Roman Woman Profile
The sculpture that we have observed has been dated to the first half of the first century C.E. This places the portrait during the Julio-Claudian period in Roman history. From the information we have gathered about the time period, the woman's style of dress and of the types of sculpture prevelant during the period, we have formed a possible profile of the daily life of the subject.
It was determined that the women in the portrait was most likely a freeborn, upper-middle class citizen of Rome. The portrait seems to have been a part of a funerary monument, a conclusion which was drawn due to the pattern of cleavage observed at the back of her head and the sides of her face. It was also observed that there was a piece of metal in the back of the head which could have been used to clasp the head to the monument. Comparisons with other known funerary monuments corroberate with this explanation. Since this is the likely case, several determinations can be made. Not many funerary monuments were made for the lower class, but for the upper class, parents often prepared funerary monuments for their daughters after having married them off (Pomeroy 149-189). Using this rationale, it can be concluded that she remained in the upper class after marriage, as upper class women were often married to upper class men (Pomeroy 149-189). The veristic form of sculpturing used led us to believe that she was not a part of the elite court class, for during the Julio-Claudian period, most portraits of upper class women were of the idealistic, eternal youth imagery, exhibiting smooth, beautiful features (Kleiner 139). The portrait of our Julio-Claudian matron, however, exhibited many realistic features that would not exemplify beauty, but a more rough and realistic approach. Another object of interest on the portrait is the missing piece of the hairline just above the forehead. This region most likely was a nodus coiffiture, or a knot of hair worn directly above the center of the forehead. The nodus style was popularized by Livia, wife of Nero. It was often worn by women of the imperial court or those of higher status (Cormack 167). We are led to believe that she was a freeborn woman because her natal family would have been the ones to commission her monument and using these conclusions they could have afforded to do so. Because this sculpture is very simular in style to many others found in Rome, we can conclude that she was Roman in ethnicity (Johansen 246-7).
It has been speculated that the woman that the portrait depicts was in fact a vestal virgin, however one particular feature seems to dispute this theory. Vestal virgins were typically shown with an infula, a frontlet or headband, around the hairline just above the forehead. While from the frontal angle the portrait appears to have a similar band, closer observation shows that the woman's hair has been braided and wrapped around the forehead in similar style, and that the veil she...