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Portraits, Power, and Patronage in the Late Roman Republic

Tanner, J; (2000) Portraits, Power, and Patronage in the Late Roman Republic. Journal of Roman Studies , 90 18 - 50. 10.2307/300199. Green open access

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Abstract

Recent work in ancient art history has sought to move beyond formalist interpretations of works of art to a concern to understand ancient images in terms of a broader cultural, political, and historical context. In the study of late Republican portraiture, traditional explanations of the origins of verism in terms of antecedent influences — Hellenistic realism, Egyptian realism, ancestral imagines — have been replaced by a concern to interpret portraits as signs functioning in a determinate historical and political context which serves to explain their particular visual patterning. In this paper I argue that, whilst these new perspectives have considerably enhanced our understanding of the forms and meanings of late Republican portraits, they are still flawed by a failure to establish a clear conception of the social functions of art. I develop an account of portraits which shifts the interpretative emphasis from art as object to art as a medium of socio-cultural action. Such a shift in analytic perspective places art firmly at the centre of our understanding of ancient societies, by snowing that art is not merely a social product or a symbol of power relationships, but also serves to construct relationships of power and solidarity in a way in which other cultural forms cannot, and thereby transforms those relationships with determinate consequences

Type: Article
Title: Portraits, Power, and Patronage in the Late Roman Republic
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.2307/300199
Publisher version: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/300199
Language: English
Additional information: © 2000 Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies
Keywords: portraits, Roman art, semiotics, social theory
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Institute of Archaeology > Institute of Archaeology Gordon Square
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/25661
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