Roman portraiture underwent a profound change under Severan rule. Roman portraits produced between the end of the second and the beginning of the third century C.E. were characterized by a more realistic style, showing signs of aging and harsh expressions, which communicate a sense of anxiety. Art historians have associated the rise of realistic style in portrait sculptures with the contemporary social, political, and military instabilities across the Roman Empire. However, scholarship has traditionally focused on male portraits, especially those of the emperors. Less attention has been given to female portraiture from this period beyond the study of chronological evolution of elements such as hairstyles.
This thesis investigates the historical significance of stylistic changes in female portraiture in the third century C.E., focusing on the sculptures found in major antique collections in Rome. Through quantitative and visual analysis, and intense focus on the historical context, Cecilia explores the possible impacts of socio-political changes, religion, and philosophy on the artistic representation of women. By applying models from gender theory to examine the disappearance of Antonine beauty and the rise of realistic style in female portraits, she offer insight into the conceptualization of female identity and broadens our understanding of the lives of Roman women at this transitional period in the history of the Roman Empire.
Wenxuan (Cecilia) Huang
Cecilia is an international student from China, majoring in Art History and Classics. She has a wide area of research interests, including Imperial Roman sculpture, Early Christian art, Renaissance antiquarianism, and gender and sexuality in Classical art. After graduating from Rutgers, she is going to start her MPhil program in Classics at Cambridge University with a focus on Roman Art and Archaeology.