an-animal-imagined-by-poe submitted to medievalpoc:
I realize that this may be outside the purview of this blog, but it’s one of my favorite works of Roman sculpture and I thought you might find in interesting. I’m not an expert in this area by any means, so all I can do to contextualize it is copy the description provided by the Getty Museum:
Captured in the motion of turning his head, the boy portrayed in this Roman portrait exudes the energy and alertness of youth. The head, as seen today, was not intended to be a complete work, but broken from a full-length life-size statue. Portraits of children became more common in Roman art in the later 100s A.D., but the unusual feature of this sculpture is that the child, portrayed in such a sensitive and observant manner, is African. Few Roman portraits of blacks rise beyond racial caricature. Here, the asymmetry in the cheeks and the boy’s concentrated gaze create the impression that an individual personality is being portrayed. Several features of this portrait are characteristic of Roman sculpture in this period, including the interest in depicting movement and the contrast of the smooth skin and the deeply drilled hair.
I’ve been sitting on this submission for quite a while for two reasons. First, it’s Ancient art. Secondly, because the bolded line makes me so mad I could spit.
It’s one of the LEAST true things I can imagine, and during the upcoming Ancient Art week, I’m going to be tearing that particular falsehood down brick by brick. Many Romans were of African descent, as well as Asian, Middle Eastern, et cetera. It was an Empire.
I have no idea what they mean by “racial caricature” since racial categories as we have them today absolutely did not exist during that time. Ethnicity, language, religion, and area of residence was FAR more important to Romans than what we call race.
Also, the head on a pole is super creepy. There are countless other ways this piece could have been displayed….I imagine it’s being displayed with other heads, but still.
Anyways, I’ll be posting many depictions of Roman people of color for my Ancient Art themed week, and you can judge for yourselves whether or not they “rise above racial caricature”.