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( Above Photo: Marble Resin Bust Greek Philosopher Aristotle Art Sculpture Carving )
Roman busts represent a form of portraiture in which the artists made the human head and a bit of the chest. This art form originated in ancient Egypt but was perfected in Ancient Greece. Through the busts, artists recorded the most distinctive features of prominent people of the time.
When they picked up the art, the Romans took it a little further by using it to show respect during ceremonial shows and to depict family members. The Romans cared a lot about one’s family lineage and did not shy away from showing respect to their ancestors.
As a departure from Greek art, which idealized human forms, the Romans created more realistic busts, so you can expect Roman busts to have practical human features rather than the exaggerations that had defined work by the Greeks.
The Greeks had made busts depicting beauty due to the belief that the virtuous were also most likely to be beautiful. By contrast, Roman busts are mostly anatomically accurate with imperfections like wrinkles, warts, etc.
Romans believed in producing an individual’s accurate likeness and used the bust as a sign of one’s wealth. They were most likely wealthy if one could make busts for the whole family. These Roman busts created a full genealogical chart of all family members, whether alive or diseased.
( Above Photo: Large Bust Greek Philosopher Socrates Philosophy )
One of the reasons for preferring busts instead of full-body sculptures is that the Romans found them easier to make. Besides, Roman busts were more space-effective and could be created from various materials.
Sculptors found making busts easier and more economical. Since they do not require basal support, it was possible to make busts from weaker materials like terracotta. The turnaround time for a project was also quicker than usual.
( Above Photo: Marble Bust Alexander Great Classical )
Romans created private busts to adorn tomb structures of diseased individuals with an inscription about their family patron. Other portraits accompanied cinerary urns made part of expansive, communal tombs called columbaria.
They borrowed this practice from the long-held tradition of displaying wax masks or imagenes during upper-class funeral processions commemorating being part of distinguished ancestry. At some point, the upper-class individuals held public office or had awards of special honors.
Romans kept the honorary awards in family shrines or household lalarium together with bronze, terracotta, or marble busts. So, aristocratic families would celebrate their place in public service and honor their deceased relatives.
Also, some Roman busts were for military commanders or political officials erected upon orders from the Senate. The statues would be erected to commemorate a political achievement like the signing of a treaty or a notable military achievement.
Accompanying the statue was cursus honorum, a dedicatory inscription that detailed the honors bestowed on the subject, notable ancestors, and lineage. There was no portrait or commemoration for those considered ‘bad’ ancestors.
Roman busts were very popular in their heyday since they helped preserve an individual’s family history and work in public service. They mainly celebrate the history and traditions of ancient Romans.
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