Looking the part : examining the transcendence of gender in the portraits of Agrippina the Younger
Master of Arts (MA)
The propagandist art of the Roman Empire typically used images of the imperial women as a type of political icon. These women were often displayed in reliefs or portrait groups as symbols of morality, fecundity, femininity, and the continuation of the dynasty. While scholars have discussed this issue in great detail, they have often overlooked the fact that the portrait images of these very same women often contradict the feminine virtues that they are meant to convey. For instance, the portraits of Agrippina the Younger are divided into typologies based on, among other things, the incorporation of physiognomic features of contemporary emperors (Caligula, Claudius, and Nero) that lend an element of androgyny to her depictions. This physiognomic assimilation was not simply the unconscious input of sculptors accustomed to carving the emperor’s features, since it occurs in some of the highest quality versions of Agrippina’s portrait types. Agrippina’s portraits integrated these masculine features to reinforce her various positions in relation to the emperor while demonstrating the unity and cohesiveness of the imperial dynasty as a whole. Furthermore, this gender transcendence was employed to advance Agrippina’s political aspirations through the formation of alliances with popular imperial factions. In addition, Agrippina’s depictions exploit the virtues of masculinity and the memory of her beloved father, Germanicus. By analyzing the portraits of Agrippina the Younger, this paper aims to explore the dichotomy presented by this transcendence of gender in order to expand our current understanding of gender roles and women’s functions within the dynastic ideology.
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Hébert, Kristin Michelle, "Looking the part : examining the transcendence of gender in the portraits of Agrippina the Younger" (2013). LSU Master's Theses. 2003.