of
these coins, the sculpted portraits associated with them,
and the portraits labeled by inscriptions, it has emerged
that the portrait of every imperial family member, no
matter what the medium, was based on at least one
well-distributed model. The faithful copying of the
model is attested by replica portraits with widely disparate
provenances. The model, called by scholars the
official type, was assuredly produced by the imperial
circle and disseminated throughout the provinces of
the empire in order to obtain a certain cohesion and
allegiance to the same concept in distant lands. Every
town of the empire, no matter how small or how remote,
erected some monument to some member of the
imperial family as testimony of its loyalty and participation
in the glory of the empire. The fact that the
imperial family member would look the same in every
city was undeniably important.
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This is not to say that every copy of a given model
of an emperor was exactly the same. This would be
impossible given the countless number of sculptors
employed, the variety of the media (bronze, marble,
relief, coin, cameo, and so forth), and the variety of
the size of the portraits (a few centimeters to over twice
life size). The copyists aimed for recognition and seem
to have always attempted to reproduce the important
details of physiognomyfor instance, old or young,
small-eyed or big-earedand the most striking details
of the arrangement of the hair, such as bearded or not
and widows peak or central part. The copying sculptors
particular concern for repeating the arrangement
of the locks of hair, especially those over the brow,
has enabled modern scholars to identify the subject of
a portrait when only the representation of a few locks
of hair are preserved.
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Some emperors had more than one portrait model.
It has been hypothesized that these different models
were created in conjunction with important historical
or familial events. For instance, a young mans accession
to emperor might constitute the reason for one
portrait model to be made, and his marriage might provide
an occasion for another model. Similarly for a
woman, the birth of every child might be reason for
the creation of a new official type. Marcus Aurelius
stands out as the emperor with the most complete and
comprehensible series of official portrait types and motivations.
In 139 CE when as a teenage boy he was
adopted as the grandson of the Emperor Hadrian, a
portrait model showing a glorious soft-cheeked youth
with thick tousled locks and heavy-lidded eyes was
produced. In 145 CE when as a 24-year-old he married
the Emperor Antoninus Piuss daughter Faustina, a
new portrait model, which showed the same physiognomy
but shorter hair and a light beard, was issued.

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In 160 or 161 CE, to coincide with his first consulship
or actual accession to the throne, a completely adult
portrait was devised in which he was shown with a
full beard. Subsequently, possibly in relation either to
the commencement of his sole rule at the death of his
coruler Lucius Verus or at the promotion of his son,
Commodus, a last portrait type showing Marcus Aurelius as a yet older man was devised. In it, his
hair is
brushed straight back over the forehead and the beard
is very long.
Despite the clarity of the general process and the
modern ability to reconstruct the official portrait types,
the study of imperial Roman portraiture is not without
problems. The resemblance between members of the
same imperial family, especially those of the JulioClaudian clan, makes certain portraits difficult to identify;
for example, the portraits of Germanicus, an
adopted son of Augustus, are at times difficult to distinguish
from portraits of Germanicuss sons. In addition,
certain portraits appear in several replicas but remain
unidentifiable because they never appear on coins with
legends and are not preserved with an inscription; a
particularly appealing portrait of an adolescent girl
whose face is framed by small pin curls remains known
only as the Leptis-Malta type.
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Conversely, certain 3rdcentury

