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MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

An Artist looks back at Ancient Rome

  • Tibullus at Delia's House

    Slide Notes

    In this painting, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema creates a scene from everyday life in Ancient Rome. The famous poet Tibullus appears to be reciting to a group of very interested listeners, including Delia,....

    Look closely at this painting
    paying attention to details of furniture, clothing,hairstyles and household decorations.
    Take a moment and wonder what it might have been like to be there.

    Tibullus was an actual poet from Ancient Rome, you can find his published works today. His poetry is quite descriptive, perhaps, Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema studied his poems before painting this scene. The furniture, decorative items, clothing and hairstyles are based on objects including wall paintings and mosaics that Alma-Tadema would have seen when he visited Pompeii in the 1860's.

    Details

    Tibullus at Delia's House

    1866

    Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Dutch (active in England), 1836–1912

    Dimensions

    43.5 x 64.5 cm (17 1/8 x 25 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    17.3239

    Collections
    Europe
    On View
    Hill Gallery (Europ. Art 1750-1900) - 253 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Roman woman as an enthroned goddess

    Slide Notes

    Here is another sculpture that may have influenced the artist. Did you notice outfits in any of the paintings that looked like this? Which ones?

    Details

    Roman woman as an enthroned goddess

    31 B.C.–A.D. 69, inspired by a Greek statue of late 5th century B.C.

    Dimensions

    Height x depth x width: 117.5 x 96 x 80 cm (46 1/4 x 37 13/16 x 31 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Marble probably from the Greek island of Paros

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    03.749

    Collections
    The Ancient World More Info

    Description

    The statue was either made separately from the seat (not preserved) or cut from it later. Numerous indications point to a second use. Probably it was a Roman portrait in both instances. Front and back of the upper part of the body have been sawn in two and refastened; the left shoulder has been sawn off and replaced; new pieces seem to have replaced two fragments broken from the joint on the right side; and the front of the footstool and part of the left foot have been worked off. The right forearm, made separately, has been refastened and may date from the second use. The missing left arm was also worked separately. There are a number of small fragments of drapery refastened, and other areas have been restored in plaster. The surfaces, now worn in places, had a slight polish. The goddess held a phiale in the extended right hand and a scepter-staff in the raised left. The copy, used as a portrait, seems to be no earlier than the age of Augustus. The original was clearly a major cult statue of the late fifth century B.C., perhaps one in gold, other metals, and ivory, which would prevent scaling down from casts to create uniform, mechanically accurate replicas. Scientific Analysis: Isotope ratios - delta13C +5.026 / delta18O -3.002, Attribution - Paros-1, Justification (Petrographic Analysis) - maximum grain size (1.7mm).

    Multimedia

  • Woman and Flowers

    Slide Notes

    This painting is of a scene that could occur today in the 21st. C, or in the painter's time, the later 19th C. However, Alma-Tadema has included items from the past. What items might be from Ancient Rome? Do you recognize anything that was in the painting you just looked at? Why would he have included it in this painting too? Do you see anything else that makes you think of the past?

    Sir Lawrence Alma -Tadema was catering to the tastes of his peers with this painting. People of this time (mid to late 1860-s) were intrigued with the archaeological finds in Pompeii. It was very stylish to decorate with reproductions of items unearthed in Pompeii. He has even dressed this woman in clothes that would have been worn in Ancient times.

    Details

    Woman and Flowers

    1868

    Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Dutch (active in England), 1836–1912

    Dimensions

    49.8 x 37.2 cm (19 5/8 x 14 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    41.117

    Collections
    Europe More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Promise of Spring

    Slide Notes

    The title of this painting is "The Promise of Spring".

    Now that you have looked closely at a scene from ancient times and another from the 19th C. do you think Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema is depcting a scene from long, long ago or from when he was living? Why?

    If you could step into this painting what else might you see, hear, smell or touch?

    Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema was considered a master of painting architectual surfaces such as marble and stone.

    Details

    Promise of Spring

    1890

    Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Dutch (active in England), 1836–1912

    Dimensions

    38.1 x 22.5 cm (15 x 8 7/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    RES.39.94

    Collections
    Europe More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Marciana (?)

    Slide Notes

    This is a sculpture of a woman fom a very long time ago, about 2,000 years ago in fact. She has a very distinct hairstyle. Look back at the slide of the painting "Tibullus at Delia's House", Do you think Delia's hairstyle looks like this woman's hair?

