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The propriety of decorative luxury possessions: Reflections on the occurrence of kalathiskos dancers and pyrrhic dancers in Roman visual culture
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Humanities and Social Sciences, Faculty of Arts, Department of Archaeology and Ancient History, Classical archaeology and ancient history.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2412-5735
2015 (English)In: Own and be owned: Archaeological approaches to the concept of possession / [ed] Alison Klevnäs; Charlotte Hedenstierna-Jonson, Stockholm: Stockholm University, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies , 2015, 93-108 p.Chapter in book (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In a well-known passage of his De architectura (written during thelast decades BC) Vitruvius describes the Roman domus (house) as aself-evident part of the public image of its owner. To Vitruvius, thehouse is not a private sphere, at least not in the sense we like to thinkof our homes today. Instead, Vitruvius emphasizes that the domusserves as the backdrop for at least a part of its owner’s public life,and as such its layout and appearance has a bearing on the owner’spublic persona (Vitr. De arch. 6.5.1-3; Granger 1934:36–39). But itwas not just the appearance of the house itself that was important inthis regard: there was a similar relationship between the home-ownerand the possessions that he chose to put on display in his house.

During the Late Republican era (133–31 BC), many members ofthe Roman elite set out to acquire art collections to be displayed intheir homes. This paper shows that the decorative luxury possessionsacquired had a power and a capacity of their own. The owner’s tasteand personality were established through the acquisition and displayof these collections.

To illustrate this point, two motifs are discussed: kalathiskos dancersand pyrrhic dancers (fig. 1). Within the Roman cultural context,these motifs are primarily represented on decorative luxury items.The paper aims to explore the occurrence of the motifs and to explainwhy pyrrhic dancers were depicted less often than kalthiskos dancers(fig. 2), and to relate this circumstance to the agency of decorativeluxury possessions within the Roman cultural context.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm University, Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies , 2015. 93-108 p.
, Stockholm Studies in Archaeology, ISSN 0349-4128 ; 62
Keyword [en]
Roman art;Roman visual culture
National Category
Archaeology Visual Arts Classical Archaeology and Ancient History
Research subject
Classical Archaeology and Ancient History; Archaeology
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-270865ISBN: 978-91-637-8212-1OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-270865DiVA: diva2:890700
Available from: 2016-01-04 Created: 2016-01-04 Last updated: 2016-02-01Bibliographically approved

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