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Miniature Cult Images: “Corinthian bronzes”, hand-held processional statuettes, and early imperial representations of the Roman Lares

Lecture by UrbNet Visiting Professor Christopher Hallett (University of California, Berkeley). Lecture 3/6 in the lecture series "New research on the materials of ancient sculpture".

2021.01.28 | Lasse Rievers Olesen

Date Tue 20 Apr
Time 13:00 14:00
Location Virtual + Centre for Urban Network Evolutions (UrbNet), Aarhus University, Moesgård Allé 20, 8270 Højbjerg, Denmark (Building 4230-232).

Abstract

Tiny bronze figurines of handsome youths, dancing on tip-toe and holding drinking horns—the Lares—are a familiar feature of Roman domestic religion.  Large numbers of them survive from antiquity, and many houses at Pompeii and elsewhere in Roman Italy contained small household shrines, Lararia, seemingly designed to hold and display a whole series of such miniature bronzes.

How and when did the Romans begin using bronze statuettes of this kind as images of their household gods, and as the focus of their domestic rituals?  This paper offers a series of linked hypotheses on the origins of the practice, connecting this development with the production exquisite miniature bronzes for Roman art collectors in the early 1st century BC (the notorious ‘Corinthian bronzes’), and with the later introduction of statuettes as ‘hand-held cult images’, or ‘processional statuettes’, in rituals and public ceremonies throughout the Roman world, from the Augustan period onwards.

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History and archaeology, Lecture/talk