emperors, especially those of the second half

of the 3rd century, appear on coins but cannot be securely
identified with a portrait in the round. A further
potential problem is that sculptors at times mixed elements
of two different official portrait types of the
same individual. The resulting product confuses the
modern viewer who, generally deprived of the inscription,
bases his or her identification on the arrangement
of the hair over the brow. Also, it is possible that some
portraits that were originally intended to portray an
emperor did not follow any official type. Unless these
portraits are found with an inscription, modern archaeologists
cannot identify them.
Another problematic aspect of imperial portraiture
concerns emperors who after their death were publicly
judged to have been unworthy. These emperors officially
suffered a damnatio memoriae, a condemnation
of their memory, which in practical terms means that
their name and face were removed from every public
monument and context. The emperors Caligula, Nero,
and Domitian are prime examples of rulers who were
justly considered improper.
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Geta, the younger brother
of Caracalla, whose existence infringed on Caracallas
possibility to be sole emperor, provides a more undeserving
example of damnatio. Frequently, rather than
removal of a statue of such an emperor, his face was
simply recarved to resemble the next emperor. This
resulted in a series of strange portraits that feature, for
example, the transformation of Caligula into Claudius,
Nero into Titus, and Domitian into Nerva.
The imperial portraits are of great significance because
they give us a firmly dated sequence for the
evolution of technical aspects and aspects of self-representation.
More precisely, this means one can trace
developments in the techniques of rendering and
changes in the format of busts, as well as follow fashion
hairstyles and general attitudes of self-representation. The multilevel framework provided by the
portraits allows us reliably to date numerous

unidentified portraits of private individuals.

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Two points must be kept in mind. First, imperial
portraits generally represent the most socially acceptable
mode of self-representation and probably the
height of metropolitan fashion. This is not, however,
the only possible form of self-representation. There
were, of course, people of the older or younger generations
who preferred a look that may have been considered
old-fashioned or cutting-edge, as well as individuals
belonging to different cultural circles who chose
alternative looks. Several beardless male portraits from
the Antonine period (when all emperors wore beards)
provide examples of men who continued to follow a
conservative fashion. Similarly, 2nd-century portraits
of heroically styled long-haired and long-bearded
young men from the Greek east follow Hellenic traditions.
In these cases, the imperial portraits provide a
backdrop of elite social norms against which distinctive
personal choices can be compared.
Second, it is necessary to understand the imperial
familys odd position in regard to new fashion. To
some extent, the family both followed and set the fashions.
Because the imperial family needed the support
of the established aristocracy, it would not unnecessarily
shock the conservative nobility in Rome with unapproved
fashions. Consequently, it is likely that they
closely followed metropolitan fashion with the
younger, as well as the female, members of the family
often closer to the cutting-edge trends in Rome.
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In turn,
the dissemination of their portraits shaped local fashions
far from Rome. Thus, for example, bearded portraits
certainly existed before the accession of Hadrian,
the first bearded emperor; undoubtedly, before his accession
Hadrian himself wore a beard during the reign
of the beardless Trajan. Moreover, upon Hadrians accession
all men in Rome did not immediately grow
beards. Yet the next generation, inundated with the
imperial image, probably with few exceptions did wear
Because of the importance of the framework created
by the sequence of imperial portraits, portrait studies
divide the Roman period as pre-imperial and then by
imperial dynasty, so one speaks generally of republican,
Augustan and Julio-Claudian, Flavian, Trajanic,
Hadrianic, Antonine, Severan, Tetrarchic, and Constaninian
portraits. Although each period has defining
characteristics that merit review, it should be stressed
that these divisions are in many senses modern.
The republican period portraiture is often described
as veristic, or true to life. The period is characterized
by unflattering portraits with accentuated signs of age
and often a sense of dynamic energy. Deep creases,
visible bone structure, contracted brows, and toothless
and pursed mouths are common and are associated
with the rigorous values of the early Romansfrugality,
discipline, and stern rigidity.
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There was, however,
considerable variation in these realistic quasicaricatures.
The portraits of figures such as Caesar and Pompey

