Prof. Sabine Schrenk

Bonn University

Prof. Sabine Schrenk

Self-Presentation and Death in Roman Catacomb Paintings: The Evidence of Textiles

In Roman catacomb paintings a variety of figural representations can be distinguished: Christ, the apostles, other biblical figures, saints, the deceased – and within these groups, always distinguishable, women and men.

The new documentation project in the catacomb of Domitilla in Rome, directed by Dr. Norbert Zimmermann (ÖAW, Vienna ), working with a 3D-Laserscanner, supplies us with a tremendous series of new photos and close-ups of the paintings in this catacomb. This is an excellent source for research on textiles – their structure, design, fibres, colours, the type of costumes and the way of wearing them-, and these aspects will be explored.

Questions are:

  1. What role does clothing play in representation and "self-representation" in these sepulchral paintings?
  2. Does the person who commissioned the painting or the painter of a scene use dress to differentiate between individuals (eg. to distinguish between men and women or between dominus and servant or between saint and ordinary person)?

First steps in this research will be to ascertain:

  1. Which the garments can be discerned? In which quantity do they appear?
  2. Are there any significant differences between "historical" biblical figures, figures in "theological" scenes like 'Christ in Majesty' and representations of contemporary persons of the 4th century A.D.?
  3. Are there any differences between the garments of the deceased and other figures in relation to dress?