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Ancient Mediterranean Art Art Collection Curatorial

From the Collection: Ancient Roman Head of a Noble Woman

Detail of a bust of a noble woman made of tan marble
Roman [Flavian Period], Head of a Noble Woman, 96–100 AD (detail). Pentelic Marble. Milwaukee Art Museum, purchase, with funds from the Woman’s Exchange. Photo credit Larry Sanders.
Bust of a noble woman made of tan marble
Roman [Flavian Period], Head of a Noble Woman, 96–100 AD. Pentelic Marble. Milwaukee Art Museum, purchase, with funds from the Woman’s Exchange. Photo credit Larry Sanders.

Part of what drew me to studying Roman portraiture in college was my fascination with fashion.  When growing up, if I wasn’t pouring over floorplans of Victorian houses, I was pouring over Victorian photographs and fashion plates.

So of course, when I found out that hairstyles were so important in portraits of women in ancient Rome, I was thrilled!  Sabina, the wife of Hadrian, wore lovely waves similar to sculptures of Greek goddesses.  Meanwhile, Septimius Severus’s wife, Julia Domna, is known for her helmet-like rolls of hair.  The timeline of the Roman world unfolds before the fashion-conscious.

But what makes this topic even more fascinating is that, in true Roman-style, hairstyles are not just about beauty. Read on for a closer look at the political importance of Roman hairstyles (yes, you read that right), as well as a video how-to so you can give the hairdo a try yourself.

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Art

It’s all in the clay: Chipstone’s new “making” video

A screenshot from Dan Ollman’s video of Steve Ferrell, which can be viewed in Chipstone’s round video room on the Museum's Lower Level
A screenshot from Dan Ollman’s video of Steve Ferrell, which can be viewed in Chipstone’s round video room on the Museum's Lower Level

I have previously blogged about the Dave Project, which centered around a Dave Drake pot, and about Chipstone’s round video room at the Milwaukee Art Museum. When we were first planning the Dave Project we had envisioned having a reproduction of Dave’s pot made to tour around with us. We asked Steve Ferrell, a talented potter and Dave enthusiast in Edgefield, South Carolina (the town where Dave Drake was from) to complete the ambitious task. Steve had not only seen Dave pots, but owns Dave pot fragments, and uses clay from the same source as Dave did in his work. While speaking with Dan Ollman, the Milwaukee artist and filmmaker who filmed the Dave Project, we decided that a video of Steve making both the Dave pot reproduction and a South Carolina face jug, would be a good addition to our round room videos on the Milwaukee Art Museum Lower Level.