The life-size portrait of an old woman was perhaps part of a tomb statue and depicts the deceased as a venerable married woman and mother (Latin: matrona). Even without the (lost) inscription, the subject’s appearance tells us much about her. Every Roman citizen was recognisable in public by his or her clothing.
The old woman is wearing a mantle pulled across her head. Beneath the mantle a visible hair-band lies tight across her forehead. Hair-bands were also worn by priestesses, and the portrait’s subject may have performed this function in a cult. Covering the head was regarded as a gesture of chastity (Latin: castitas).
The portrait shows clear signs that the woman has aged, but they are not pronounced and underscore the high esteem and dignity of the elderly in the society of the Late Republic, familiar to us from numerous tomb portraits. The simple hairstyle is a development of a late-Hellenistic ideal and was in fashion for only a short time. This provides an important clue in dating the portrait to the time after the assassination of Caesar in 44 BC.
um 40 v. Chr.
Kunsthistorisches Museum Wien, Antikensammlung
Antikensammlung, I 145
unbekannt; 1819 vorhanden
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