provide examples. Caesar is a balding man with

a bulbous brow and a gaunt face, whereas Pompey has
short, cropped hair, small eyes set in an oddly shaped
head, and a vertical tuft of hair over the center of the
brow, perhaps an allusion to the anastole of Alexander
the Great. The first portrait type of the young Augustus
(Octavian) follows the principles of these portraits. It
differs from its contemporaries primarily in that, created
to depict a 21-year-old man, it shows youth rather
than seasoned middle-aged experience.
The ensuing and most famous portrait type of Augustus
is known as the Prima Porta type because it
occurs on the famous portrait statue of Augustus found
at Prima Porta. Probably created around 27 BCE, it depicted
Romes first emperor at age 36 and correspondingly
showed no distinct signs of age. It marks a significant
new trend in Roman portraiturethat is, a calm
and detached sitter.
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The portrait type, which exists in
more copies than any other ancient portrait, appears to
have been successful. After some 60 years of political
strife, the handsome, composed portrait of a confident,
mature, but not old, man likely carried appeal. This
change in self-presentation seems to be the visual
counterpart of Augustuss political program that subtly
sought to break away from the traditions of the republic
and to institute a new age of peace and prosperity.
Among portraits of Roman emperors, it is exceptional
because it was never updated to show Augustuss increasing
age. In fact, because of the lack of signs of
age and its serene expression, modern scholars have
labeled it Classical in reference to ideal images created
in 5th-century Greece and have compared it to Polykleitoss
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The subsequent emperors of the Julio-Claudian
family followed the path set by Augustus. They maintained
likenesses that are recognizable as individuals
but that avoid signs of old age. No portrait of Livia,
Augustuss wife, was ever issued showing her as an
old woman; the same holds true for the emperor Tiberius.
The first official portrait type of Claudius, which
was created when he was 51, featured only modest
signs of age. The last portrait type of Nero diverges
most greatly from all other images of the family in that
it shows a particularly fat young man with a fanciful,
modish hairstyle and an upturned glance. All three of
these characteristicsample physique, long hair, and
a lofty gazeappear to derive from the portraits of
Hellenistic kings.
The first Flavian emperor, Vespasian, was already
60 when he came to power. His official portrait type
stands in contrast to that of Nero in that it shows an
old man whose signs of agefor instance, the toothless
mouth and crows-feet around the eyesare emphasized.
His image is frequently interpreted as a conscious
return to the republican past and veristic
sculpture, which was adopted in order to separate him
from the failures of Nero, the last classicizing JulioClaudian.
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The stylistic definition of this type of image,
however, is modern, and in Antiquity it was the content
of the portrait that was important. Rather than a young,

spoiled, fashionable, and perhaps regal man, Vespasian

appeared to be old, experienced, hardworking,
and traditional. The portraits of his young or middleaged
sons and successors, Titus and Domitian, do not
strikingly differ from their Julio-Claudian predecessors
(with the exception of the last portrait type of
For that matter, the Trajanic period did not bring
change in the conception of the emperor. Trajan remains
an individual with composure. He is shown as
mature but without an age that the modern world, used
as it is to counting birthdays, can readily pinpoint. It
is womens portraits in this period that are striking
with their elaborate, tall, frontal toupet arrangements
that copied the shape of a diadem, which were in
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The Hadrianic period introduces three new details.
Above all, Hadrian is the first emperor whose official
type shows him wearing a beard. Moreover, his hair,
combed forward from the crown of the head, curls
three-dimensionally at its ends. Finally, the posthumous
marble portraits of Hadrians beloved companion
Antinous, who drowned in the Nile in 130, are the
first precisely datable portraits that feature indentations
on the eyeball to denote the pupil. Some portraits of
Hadrian and all later imperial portraits feature this, as
well as an engraved line delineating the iris.
Further technical innovations, motivated by changing
hair and beard styles, characterize the Antonine
period. Deep drill work was used to depict the fullbodied
aspect of copious curling hair, and the skin
surface was rendered with a high polish that makes the
marble appear soft. The combination of these elements
gives portraits of this period a strong chiaroscuro effect.
In addition, a heavy upper eyelid, which was apparently
a physiognomical detail of Marcus Aurelius,
became a repeated detail in many portraits of the period.
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The well-known bust portrait of Marcuss son
and successor, Commodus, in the guise of Hercules is
a fine example of the virtuoso handling of marble that
is characteristic of the middle to late 2nd century. It
also illustrates the large size possible for portrait busts;
the potential size of busts grew throughout the 2nd
century until it reached its final stage during the Antonine
After the execution of Commodus and the rule of
two short-lived emperors, Septimius Severus established
himself and a Severan dynasty in 193. His wife,
Julia Domna, is the first imperial woman to be shown
wearing a wig. This fashion led to another innovative
marble technique visible in some female portraits. The
head was carved in white marble and the hair, or wig,
was carved in a darker marble and added on. Septimiuss
elder son Caracalla, known to have been a favorite
of the military, succeeded him, and it is his first official
portrait type as sole emperor that marks a decisive
change in the attitude of the Roman emperor. He appears
with a brow that contracts forcefully above the
bridge of the nose, a vigorous twist of the head, and
a very short beard.

