Marble Statue Of Old Woman, Crafted In Early Imperial Rome

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More often than not viewers are attracted to sculptures of large burly men/gods, showing great power and authority; or beautiful women/goddesses who at the time were depicted as miraculous pieces of art and architecture. Often we see smaller sculptures, depictions of common folk, go unnoticed and unappreciated. In the MET, specifically in the Greek and Roman sculpture areas, our eyes are drawn to the larger sculptures of Dionysos and other large works of art. Sometimes, focusing on smaller pieces of art, especially those not representing gods allow us to have a much more personal connection with the piece and understand how the artist felt, as well as the person they were trying to depict.

Marble statue of an old woman is crafted in Early Imperial Rome around A.D. 14-68. The sculpture is a replica of an earlier Greek work that would have been created around the second century B.C. Statues and sculptures break and change over time. This is due to a variety of reasons, and typically has a negative impact on the art. I feel the contrary is taking place in this sculpture. The woman has a very disgruntled and tired look on her face and looks as if she has had a long and hard life.

The missing pieces and weathering of the statue further that idea with cracks and spots acting as blemishes and wrinkles on the old ladies body. The body is also in an uncomfortable pose. The woman seems to be straining to carry an item, what seems like a basket, but it is difficult to tell due to the broken part of the sculpture. The worn down face and hunched position make it seem like the woman depicted here has had a tough life. However, there are many aspects of the statue that contradict this idea and can lead the viewer to an opposite interpretation of the artwork.

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This idea of a tired and worn down body is contradicted by the fact that she has what seems to be a crown of ivy on her head. This would imply that she has some sort of royalty and stature. Another contrast to the idea of a worn down common person, is the detail in the piece. As we talked about with The Parthenon marble is a very difficult medium to work with and requires lots of time. It is not as likely that an artist would spend so much time and effort ti depict a common woman when the same can be done with a different medium allowing for much less time and work.

Another detail in the marble is the drapery of the clothing she has on. As mentioned in class this is a very difficult technique, and an even harder look to achieve, showing that the artists spared no time in the creation of this piece. Again, the level of detail in the basket supports this idea as it would have been very tedious to achieve the design on the basket with the artist’s choice of medium. Another supporting idea that the old woman is someone of at least a small level of importance is the fact that the artist completed the entire piece, 360 degrees all the way around, even though it is a possibility that the back of the sculpture may had not been intended to be seen. This same idea is found in alike statues of gods and goddess in works of art created at the time.

Shifting focus back to the basket it is unclear to me what the woman is carrying, however, I believe there are two possibilities that go with each of the theories above. The first idea is that she is carrying groceries or goods of hers back to her home. This would again imply that she is just a simple old woman. Fortunately, I like to think positively and believe that it could be something else. The woman could be carrying good or offerings for the gods. The fact that the artist spent time on what the woman’s clothes look like and the possibility of an ivy crown on her head lead me to believe that she could be attending some sort of ceremony and the basket contains an offering of some sort. Unfortunately, the sculpture has been broken and I am unable to get a complete understanding of what is in the basket and its purpose.

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