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Old April 25th, 2018, 05:04 PM   #11

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Originally Posted by RomaVictrix View Post
Lol. There was an ancient Roman battle along that street, wasn't there.
Yes indeed- (or ita vero) - poor ol' Boudicca!

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Sorry, I'm not convinced, not even in the slightest. To my knowledge Roman women did not portray themselves as foreign queens, and the very idea of Roman men taking on the trappings of Hellenistic kingship was deemed highly scandalous and frowned upon by regular Romans, especially the oligarchic Senate. This is something they chided Pompey for when he returned home from the east with riches and fine clothing. It's something Caesar was deftly aware of with his little play performance of refusing the diadem crown foisted on him by Mark Antony at the Lupercalia festival. It is something Octavian was very careful to avoid as he amassed constitutional powers to become the first emperor Augustus, or better yet the first among equals and citizens as he portrayed it. Much later Roman emperors were more comfortable presenting themselves as autocratic rulers, without question by the time of Diocletian and the Dominate-style government.

Let's put it another way: do you have any evidence, and I mean a tiny shred, that any Roman woman ever and I mean ever portrayed herself as a living foreign queen during the Republican period? If so you better publish your findings quick before someone beats you to it, because that ought to be the find of the decade.
It would be one thing walking about in public pretending to be a queen- another thing in art. And some things are simply not susceptible to proof- there are too many gaps, unlike in science.You can't always cry 'prove it or lose it'! Short of a picture having a name next to it (like some mosaics of gladiators for instance) or an artists book on his work, how can one prove it? Even Ms Walker-Watling had to admit it cannot be ruled out.

None of these Pompeiian locals will have been confused with Caesar. But they want a painting. Most artists will not have had access to some sort of image database. No photos. They just might have seen a coin.In practice, who is to say if it is Cleo's face or not? That's the reason new Emperors sent official portraits round to those who would use it for coins, images, medallions, standards etc. Without those official images, artists just have to use their imaginations. Nobody is likely to be in a position to gainsay it. So a local Pompeii artist wanting to execute a portrait of Cleo- and preferring a sitting model- use a local lady to model for it. That is assuming it is Cleo after all, but in a way it wouldnt matter who it was meant to be.

Sculptors even used living models to pose for statutes of deities- the Roman view of interaction with their deities was very different from our own.

I think you may be getting it out of proportion. This wasn't about pretending to be a king, queen or god in public. Its just about someone modelling privately for a painting to be executed.

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Thanks for the speedy correction.
My pleasure! Roman Coins are sort of my area- been studying them 40 plus years now.

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Pfft. You're no fun.

Perhaps I forget myself sometimes, that I'm on a serious forum like Historum, and not somewhere else. Perhaps I'm too used to arguing with abrasive jerk-offs on Reddit and in Youtube commentary sections. Some of those places will slowly but surely drain away whatever politeness and humanity you might have had.

Also, this is kinda sorta my brand of sardonic humor.
I am, fun really, you know! I like a good laugh and a bit of fun together and much prefer to get to know and like my fellow history lovers. We always have a lot in common when you come to look on it or we wouldnt be here! I like your views and sense of humour not to mention the way you build your points and all the lovely art you have taken the trouble to show us.

But gosh you chose a hard time disputing with the people you get on youtube- that place really can make you feel a bit down about humanity! Hopefully people are much nicer here.
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Old April 25th, 2018, 05:38 PM   #12

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It would be one thing walking about in public pretending to be a queen- another thing in art. And some things are simply not susceptible to proof- there are too many gaps, unlike in science.You can't always cry 'prove it or lose it'! Short of a picture having a name next to it (like some mosaics of gladiators for instance) or an artists book on his work, how can one prove it? Even Ms Walker-Watling had to admit it cannot be ruled out.