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The portrait gives him the air of a
ferocious man of action. The portrait and the change
have been interpreted in conjunction with Caracallas
vicious nature and his close connection to the army.
They are deemed to have been unacceptable to the
conservative Roman senate because no subsequent

Severan imperial image repeats this forceful vitality.

One wonders how much of the images failure, such
as in the case of the fourth portrait type of Nero, depended
on its intrinsic characteristics and how much
depended on the fact that the particular emperor had
become offensive.
In the period of Caracallas successors, male hairstyles
changed once again and correspondingly a new
technique, the so-called a penna, or feather technique
for rendering hair, was developed. In this technique
the hair was not given volume that stood off the scalp.
Individual locks were engraved with their end points
particularly well defined. These locks were arranged
in overlapping layers almost as if they were scales.
The final effect was of extremely short-cropped hair
that had a lively surface. The early portrait type of
Severus Alexander (ca. 222 CE) is the first datable example
of this technique.

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It was not until the successors of the Severan dynasty,
a series of short-lived emperors elected by the
military, that portraits depicting an emotional expression
returned. The period from 235 to 284 was an infelicitous
one for the empire, which struggled militarily,
economically, and politically. The portrait of Philip
the Arab, emperor from 244 to 249, exemplifies the
imperial portraits of that era. The portrait depicting a
short-haired man with a short beard features deep vertical
furrows that rise from the inner corners of the eyebrows
and deep nasolabial folds. This knitted brow
and set mouth were intended to convey concern and
determination, much-needed characteristics in the difficult
3rd century. Given the period in history, however,
many scholars of Roman portraiture have misinterpreted
the expression of this portrait and others like
it as anxiety.
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There is one moment during this period in which
an emperor seems to have rejected this type of emotional
self-representation and returned to the serene
expression of the 1st- and 2nd-century emperors. This
moment heralds the second portrait type for Gallienus,
dated 26168 and called the Gallienic renaissance.
Nearly contemporaneously, Postumus (26074), a
self-proclaimed emperor who for several years ruled
his own empire in Gaul within the Roman Empire,
portrayed himself on coins (and probably also in other
media) in the style of the Antonine emperors.
At the end of the 3rd century, the empire had a
momentary political restabilization under Diocletian,
who eventually established a rule by four emperors
known as the Tetrarchy. In this system there were two
Augusti, one for the east and one for the west. Each
Augustus had his own Caesar. It was a complete break
from the old imperial system and entirely dismissed
the senate. In this attempt to create a new unshakable
system, theoretically the individual ruler himself was
not as important (he could retire, for instance) as the
position. For this system to work, absolute trust and
harmony needed to exist between the individuals in
the four positions.
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The sculptural record from this economically
poor period is limited because monuments
were generally not created from scratch. More commonly,
existing monuments were reused: pieces from
different past monuments were reassembled with existing
portraits, then recut with new inscriptions added.
The marble portraits that do exist feature men with

