The Freedman in Roman Art and Art History

The Freedman in Roman Art and Art History

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From monumental tombs and domestic decoration, to acts of benefaction and portraits of ancestors, Roman freed slaves, or freedmen, were prodigious patrons of art and architecture. Traditionally, however, the history of Roman art has been told primarily through the monumental remains of the emperors and ancient writers who worked in their circles. In this study, Lauren Petersen critically investigates the notion of 'freedman art' in scholarship, dependent as it is on elite-authored texts that are filled with hyperbole and stereotypes of freedmen, such as the memorable fictional character Trimalchio, a boorish ex-slave in Petronius' Satyricon. She emphasizes integrated visual ensembles within defined historical and social contexts and aims to show how material culture can reflect preoccupations that were prevalent throughout Roman society. Interdisciplinary in scope, this book explores the many ways that monuments and artistic commissions by freedmen spoke to a much more complex reality than that presented in literature.
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Product details

  • Online resource
  • Cambridge University Press (Virtual Publishing)
  • Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 140 b/w illus. 8 colour illus.
  • 1139087789
  • 9781139087780

Review quote

Review of the hardback: 'This monograph clearly will pave the road to future studies on freedmen and freeborn alike of a similar economic standing ... this work will become a standard reference for Roman art historians and social historians alike.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review Review of the hardback: 'Hackworth Petersen's book is a welcome fresh look at freedmen, their status and how they projected themselves in Roman society. It is also a welcome deconstruction of a stereotype created by modern scholarship, which affects interpretations of many kinds of evidence.' Arctos
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Table of contents

Introduction: the Roman freedman, 'freedman art', and Trimalchio; Public life and assimilation; 1. Rebuilding Pompeii: the Popidius family and the Temple of Isis; 2. The visibility of the Augustales in Pompeii; 3. Memory-making in the funerary realm: the tomb of the baker in Rome; Social integration: domus and family; 4. 'Freedman taste' in domus decoration; 5. To claim a domus: the house of the Caecilii at Pompeii; 6. Family and community at the Isola Sacra Necropolis: the Tomb of the Varii.
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About Lauren Hackworth Petersen

Lauren Hackworth Petersen is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Delaware. A scholar of Roman art and architecture, she has published in Arethusa and The Art Bulletin, among other journals, and has received grants from the American Academy in Rome, the National Endowment of the Humanities, the Getty Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies.
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