None of these Pompeiian locals will have been confused with Caesar. But they want a painting. Most artists will not have had access to some sort of image database. No photos. They just might have seen a coin.In practice, who is to say if it is Cleo's face or not? That's the reason new Emperors sent official portraits round to those who would use it for coins, images, medallions, standards etc. Without those official images, artists just have to use their imaginations. Nobody is likely to be in a position to gainsay it. So a local Pompeii artist wanting to execute a portrait of Cleo- and preferring a sitting model- use a local lady to model for it. That is assuming it is Cleo after all, but in a way it wouldnt matter who it was meant to be.

Sculptors even used living models to pose for statutes of deities- the Roman view of interaction with their deities was very different from our own.

I think you may be getting it out of proportion. This wasn't about pretending to be a king, queen or god in public. Its just about someone modelling privately for a painting to be executed.
Your argument sounds more reasonable now that you have clarified it and artists for centuries have used paid/hired models to sit still and serve as the chief subjects of for their works. However, I don't think this was necessary for the painting in Pompeii. The painter of the fresco at the House of Marcus Fabius Rufus wouldn't have had to travel all the way to Rome (which even back then wasn't incredibly distant when traveling by wagon/cart or on horseback) to see the statue of Cleopatra. As evidenced by the Vatican and Berlin busts of Cleopatra, and one's imitating it like the bust found in the British Museum, or the statue found near the Tomba di Nerone, there were seemingly enough sculpted representations of the original model, i.e. the statue in the Temple of Venus Genetrix, floating around Italy at the time, held in private villas in and around Rome. The painter at Pompeii, which was teeming with Rome's wealthy aristocrats, probably had no trouble accessing a portrait bust modeled on the head of the statue in the Forum of Caesar. And these busts and statues would have been richly and brightly painted, as can be seen by the polychrome traces on the Berlin bust where Cleopatra still has some faded reddish-brown hair.

In sum, a local Pompeiian lady could have been hired to sit and serve as the model for the painting, but I think it immensely more likely that a bust or even a full-sized statue would have been available to the painter at Pompeii for him to use as the model. If Walker expresses any doubt or uncertainty about this issue it is only because that is to be expected from a serious academic who has to cover his or her bases and ensure that their arguments are entirely grounded in solid evidence. It is telling, though, that all the sculpted images and even the paintings conform to the iconographic image of Cleopatra in her own coinage, which unmistakably bears her name.

Speaking of coins...

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My pleasure! Roman Coins are sort of my area- been studying them 40 plus years now.
Impressive! Numismatics is something that interests me but I am far from being an expert. Glad to know that you have some expertise in that area. Coins dated to the reign of Cleopatra cost quite a bit of money online, but they are not exactly rare. As Duane W. Roller affirms, coins from virtually every year of her reign have survived, and they show a portrait of a Hellenistic Greek queen wearing the diadem, the melon-style hairdo of her ancestors Arsinoe II and Berenice II, and having a very pronounced aquiline nose with puffy cheeks and small, deeply-set round eyes. To my knowledge not a single coin deviates from this, although if memory serves me correctly there are a handful of them where the figure of Cleopatra is full-sized and distant, so that the facial features, adornments, and hair are not as exact or clearly demarcated.

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I am, fun really, you know! I like a good laugh and a bit of fun together and much prefer to get to know and like my fellow history lovers. We always have a lot in common when you come to look on it or we wouldnt be here! I like your views and sense of humour not to mention the way you build your points and all the lovely art you have taken the trouble to show us.

But gosh you chose a hard time disputing with the people you get on youtube- that place really can make you feel a bit down about humanity! Hopefully people are much nicer here.
Aside from Youtube and Reddit, I also frequent the Total War Center forum, where there are occasionally some brilliant individuals as well.

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Old April 25th, 2018, 10:06 PM   #13

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The owner of the house at Pompeii walled off the room with the painting in or around 30 BC, no doubt because images of Caesarion were proscribed by Octavian
But the alleged portrait of "Cupid-Caesarion" is featureless. It is just an infant. If people were prepared to go through the trouble of remodeling "Cleopatra" into a more neutral Venus, why couldn't they do the same with the child, who isn't even identifiable as Caesarion? What makes this Cupid different from those other Cupids with which portrayals of Venus are adorned?

