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Veristic Male Portrait

Veristic male portrait (similar to Head of a Roman Patrician), early 1st Century B.C.E., marble life size (Vatican Museums, Rome) Speakers: Dr. Beth Harris & Dr. Steven Zucker. Created by Beth Harris and Steven Zucker.

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  • leafers sapling style avatar for user Peter Collingridge
    What, if any, is the difference between the word "veristic" and the word "realistic"?
    (19 votes)
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    • leaf green style avatar for user 福龍丸
      The dictionary I use (The American Heritage High School Dictionary, 3rd edition) does not contain a definition of veristic, but it does include the word 'verism', from which verist and veristic are derived.

      START QUOTE (true to the original except for punctuation):

      verism [...] n. Realism in art and literature. {Ital. verismo: vero, true (<Lat. vērus[...]) + -ismo, system of principles (<Lat. -ismus, -ism).}


      In other words, something veristic is a special case of realistic, and all things veristic are realistic, but the converse (if I'm using this term correctly) is not true.
      (17 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user G G
    In earlier videos on Greek art the narrators mentioned that artists used inlay for the eyes. Is there any thought as to whether this veristic art used inlay as well? Furthermore, would this bust have been painted?
    (7 votes)
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  • leaf yellow style avatar for user ♦SamuelM♦
    Do we know who exactly is depicted in the sculpture?
    (4 votes)
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    • primosaur ultimate style avatar for user Yves
      I searched through some art history texts and every time I saw this particular bust, it was referred to only as "Veristic Male Portrait" or "Veristic Bust" so if we do, we aren't using their name when we talk about it.
      (6 votes)
  • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user sadie z
    Did any artists in Ancient Rome make veristic portraits of women?
    (3 votes)
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  • ohnoes default style avatar for user Winky
    How big are these portraits? They don't look very big.
    (1 vote)
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  • mr pink red style avatar for user WallAvi
    Would the person depicted in the sculpture been the one who commissioned it? And where would it have been originally located? In the person's home, in the senate, on a pathway to the senate?
    (2 votes)
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    • female robot grace style avatar for user Inger Hohler
      I think these busts/heads may have filled a number of functions. The Romans had private portrait busts of ancestors - real or imagined! (There are contemporary comments that some of those who commissioned ancestral busts really had no idea of what their male ancestors looked like.) Here is a statue of a man carrying two ancestral busts, which must have been heavy. http://ancientart.tumblr.com/post/28728440210/the-ancient-roman-sculpture-patrician-carrying
      A head in itself may have come from a bust or from a statue. Some of the statues appear to have had detachable heads. The Romans did commission statues as an honor to important people and leaders. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/ropo/hd_ropo.htm
      The busts of dead relatives were kept at home where they were venerated, but statues of public figures were kept both in private and in public places. Or semi-public places. The senators would have semi-public parts of their homes where a large number of more or less dependent people (their "clients") would pay their respect regularly. Statues which are believed to show family members have been found in the garden of an Oplontis villa. Obviously a child would not have paid for a self portrait, this is much more likely to have been commissioned by the pater familias. In private homes, statues of poets have been found too - surely paid for by the owner of the villa. I do not know if it was common to commission statues of one self.
      (2 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Elisabetta Di Virgilio
    How do I cite this?
    (1 vote)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user Victoria Barnes
    When he compares the male portraits to modern magazine what caused us to turn away from making art of older figures
    (1 vote)
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  • piceratops seed style avatar for user Chris Hite
    At the end of the video, is it accurate to say that veristic portraiture reflects ancient Roman values? Aren't these portraits reflecting the Greek Hellenistic style which was introduced into Rome after the Second Punic War? At that time, many Romans spoke out against the individualism these portraits represented. Cato the Elder decreed that, "uncontrolled self-expression and the cult of the individual would destroy all that was good."

    It's interesting that the introduction of Hellenistic art into Roman culture coincides with the rise of the military heroes and demagogues: Scipio Africanus, Marius, Sulla, Pompey, Crassus, and Caesar that controlled much of Roman political life until Augustus "restored the Republic" from all the resulting civil wars and strife.

    These veristic portraits thereby do not reflect ancient Roman values, but Greek Hellinistic values. Ancient Roman values such as austerity, self-denial and service align with the idealized forms found in Greek classicism.
    (1 vote)
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  • duskpin seedling style avatar for user melissa golter-downing
    Is there any similarity between us today and the Greeks in the olden days.
    (1 vote)
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    • aqualine tree style avatar for user David Alexander
      Generally most of us human beings also have one head, ten toes, and two nostrils. Other similarities may exist between modern people and ancient Greeks in the areas of thought patterns and habits of life, but when it comes to language, what they used is all Greek to me.
      (1 vote)

Video transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: Before the emperor ruled Rome, Rome was ruled by a republic, by a senate. DR. BETH HARRIS: A kind of counsel of elders. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: These generally were older men, who had come from the elite families in Rome. And so when we think of the people accorded the most privilege, the most power in the Roman Republic, these were older men. And their age, their experience, is what counted. DR. BETH HARRIS: And so we find during this period of the Republic, especially the period of the late Republic, sculptures. This sculptor seems to have taken every pain to record a real sense of age and experience. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: One example of a veristic portrait is in the Vatican, from the very late Republican period. This is just before Julius Caesar will begin the process of turning the Republic into an empire. We refer to these as veristic portraits. DR. BETH HARRIS: That comes from the Latin word "verus," for truth. And so there's this idea that they're very truthful, but maybe there's an exaggeration of that sense of experience and wisdom and age. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: We see a head of a man that probably came from a much larger sculpture, ultimately. We see his head is covered with a toga, which suggests that he was involved in some sort of ritual. Concern is expressed through the eyes. Look at the way that the lips, which are quite thin, are pressed together. There is a solemnity, there is a seriousness. There is a kind of authority that is born of the qualities of the face that we're seeing. DR. BETH HARRIS: As we look at this shelf with six or eight busts along it, this face stands out. It's really different from the tradition that will develop during the Empire. Augustus becomes the first emperor of Rome and establishes a tradition that looks back to ancient Greece, and the tendency that we see there to idealize the human face and the human body. So this kind of veristic portrait will come to represent, later on, noble republican ideals. What's interesting is that we see, in the later images of emperors, that they choose to some degree, more or less, to idealize themselves. So that if they have themselves portrayed more realistically, they're recalling the virtues of the ancient Roman Republic. If they idealize themselves more, they're recalling an ancient Greek tradition. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: So in other words, this was a very conscious set of attributes. It was a very conscious set of symbols that you could draw on, more or less. DR. BETH HARRIS: It was a visual language. DR. STEVEN ZUCKER: It's so interesting if you think about the way that we represent ourselves now. If you open up a magazine, you have young models that are ideal, that are perfect. And the older are not given primary status, in our visual culture. But the ancient Romans, at least for a moment, felt differently. [MUSIC PLAYING]