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Imagines Principum

The Roman portrait of an emperor was, as has been known for a long time, an aimed and effectively used way for self-depiction of rulers and thus a way to show power and loyalty constellations. The inhabitants of the empire were not only supposed to be given an idea of the appearance of the emperor but also the exposed position of the emperor was to be visualized and legitimized, which in turn would make the emperor untouchable. While honorary inscriptions, eulogies and accounts explicitly show his success, the portrait as an image medium argues nonverbally with positive signs and associations.

Sculptural portraits of rulers as a medium of nonverbal but still politically motivated persuasion and legitimization strategy are to be understood in the proposed project. Firstly, visual realization of individuality and the charismatic personality of the emperor are going to be investigated. Which are the signals that convey ideals of his personality and thus represent social hierarchies that are supposed to be kept present from earlier years of the empire. Lastly, it will be tried to prove that the intensive and far-reaching use of political instrumentalization of portraits is a special feature of the Roman Imperial Age and not just a continuation of Hellenistic representation of rulers and also differs a lot from other historical instances.

The material collections and preceding investigations of the research archive of ancient sculpture as well as the newer results of portrait research present an exceptional basis for research. Further, there is the possibility to adjust the information available through the database ARACHNE in its systematic presentation to the methodical problems of the project. This would in turn ensure conclusions and possibilities of control for the entire preserved objects.

Supervision: Prof. Dr. Dietrich Boschung, Prof. Dr. Reinhard Förtsch

Funding: Fritz Thyssen Foundation