And why would anyone wall up a painting rather than destroy it? I don't know, but motives are always a tricky business to tackle. Perhaps the painting represented the features of a family member and the son who inherited the house considered it impious to remove it altogether? It's all a matter of more or less plausible, more or less informed speculation, really.
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Old April 25th, 2018, 10:21 PM   #14
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Interesting. I was gonna comment on the bust, but realize you had already done so.

Ive actually read that some believe we have no reason to think the coinage is too far off from what she looked like. Many of her features resembles that of her father.

Regardless, it safe to say the legend of her beauty probably outweighed the reality. Now clearly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Cleo didn't need to rely on looks though. She was smart, cunning, and had an apparently nice voice. She was able to win over Antony and Caesar (not that they looked as the art portrayed them. Caesar with his wrinkles and baldness while Antony had that stubby chin and broken nose) with more than just looks. Perhaps an excellent example of going beyond the physical description of beauty.
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Old April 28th, 2018, 11:31 AM   #15

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But the alleged portrait of "Cupid-Caesarion" is featureless. It is just an infant. If people were prepared to go through the trouble of remodeling "Cleopatra" into a more neutral Venus, why couldn't they do the same with the child, who isn't even identifiable as Caesarion? What makes this Cupid different from those other Cupids with which portrayals of Venus are adorned?
Isn't it obvious? It's not about the facial features of the infant. It's about the infant's obvious connection to the mother and the temple in which she is standing, that of Venus Genetrix in the Forum of Caesar.

Whether or not the cupid version of Caesarion was an accurate depiction of him as an infant, it's still nevertheless a (politically-charged) depiction of Caesarion if we follow the convincing logic of Walker (2008) and Roller (2010) that the woman being depicted is Cleopatra wearing her signature diadem and melon-style hairdo (please show us a depiction of a regular Venus/Aphrodite with this Hellenistic Greek crown and specific hairstyle, please, aside from the Aquiline Venus which many already believe is an idealized Cleopatra). You seriously underestimate the power of Roman propaganda, sectarianism, and religious devotion/fanaticism. By this point Caesar was deified, considered a god by his countryman. Octavian could not allow any images of Caesarion to be around in the public sphere, to be worshiped in public or private by devotees to his cause (or simply by those who wished to conspire against Octavian, who had not yet amassed constitutional powers when he returned to Italy in 29 BC, achieving that two years later). Given the terror of Octavian and Antony's previous proscriptions against fellow Romans (stripping their rivals of their lives and properties), most Romans probably did not want to do anything that would clearly and directly put them at odds with the ruling regime. Many learned that lesson by watching Roman aristocrats getting dragged from their homes for execution.

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And why would anyone wall up a painting rather than destroy it? I don't know, but motives are always a tricky business to tackle. Perhaps the painting represented the features of a family member and the son who inherited the house considered it impious to remove it altogether? It's all a matter of more or less plausible, more or less informed speculation, really.
Although that could have happened, it seems far less likely than the link to Cleopatra and Caesarion. Why exactly would a private member of their household be depicted hugging the figure of a clearly Hellenistic Greek queen as an allegorical Venus within a temple? Come on man, this is easy.

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Ive actually read that some believe we have no reason to think the coinage is too far off from what she looked like. Many of her features resembles that of her father.
While a daughter should look like her biological father to some extent, be careful with comparing certain features of theirs. Scholars from Duane Roller (2010) to Joann Fletcher (2008) note that this was likely a deliberate attempt to make her more appealing to her Alexandrine Greek subjects, some of whom did not accept a sole-reigning queen without a clearly capable husband or male co-ruler (partly evidenced by some siding with Ptolemy XIII when he and Cleopatra had their split and civil war). Prudence Jones (2006) and Diana Kleiner (2005) note how even Antony's facial features conform to those of Cleopatra and hence the Ptolemies in general (as a way to introduce Antony to her subjects as a viable member of the royal house). You can read more about it here from the Art Institute of Chicago: https://publications.artic.edu/roman...510/print_view

Kleiner and Fletcher note how Cleopatra's image on coins presents a rather rough looking woman at times, whereas a softer, more feminine and perhaps idealized version exists in her sculpted Greco-Roman busts. One could probably say the same for the paintings, although all of these works of art show a similar profile and visage, with the royal Greek diadem on her head, melon hairstyle, puffy cheeks, deeply-set eyes, and aquiline nose.

