The Roman Nude: Heroic Portrait Statuary, 200 BC-AD 300

The Roman Nude: Heroic Portrait Statuary, 200 BC-AD 300

Hardback Oxford Studies in Ancient Culture and Representation

By (author) Christopher H. Hallett

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  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Format: Hardback | 414 pages
  • Dimensions: 191mm x 249mm x 28mm | 1,157g
  • Publication date: 8 December 2005
  • Publication City/Country: Oxford
  • ISBN 10: 0199240493
  • ISBN 13: 9780199240494

Product description

Statues of important Romans frequently represented them nude. Men were portrayed naked holding weapons - the naked emperor might wield the thunderbolt of Jupiter - while Roman women assumed the guise of the nude love-goddess, Venus. When faced with these strange images, modern viewers are usually unsympathetic, finding them incongruous, even tasteless. They are mostly written off as just another example of Roman 'bad taste'. This book offers a new approach. Comprehensively illustrated with black and white photographs of nude Romans represented in a wide range of artistic media, it investigates how this tradition arose, and how the nudity of these images was meant to be understood by contemporary viewers. And, since the Romans also employed a variety of other costumes for their statues (toga, armour, Greek philosopher's cloak), it asks, 'What could nudity express that other costumes could not?' It is Hallett's claim that - looked at in this way - these 'Roman nudes' turn out to be documents of the first importance for the cultural historian.

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Author information

Christopher H. Hallett is Associate Professor of History of Art and Classics at the University of California at Berkeley.

Review quote

Both the collection of evidence and much of the iconographic analysis represent an important contribution which will be of lasting value. Margaret H. Williams, Journal of Roman Studies [A] thorough and well-researched study Elizabeth Bartman, Classical World [a] solid work(s) of scholarship...remind(s) us of the hard and physical aspect of ancient culture, too often centred on warlike competitiveness. Antiquity 80 The Roman Nude admirably and energetically contextualizes its enigmatic subject. Emma Dench, Art History

Table of contents

1. The Greek background ; 2. The nude portrait in Greek art ; 3. Attitudes towards nudity at Rome ; 4. The Roman adoption of the nude portrait ; 5. The nude portrait under the Empire ; 6. The nudity of the gods ; 7. Understanding the Roman nude