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Portrait Bust of a Flavian Woman (Fonseca Bust), part 1 of 2

Video transcript

we're in the Capitoline Museum in Rome looking at this beautiful delicate portrait bust known as portrait of a Flavian woman and the word Flavian refers to the Flavian dynasty sometimes when we look back at the ancient Roman Empire we think about this line of emperors but in fact they came from distinct families so for example Augustus the first emperor of Rome came from the Giulio Claudian dynasty and in the late 1st century AD there was a dynasty called the Flavian dynasty and those Emperor's were facepage and Titus and Domitian and that was a short dynasty but it was an important one because Rome had just gone through the abuse of reign of the Emperor Nero and Nero had taken an enormous amount of the center of the city for his own Palace and had been imperious in his rule and so this basian spent a good deal of his rule actually giving back to the city and the premier example of that is the building of the Colosseum right a place where the public could go and enjoy themselves and in fact the original name of the Colosseum was the Flavian amphitheater one note about this sculpture for many years we thought that this was a Flavian woman now some art historians suspect that it may actually be a woman who's sculpted in the Flavians style that is her hairstyle most specifically is Flavian right but that she was sculpted in the early 2nd century so about 40 or 50 years later and that is quite a hairstyle it's fabulous it's a hairstyle where of the front part of her hair has been pulled forward and up and said in these ringlets that frame her face beautifully and this very ornate braiding and coiling of the hair on the back of her head and what that does is expose this lovely neck which is really one of the most beautiful parts of this sculpture although her eyes have not been painted or drilled or the paint doesn't survive she seems to be looking up and off which tilts her head in a very delicate manner and exposes that neck and it's carved with real subtlety so that we can see the slight bulge of her cheekbones and the impression around her lips and below her nose now the hairstyle that we were talking about was very fashionable and during the Flavian era and we suspect that it came from a style that had been initiated or at least popularized by one of the women of the Emperor's Court even in the modern world we often follow the style set by important men and women I'm thinking recently of Michelle Obama and I remember when she got her hair cut into bangs bangs became a craze I think that's an important thing to remember because we look at this and her hairstyle just looks wildly outrageous and almost ridiculous I think to our eyes but in the second or for a century this likely looked like the height of fashion and it's interesting to think that this might actually be kind of RK izing that is that this was a slightly more modern woman who was having herself portrayed as a woman in a style of the previous century and if that's true it suggests that even the ancient Romans in the early years of the empire were thinking historically and she's carved out of this lustrous marble but the opportunity provided by this hairstyle to create deep shadows in those ringlets something that's really been exploited by the sculptor and he's done that by not only using a chisel but also by using a drill which is allowing him to get very fine very deep holes and of course this wouldn't have been a power drill this would have been a drill that would have been turned by hand or perhaps with the aid of a bow and so it's important I think to remember all the skill that went into carving this by the sculptor well if a piece broke off you'd start again you