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Regardless, it safe to say the legend of her beauty probably outweighed the reality. Now clearly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Cleo didn't need to rely on looks though. She was smart, cunning, and had an apparently nice voice. She was able to win over Antony and Caesar (not that they looked as the art portrayed them. Caesar with his wrinkles and baldness while Antony had that stubby chin and broken nose) with more than just looks. Perhaps an excellent example of going beyond the physical description of beauty.
So says Plutarch. He actually said she looked okay but nothing special or remarkable, noting (as you suggest here) that it was her personality, charm, and linguistic skills that won over her Roman partners. More likely it was her freaking political prominence as a ruler of Egypt, one of the wealthiest countries in the world at the time and one that certain Romans eyed for profits. When Octavian took over Egypt he barred Roman Senators from even stepping foot in that country, turning it into a special province with an equestrian governor answerable only to him. Perhaps he was worried that the legendary wealth of Egypt would metaphorically blind an otherwise virtuous Roman aristocrat into becoming deeply corrupt or even using that wealth to challenge Octavian later on.

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Old May 1st, 2018, 10:20 PM   #16

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Well then, it seems all the work I've done is finally paying off! The obscure image of Cleopatra (in the painting from the House of Marcus Fabius Rufus at Pompeii) that I uploaded to Wikimedia Commons and placed in several Wikipedia articles is now found in a prominent Youtube video on the subject. Have a look:


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Old May 1st, 2018, 10:25 PM   #17

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Thank you for this informative article! I had never seen these paintings before, they sure are interesting.
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Old May 1st, 2018, 11:01 PM   #18

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Thank you for this informative article! I had never seen these paintings before, they sure are interesting.
No problem! Glad to be of service.

You're totally excused for not seeing them, of course, because they did not exist on Wikimedia Commons until I uploaded them there earlier this year. Before that, they were only discussed, viewed, and shared by a handful of academics who keep this sort of stuff exclusively to themselves, no doubt a kinky fetish of theirs. I'm more than happy to launch this stuff into the public sphere and the online stratosphere where they can be more readily available and seen by a much wider audience than the little ivory tower where grumpy Oxfordians and Cambridge scholars decked out in tweed gripe at each other.
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Old May 3rd, 2018, 02:32 AM   #19

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Something I find very fascinating is the light-skinned and dark-skinned handmaidens, respectively, hugging each other in front of a clearly Caucasian/white Cleopatra in the Roman painting from the House of Giuseppe II in Pompeii (see the OP). The identification of Cleopatra in this painting is a recent scholarly observation (see Roller, 2010: pp. 178-179). There's no way that Orientalist painters of the 19th century would have known about this ancient Roman painting, and yet they seem to follow a similar standard and convention of having darker skinned handmaidens (obviously Eiras and Charmion) accompanying a lighter-skinned Cleopatra. It's somewhat uncanny if not for the silly hybrid of ancient Egyptian and more recent Middle Eastern style decor in the settings of these 19th century paintings.

Cleopatra painting from the House of Giuseppe II, Pompeii, circa 1-25 AD
Click the image to open in full size.

The Death of Cleopatra by Jean-André Rixens, 1874
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The Death of Cleopatra by Juan Luna, 1881
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The Death of Cleopatra by Reginald Arthur, 1892
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Old May 19th, 2018, 09:46 PM   #20

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I actually wrote a bit about Cleopatra and her ancestry. I think you've seen it already Roma, but here it is. I came to the same conclusions as you did from looking at these contemporary and near contemporary depictions.

The Greco-Macedonian Cleopatra VII Philopator - Historum - History Forums
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