large eyes, short hair, stippled beards, and simplified

features in blocklike heads. Two remarkable groups of
porphyry portraits of the Tetrarchs, now in Venice and
the Vatican, correspond to our fundamental conception
of the tetrarchic system. In both examples, all four
members are shown together, each with the same nonspecific
facial features. They clasp each other and wear
military garb. The only distinctions between the Venice
and Vatican groups is that in the Venice group, the
four rulers wear animal-skin hats as opposed to laurel
crowns and that two of the four are beardless. Both
examples appear crudely rendered, although it should
be noted that porphyry, which seems to have been popular
for imperial statuary at the end of the 3rd and into
the 4th century, is hard and thus difficult to carve.
The tetrarchy did not last because the harmony between
its members was impossible to maintain. Constantine,
the son of a Tetrarchic Caesar, emerged finally
as the sole ruler and became the first Christian
emperor; his accession marks the end of the pagan
Roman Empire.
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His portrait and the portraits of his
family members are far removed from the concept of
the individual that dominated Roman portraiture while
meaningful political competition existed in the senate
and amid the equestrian order. Constantines image,
following the development of the 3rd century, features
pronounced eyes in a blocklike face that simplifies the
modeled surface of human anatomy. His particular
traits are a large, hawklike nose, a clean-shaven visage,
and hair that falls in medium-length locks from the
crown forward. These locks are evenly cut across the
brow. Notwithstanding these features, the portrait is
essentially an abstract of the complicated organic portraits
of the Roman Republic and the 1st and 2nd centuries
of the Roman Empire. It does not present an individual

primus inter pares (first among equals), as

Augustus claimed to be, rendered with the utmost realism,
but rather presents a stiff schematic depiction of
a human man who, through the size of the rendition,
the presence of a crown, or both, was recognizable as
the emperor.

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Although Roman portraiture technically was derived
from the portraiture that existed in the preceding
Greek world, it stands out from that of all other historic
periods. Above all, it is preserved in remarkably large
numbers that exceed the output of any other historic
period. This is both because marble was generally used
in preference to other materials and because portrait
sculpture was an integral and common practice in all
zones of lifedaily and funerary, urban and rural, public
and privateon all social levels. Roman-period
portraits, especially those made during the Empire,
have been prized and collected in the Western world
since the Renaissance. Particularly, the truly Roman
tradition of portrait busts has been emulated in Renaissance
and modern Europe. Today, Roman portrait
sculpture is evaluated more scientifically than aesthetically
and is rigorously interpreted in its historical context.
This sculpture inarguably offers an extensive and
exciting visual insight into the world of the Roman
Republic and the Roman Empire.
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During the Middle Ages in Europe, considerable portrait
production was realized in marble, various stones,
polychromed wood, bronze and other metals, and ivory
in numismatics, in the round, and in relief. It was limited
to important persons and was generally reserved
for public or funerary purposes. The two primary types
of sculpted portraiture were gisants (reclining figures)
and public portraits of personages, which were usually
attached or affiliated with public buildings (such as the
13th-century figures in the western choir of Naumburg
Cathedral, Germany).
Most important for the history of portraits was the
funerary gisant, which was used by the ancient Etruscans
and became widespreadbeginning in France
during the 12th centurythroughout Europe in the
14th century. Shifts in sculptural approaches regarding
likeness are evident within these funerary works. In
medieval Europe, portraiture was reserved almost exclusively
for portraying the dead, although an important
transition occurred around the second half of the
13th century: subjects were represented not as idealized youths experiencing eternal life, but rather as they
appeared on their deathbeds, at the age of their deaths
and with realistic physiognomic characteristics.
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or plaster masks were molded after the dead or living
model and later refined in the same material (such as
in the mid-14th-century BCE series of portraits of Tell
el-Amarna from ancient Egypt) or precisely reproduced
in marble or bronze, with the result of extreme
verism. This technique, which was also used in ancient
Rome, is documented in European art only from the
15th century, but it seems almost certain that it had
been used before. By about 1460, the practice was generalized
as typical of Italian Renaissance portraits of
men, an example of which is Antonio Rossellinos bust
of Giovanni Chellini (1456; Victoria and Albert Museum,

