In Family Fictions in Roman Art, Natalie Kampen reveals the profoundly de-naturalized ways in which family could be represented in the interests of political power during the Roman Empire. Her study examines a group of splendid objects made over the course of six hundred years, from carved gems to triumphal arches to ivory plaques, and asks how and why artists and their elite patrons chose to depict family to speak of everything from gender to the nature of rulership, from social rank to relationship itself. In the process, artists found new and often strikingly odd ways to give form to families from conquered lands and provinces as well as from the Italian countryside and the court. The book’s contribution is in its combination of close attention to the creativity of Roman art and interest in the visual language of social and political relationships in a great Empire.
1. Livia as widow: complicated kinship; 2. Trajan as father: depicting the pater patriae; 3. Polydeukion as trophimus: domus and emotion among the rich and famous; 4. Severan brothers: doubled value; 5. Tetrarchs and fictive kinship; 6. Stilicho's troubled kinship: late families.
"...rich analysis of how familial imagery proved at once stable and flexible, allowing Roman elites to utilize it to establish their social stability (however fictive some of those claims proved to be historically)...Certainly those interested in Roman art history would benefit from Kampen's monograph. Her conclusions about constructions of Roman family structure and self-representation, particularly as it relates to gender, however, have broader appeal. " BMCR