About a week ago, I had the august pleasure to lead a tour of the Roman Sculpture galleries of the National Archaeological Museum of Athens with Prof. Brian Rose for the students of the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA). Prof. Rose was in Athens to give the ASCSA’s annual Open Meeting lecture on Gordion and Troy; luckily, we were able to team up to provide students with a brief introduction into Roman art, using the wonderful collection located in the NM.
Prof. Rose discussed especially the use of portraiture (e.g., verism, Julio-Claudians) and sculpting techniques. I focused on female hairstyles, which is of growing interest to me. Upon closer inspection, most hairstyles on statues of Roman women are extremely intricate and complex–which could have an impact on our understanding of the styles of hair (e.g., Was this a ‘top-down’ model from the empress or rather ‘bottom-up’? Were private female hairstyles mimicking those of priestesses, especially the Vestal Virgins?). I drew especially on the interesting work of Janet Stephens, who is a hairdresser herself, such as her video recreating the hair of the Vestal Virgins. In addition, the new monograph by Molly Lindner, Portraits of the Vestal Virgins, Priestesses of Ancient Rome (Ann Arbor, 2015), offers a comprehensive overview about the portraits of the Vestals, their influence on private portraiture, and a great deal of discussion about female hairstyles, especially of the early first century.
Every visit to the National Museum in Athens always provides new outlets for discussion, especially with such esteemed guests as Prof. Rose!