    Details

    Marciana (?)

    about A.D. 100

    Dimensions

    Height x length (of face): 26.5 x 15.5 cm (10 7/16 x 6 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Marble, probably from Göktepe, Turkey (near Aphrodisias)

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    16.286

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    212C More Info

    Description

    This head from a villa at Subiaco has a hairstyle that closely resembles that of Marciana, the sister of the Emperor Trajan (A.D. 98-117), or her daughter Matidia as they are illustrated on coin portraits. Differences in the physiognomy of the face, however, suggest that this may be a portrait of a private, anonymous individual of the same period. The carving is somewhat cold and crisp, especially in the detail of the hair above the ears. The flattish role of hair that encircles her forehead is a feature found in the portraits of imperial women in the Trajanic period. The fourteen rows of tight curls that crown her forehead are evocative of the more tousled hairstyles of the earlier, Flavian period; however, the meticulous arrangement and strict order of the rows here are a Trajanic development. The head is the work of an Attic atelier, and was originally either part of a statue or a bust that was exported to Italy or the effort of an Athenian sculptor at Rome, Ostia, or even Naples. The head has been broken off at the start of the neck; much of the nose and parts of the right ear are missing, and there are other damages and dents. Except for some incrustation on the right side of the face, the surface is in excellent condition, with a patina of a warm ivory tone. The eye-brows are incised, but the iris and pupil were originally indicated by color. Scientific Analysis: University of South Florida Lab No. 8428: Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.7 / delta18O -2.3, Attribution - Göktepe, Turkey (near Aphrodisias). Justification - C and O isotopes, fine grain, pure white, translucent

    Multimedia

  • Table support (trapezophorus)

    Slide Notes

    Look back at the painting "The Promise of Spring", can you find anything that looks like this? What is similar, what is different? Can you make a sketch of the armrest in the painting?

    Details

    Table support (trapezophorus)

    Dimensions

    66.1 cm (26 in.)

    Medium

    Marble from northwest Asia Minor

    Classification

    Furniture

    Accession Number

    84.63a-b

    Collections
    The Ancient World More Info

    Description

    This large support, part perhaps of a monument in a temple or other public building, is of the conventional type, lion's head above and paw below. The central section of the leg is now missing. The ensemble was probably carved in the early Roman imperial period and has numerous parallels, usually on a smaller scale, from all over the Latin and, to a lesser extent, the Greek sections of the Roman Empire. The surfaces are heavily incrusted and now have a grayish brown color. Scientific Analysis: Harvard Lab No. HI248: Isotope ratios - delta13C +2.45 / delta18O -1.38, Attribution - Paros 2, Prokonnesos, Thasos-Cape Phaneri and Thasos-Aliki, Usak, Denizli 1, Iasos, Justification - Coarse grained marble.

    Multimedia

  • Portrait of a woman

    Slide Notes

    In Ancient times hair styles and clothing came in and out of fashion just like today. What's different between this woman's hair and the hairstyle you saw previously. Did you notice a hairstyle similar to this one in any of the paintings?

    Details

    Portrait of a woman

    about A.D. 120

    Dimensions

    Height x length (of face): 31 x 17.7 cm (12 3/16 x 6 15/16 in.)

    Medium

    Marble, dolomitic marble from the Greek island of Thasos

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    03.744

    Collections
    The Ancient World
    On View
    Classical Roman Gallery - 213 More Info

    Description

    The woman has full, round, and rather fine features. The hairstyle and carving of the eyebrows suggest a date for the head in the reign of the Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96), but the sharply delineated mouth and eyelids suggest that this is most likely a work executed under the reign of the Emperor Hadrian (A.D. 117-138). Her hair is carried high above the forehead in irregular, wavy strands deeply worked with the drill. It is gathered into a large knot behind, below the crown. A small lock falls on either side of the neck. The Irises and pupils are not rendered in sculpture, although incised lines indicate the hair of the eyebrows. The head has been broken off at the base of the neck. The upper part of the hair over the forehead was made separately and is missing. The tip of the nose has been restored in plaster. Scientific Analysis: Marble has been scientifically tested with X-Ray Diffraction and determined to be Dolomitic. Harvard Lab No. HI359: Isotope ratios - delta13C +3.52 / delta18O -3.59, Attribution - Thasos-Cape Vathy, Justification - Dolomitic by XRD.

    Multimedia

  • Artemis or similar mythological...

    Slide Notes

    Compare the clothing on this sculpture with the woman's dress in "The Promise of Spring", do you think Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema was influenced by the sculptures he saw when he visited Pompeii in the 1860"s.
    What kinds of words would you use to describe this outfit?

    Details

    Artemis or similar mythological female

    Dimensions

    34 cm (13 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Marble from Carrara in northwest Italy

    Classification

    Sculpture

    Accession Number

    76.733

    Collections
    The Ancient World More Info

    Description

    The fragment is broken on all edges. The surfaces are in fairly good condition. The backing has a finished surface and is roughly 0.03m. thick, seemingly not very heavy for a sarcophagus. The workmanship is excellent, especially the treatment of the clinging, wrinkled, and wind-blown garment. The left hand may hold a staff or a spear. In the second instance, this figure might have been one of the divine attendants (Artemis or Vitus-Roma) in the main scene of a sarcophagus showing the deceased in a symbolic hunt. Artemis is more likely, since Virtus usually wears her chiton with one breast exposed. The crisp, sharp handling of the drapery belongs to a Roman rather than an Attic sarcophagus The surfaces were carefully finished, but not polished. Scientific Analysis: Isotope ratios - delta13C +1.878 / delta18O -1.546, Attribution - Carrara, Justification (Petrographic Analysis) - maximum grain size (0.6 mm), accessory minerals (dolomite).

    Multimedia