The degree of idealization was most persistent
within female portraiture during the Renaissance, as
in Francesco Lauranas bust of Isabella of Aragon (ca.
1470; Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna). Masks
were generally not used.
By the 15th century in Italy, a great flourishing of
sculptural portraiture occurred in marble, various metals,
and painted terracotta in the round and relief, but
most of all in the bust form. In northern Europe, portraiture
was still intended primarily for funerary purposes,
usually realized in full-length figures and busts.
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There was also a revival of portraits on medals, an
ancient genre, during the Italian Renaissance, as evidenced
by the work of Pisanello (Antonio di Puccio
Pisano) around 1438. His bronze portrait medals of
Gianfrancesco I Gonzaga and John VIII Paleologus,
emperor of Byzantium, are representative examples.
Italian artists of the 16th century continued the major
trends of 15th-century Italy, especially the creation of
marble and bronze busts, such as Alessandro Vittorias
marble bust of Giulio Contarini (Church of Santa
Maria del Giglio, Venice). Full-length statues of members
of the highest social hierarchy were also employed
in funerary and celebratory monuments, as in Leone
Leonis tomb of Emperor Charles V and his family at
the Monastery of S. Lorenzo el Real, Escorial, Madrid.
In addition, a great revival occurred, especially within
Florentine workshops (Giambolognas equestrian
statue of Duke Cosimo I de Medici in the Piazza della
Signoria, Florence; 158793), of the equestrian monument
as a public portrait, which was an ancient Roman
typology with precedents in the 13th and 14th centuries
(equestrian statue of Mastino II della Scala, at the
Church of Santa Maria Antica, Verona, Italy). This
revival was sparked by Donatellos equestrian monument
titled Gattamelata (144753; Piazza del Santo,
Padua, Italy) created during the 15th century.

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Italian explorations were also pursued and increased
within major European courts, such as those found in
Fountainebleau and Prague.
Painting exerted repercussions within the field of
sculptured portraiture, the most striking of which was
the rendering of surface details of faces and costumes.
Sculpture induces a simplification of features, favoring
simplified forms with large uniform surfaces; therefore,
idealization is more apparent in sculpture than
in painting, and major examples of realism (such as
Antonio Pollaiuolos late-15th-century tomb of Pope
Sixtus IV in St. Peters Basilica, Rome) feature tremendous
technical virtuosity. The more difficult a medium
is to manipulate (such as marble and porphyry),
the greater the difficulty in reproducing a true, recognizable
identity with the sculpture. The easier the material,
the easier the task.
The detailed representation of costumes, which was
so important in painted portraiture as a symbol of social
wealth and power, was terribly difficult in sculpture.
However, during the 16th and 17th centuries
strenuous technical research explored the possibilities
of emulating the realism of painting with regard to
sumptuous and richly defined costumes. Benvenuto
Cellini and Alessandro Algardi displayed virtuoso handling
of the surfaces of marble and bronze.

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The use of
different materialsas with polychromy, a technique
already common in ancient Romealso aided in detailing.
In addition, Berninis innovations had a decisive
impact on developments in sculpture; he changed the
traditions of funerary monuments by portraying the
dead in the act of praying, in lively relationships with
real settings, and with spectators (such as the tomb of
Gabriele Fonseca (ca. 166875; Church of San Lorenzo
in Lucina, Rome). He also changed papal funerary
monuments by using gesture as a means of rhetorical
expression. Most important for portraiture,
however, he sculpted busts with far more lively facial
expressions and attitudes.
Bernini resolved two major problems plaguing realism
in sculpture versus that in painting: how to characterize
and to enliven the figures eyes and how to evade
the material limits of the portraits format. Looking to
examples in ancient art, Bernini pierced the eyeballs
to portray pupils. For the limits of format, a major
problem in the bust genre became how to allude to the
presence of the rest of the body, particularly the figures
arms. Bernini resolved this difficulty by infusing
his busts with horizontal movement suggested by skillfully
arranged drapery and the turning of the figures
head (such as the bust of Louis XIV [1665]; Chateau,
Versailles, France).
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During the Napoleonic age of the early 19th century,
enormous production of official portraiture took the
form of busts, medals, narrative reliefs, statuettes, and

