Dr. Lisa A. Hughes

Assistant Professor, University of Calgary
lahughes@ucalgary.ca

Female demonstrating the pudicitia pose. Capitoline Museums: Palazzo Nuovo, Rome.

Reconciling Images of the Pudicitia Pose: Women as Participants in Funerary Cult

Because of set representational conventions such as the veil, modest dress, hands raised to breast or face, sculptural representations of Roman women are conservatively categorized as the "Pudicitia type". Women depicted in such a manner are more specifically deemed Roman matrons (matronae), the purveyors of sexual restraint (pudicitia). This particular quality of pudicitia is usually connected with the emperor Augustus´s morality laws aimed to curb adultery and promote marriage amongst the senatorial elite.

The aim of the project is to challenge the traditional viewpoint that pudicitia is the representational mode of choice for all women in the Augustan period. Using non-elite Roman funerary monuments as a case study, I maintain that pudicitia may not be the best way to describe what is at play with the varied depictions (especially with respect to gesture) of women features on these commissions. Instead, I shall opt for a more conventional reading that relates more to the decorum of the commissioners. In the Roman world decorum was a conservative and formulaic premise that artistic works appeared in specific contexts as a means of self-representation for the patrons. Since we are dealing with a funerary context, it is my contention that funereal themes, namely mourning imagery, may be a more lucrative means for explaining the depictions of women on the monuments featured in this study. The role of women as mourners has held a prominent position in ancient Greek funerary rites both textually and visually. Curiously, however, there is a tendency to omit this particular role in the iconographical traditions of the early imperial period in Rome.