Great grand mothers: the female portrait sculpture of Aphrodisias: origins and meaning

Long, Tracey Elizabeth (2014) Great grand mothers: the female portrait sculpture of Aphrodisias: origins and meaning. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This thesis sets out to explore the influences on and meaning of early imperial female portrait sculpture and statues of Aphrodisias in Asia Minor. This group is unlike any other. There survives a rich amount of contextual evidence as well as some unique portraits with unusual features. They appeared at a time of social change for women and as the first images of imperial wives and mothers emerged from Rome. Local artists exploited this imagery in the city of Aphrodite, the ultimate mother of the Julio-Claudian dynasty. These portraits have only ever been studied as part of the corpus of statues that includes those of males; as a homogenous group with little new to say. In the home of the most significant mother of the time, I propose that the portraits disproportionately emphasise motherhood and reflect the new-found power enjoyed by some of the earliest empresses.

Emerging theories surrounding gender in the ancient world and an art-historical approach have highlighted inconsistencies and inadequacies in former arguments and methodologies dealing with material of this kind. In response, this thesis applies new theories, considering the role of gender with a close examination of iconography and social and political factors to develop an unbiased and objective approach, free from preconceptions and entirely based on the evidence.

The stripping away of previous assumptions has necessitated a reassessment of ancient portraits of both sexes which is tackled in Chapter One. After an assessment of the special circumstances of early imperial Aphrodisias in Chapter Two, the thesis then interprets material by grouping portraits apparently influenced by Rome in Chapter Three, and those which seemingly do not in Chapter Four. In each case, I show how each individual portrait expresses its own unique message of sometimes unexpected values.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Kropp, A.
Lorenz, K.G.
Keywords: Ancient portrait sculpture, Women in ancient art, Extinct city of Aphrodisias
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NB Sculpture
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Arts > School of Humanities
Item ID: 14221
Depositing User: EP, Services
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2015 10:44
Last Modified: 15 Dec 2017 11:55

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