colossal statues, which were generally Neoclassical in

style and often sculpted of bronze. An interesting kind
of idealization developed in portraiture during this
time: the subject was depicted as a mythological or
allegorical figure. It is a typology that had an earlier
precedent (for example, Leone Leonis 16th-century
Charles V and Fury Restrained in the Museo del Prado,
Madrid), but it developed mostly in 17th- and 18thcentury
European courts in full-length statues of various
dimensions, carved in marble (such as Antoine
Coysevoxs 1710 statue of Marie-Adelade de Savoie,
Duchess of Burgundy, as Diana the Huntress in the
Musee du Louvre, Paris), painted terracotta, various
metals, and wood. Great attention was given to costumes
and attributes. Generally, only the head had a
real likeness to the model, whereas the body was absolutely
idealized. During the Neoclassical age, and particularly
in the Napoleonic circle, this typology developed
remarkably, as seen in Antonio Canovas Paolina
Borghese Bonaparte as Venus Victorious (180408;
Galleria Borghese, Villa Borghese, Rome).
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Nudity, for
reasons of the social concepts of decorum at that time,
became an issue for which there were two solutions:
total idealization (as in Canovas Napoleon as Pacifying
Mars in the Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera,
Milan) and total verism (Jean-Baptise Pigalles Voltaire
Nude completed in 1776; Musee du Louvre,
Paris). Both approaches prompted polemical reactions
from the public and critics.
The importance of the political value assigned to
portraits of state leaders must be stressed. Sculpted
portraits in numismatics and public statue-portraits of
sovereigns were disseminated throughout their lands.
As a consequence, destruction of these works generally
followed violent changes of political regimes. Many
Neoclassical works met this fate during the political
restoration in Europe following the fall of the Napoleonic

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Earlier, in 18th-century Europe, private portraiture
had increased, especially in France, England, and Germany.
This type of production became especially conspicuous
during the 19th century, when there developed
a remarkable growth of artistic patronage. This
was owing to the democratization of society and popular
education. In 19th-century Europe, as public monuments
of leaders became widespread, portraiture
among historical personages of various social and
professional categories also gained popularity. This is
reflected in Jean-Leon Geromes 1895 bust of Sarah
Bernhardt, depicting the famous actress and sculptor.
Interest in physiognomic and psychological characteristics
came to the fore in 18th- and 19th-century
European bust portraiture. A phenomenon concerning
the interest for peculiar features became part of a new
form of idealizing portraiture, which was exploited by
European Romanticists. Perfect physical beauty was
no longer emphasized; rather, spiritual and individual
characteristics of the model, such as a broad forehead
and the intensity of look, took on great importance, as
is seen in David dAngerss plaster Portrait of Chateaubriand
(1830; Musee des Beaux-Arts, Paris).
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(1830; Musee , ).
Artists such as Auguste Rodin began experimenting
with portraiture at the end of the 19th century, infusing
the genre with expressive and new formal concerns
(for example, in his work portraying the head of novelist
Honore de Balzac from 1898; Ashmolean Museum,

Oxford, England). With Rodin, the infraction of all

traditional typologies of the genre in format, materials,
and modeling opened. This continued to be the chief
trend in avant-garde portrait production during the first
half of the 20th century; the primary aim became an
expressionistic characterization that almost completely
lost any semblance of the human shape (for instance,
Alberto Giacomettis Bust of Annette IV from the
1950s; private collection).
American hyperrealism revived sculptural portraiture
in the second half of the 20th century with the use
of new synthetic materials such as polyester resin with
acrylic painting and polychrome glass fiber and the
application of real hair, clothes, and accessories. Often,
the sculpture was contextualized in a realistic setting.
Hyperrealism solved one of the major, centuries-old
concerns of sculpted portraiture: the attempt at extreme
likeness. This extreme realism presented a shift in the
purpose of the portrait: rather than being a depiction
of the subject, the hyperrealistic works molded from
live models served as social critique (for example,
Duane Hansons Tourists from 1970; Hewlitt Bay
Park, New York).
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(, Duane
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Portraiture is a universal approach to figurative representation
that over time has been attempted with
every technique. Although portraiture exists in other
artistic genres, it is the three-dimensionality of sculpture
that gives an advantage over the pictorial, because
it provides a greater presence of the portrayed person
with a much greater power of suggestion, an aspect
that has been always stressed by the critics, both ancient
and modern.
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