Portraits of the Vestal Virgins, Priestesses of Ancient Rome

Portraits of the Vestal Virgins, Priestesses of Ancient Rome


By (author) Molly M. Lindner

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  • Publisher: The University of Michigan Press
  • Format: Hardback | 320 pages
  • Dimensions: 152mm x 229mm
  • Publication date: 30 July 2015
  • Publication City/Country: Ann Arbor, MI
  • ISBN 10: 0472118951
  • ISBN 13: 9780472118953

Product description

Molly M. Lindner's new book examines the sculptural presentation of the Vestal Virgins, who, for more than eleven hundred years, dedicated their lives to the goddess Vesta, protector of the Roman state. Though supervised by a male priest, the Pontifex Maximus, they had privileges beyond those of most women; like Roman men, they dispensed favors and influence on behalf of their clients and relatives.The recovery of the Vestals' house, and statues of the priestesses, was an exciting moment in Roman archaeology. In 1883 Rodolfo Lanciani, Director of Antiquities for Rome, discovered the first Vestal statues. Newspapers were filled with details about the huge numbers of sculptures, inscriptions, jewelry, coins, and terracotta figures."Portraits of the Vestal Virgins, Priestesses of Ancient Rome" investigates what images of long-dead women tell us about what was important to them. It addresses why portraits were made, and why their portraits--first set up in the late 1st or 2nd century CE--began to appear so much later than portraits of other nonimperial women and other Roman priestesses. The author sheds light on identifying a Vestal portrait among those of other priestesses, and considers why Vestal portraits do not copy each other's headdresses and hairstyles. Fourteen extensively illustrated chapters and a catalog of all known portraits help consider historical clues embedded in the hairstyles and facial features of the Vestals and other women of their day. What has appeared to be a mute collection of marble portraits has been given a voice through this book.

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Author information

Molly M. Lindner is Associate Professor (retired) in the Department of Art at Kent State University. She has published on portraits of women in antiquity and on the pedagogy of art history.