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  • Roman Portrait Sculpture.

    Roman Sculpture



    Precisely, Roman sculpture differed from the Greek in this aspect as what they created  had been called the “portrait sculpture”.

    Roman portrait based its roots in the Etruscan art, although it also had influences of the period  of the Hellenistic Greek sculpture and “masks mayorum”, i.e.; masks of wax applied to the face of the deceased to conserve in this material the impression of the physiognomy of this one so he could be well remembered.

    The materials used in the Roman portrait were bronze and marble: the statues were not colored, although initially the eyes were traditional do so, practice that was subsequently abandoned to be carved.

    It addresses both the idealism and realism and its almost central theme is portrait.

    In its beginnings, the Etruscan influence is present in some bronzes, to give way to the Greek influence throughout Hellenic sculptors who lived in Rome or on Greece. But also influence the philosophical concept of the works discovered in Greek soil and they were brought to Rome during the conquest of the Roman Empire to the island of Greece.

    All these elements together drive the current idealistic ideas and generate a confrontation with the realist one and this can be perceived in works of the Republican period.


     Main features of the Roman Portrait:

    –  Created with a utilitarian destination that meets in its narrative, descriptive or honorary role.

    –  More than an art is a crafts subject to the religious or commemorative demands.

    –  It is cultivated with preference the portrait taking it to its maximum identification with the model.

    –  It is a naturalistic art.

    –  It is an anonymous work.



    1. At the beginning, the Roman portrait sculpture represented only the head and part of the neck. Then it represents the bust, including the shoulders and chest.
    2. They are also engraved sculptures of whole body, where the character could be standing or sitting.
    3. The portrait of characters sitting is more in women than in men.
    4. Roman portrait sculpture was born to the Emperor and later adapted to other wealthy characters who could afford the work of artists.




    Three more common portrait sculptures:

    a)  Portrait togatos: religious representation with toga and mantle over the head.

    b)  Portrait toracatos: representation military; with shell.

    c)   Apotheosis portrait: deified representation of the naked body, Crown of laurel and attributes of a God.




    Roman portraiture evolved during the different stages is seen in details such as:

    • The eyes and the way of representing the beard and hair.

    • Shows the fashion in women’s hairstyles.

    The Roman portrait in the Republic

    • Sculpture has great realism, with a much accentuated facial features, that still resemble the mayorum masks.

    • The portrait is bust short, showing only the head and neck. The men wear short hair.

     Augustus Roman portrait:


    –    Roman sculpture from this period is idealized.

    –    The hard features hide.

    –    The hair is still short, but it stretches with regard to how was represented the  Republic one, the Tufts are soft and wavy and are adjusting to the shape of the head.

    –   The female portraits, shows a hairstyle with the collected hair backwards and a kind of quaff (the node) on the front. 



    Portrait during the era of the Flavian sculptures. 1St century

    -This period is a time of splendor in Roman sculpture. The portrait shows realism where the facial characteristics of the represented are smoothed.

    -The bust is extended until pick up shoulders and pectorals.

    -The hair protrudes and curls become broader, emphasizing the clear areas from the dark areas.

    -In the female portrait, Julia, daughter of Titus, puts very bright high hairstyles fashion.


    Roman sculpture and the portrait of the 2nd and 3rd centuries


    -Roman sculpture in this period tends to a growing barroquización. Hair is sculpts long and separated from the head with curls very bulky and beard, so it expresses great dynamism.

    -From the time of Emperor Adrian, are beginning to carve the eyes.

    -Female sculpture, Faustina appears combed with a line in the middle of the heat in which the hair falls forming very soft waves and is collected in the neck or on the head forming a bow.


    Roman portrait in the 4th century


    In this advanced period of Roman art, marked by the presence of Christianity, the portraits are dehumanizing acquire more the divine allure. The concern to make portraits that come to the real nature of man is lost, and tends to be a scheming that places the Emperor away from the society. Therefore, his sculpture may be considered “anti-classical”. The factions are disproportionate and with a very hard carving.



    This evolution can be seen perfectly in abundant depictions of emperor Constantine. This pre-Roman portrait anticipates the noble hieratic of Byzantine sculpture.










    You can also check about the Ancient Roman Art painting in this link.