Wax and Plaster Memories

Véronique Dasen

in Children, Memory, and Family Identity in Roman Culture

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199582570
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595271 | DOI:
Wax and Plaster Memories

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Scattered and debated iconographical documents relate to the imagines maiorum, those wax portraits of office-holding ancestors which were kept in the homes of the elite. A number of plaster masks of children, often very young, have been found in tombs of the imperial period in Rome and in the provinces. These artefacts come from non-elite families and raise a number of questions relating to commemorative practices as well as to the status of children in lower social orders. Why and in what circumstances were these plaster moulds realized? On a living or a dead child? Was a wax or plaster portrait produced from these moulds? These unusual and little known funerary portraits allow us to revisit the need of memorials and the importance of mimesis in Roman society, and throw an unexpected light on the reworking of aristocratic imagery in freedmen's families.

Keywords: familial memory; fictores; funerary masks; imagines maiorum; likeness; plaster portraits; resemblance; wax imagines; wax portraits

Chapter.  9382 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Classical History

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