The Vestal Virgin Room

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In his representation of one of these women, sculptor Antonio Canova suggested her innocence through the austerity and sparseness of the Neoclassical style, drawing on the contemporary idea that classical forms carry with them the expression of a strict morality. The bust is made of simple geometric shapes: a square for the bust and oval for the face. The tightly wound headcovering pulls in her hair and, with the cloak, draws attention to the purity of the shapes.

Her firm shoulders and uninhibited, unmoving stare further suggest her resolve, innocence, and moral authority.

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Despite her physical beauty and the softness of the folds of the cloak, the statue does not invite touching. It is a cool, intellectual work of simple forms and restrained emotion. With the discovery of the so-called House of the Vestals in Pompeii , Vestal Virgins became a popular subject in the s and s. This figure wears a historically accurate cloak, which suggests that Canova researched the subject. Capricorn Art International S. Chiasso, Switzerland , sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, Cicognara, Leopoldo. Storia della scultura dal suo risorgimento in Italia fino al secolo di Canova Prato: Giachetti, , vol.

Missirini, Melchiore. Della vita di Antonio Canova , libro quattro Prato: Giachetti, , p. Fastidio, D. Pavanello, Giuseppe. L'opera completa del Canova Milan: Rizzoli, , p. Fogelman, Peggy. Paul Getty Museum Journal 22 , pp. Fusco, Peter.

Summary Catalogue of European Sculpture in the J. Paul Getty Museum, , p. Figueiredo, M. Calouste Gulbenkian Museum: European Sculpture, vol. Italian and Spanish Sculpture: Catalogue of the J. Paul Getty Museum, , pp. The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. Los Angeles: J.

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The Roman Forum is a labyrinth of ruins — crumbling columns and walls overgrown with weeds and wildflowers. Once the centre of public life in Rome, with its courthouses, temples, and even venues for gladiatorial combat, now all that remains are some evocative fragments. One of the better-preserved temples is the Temple of Vesta , at the eastern edge of the Forum.

Vesta, the Roman goddess of the home, was one of the most important deities in Ancient Rome, but it is her priests, the Vestal Virgins , who have captured the imaginations of subsequent generations.

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10 Fascinating Facts About Rome’s Vestal Virgins

These women led extraordinary lives , utterly different from those of their contemporaries. At the age of only six or seven, they were selected for the priesthood and sworn to celibacy for thirty years.


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  4. As children they would have had little understanding of the enormous commitment they were making, beginning a life of extreme contrasts and contradictions that could end in comfortable retirement or cruelly premature death. Vestal virgins were chosen from highborn families and were granted privileges that would have been unimaginable for other women in Ancient Rome.

    Who were the Vestal Virgins, and what was their job? - Peta Greenfield

    They could own property, vote, and write a will. They had the best seats at public games, and they even had the power to free condemned prisoners and slaves. A condemned man on his way to his execution only had to catch a glimpse of a Vestal Virgin to be freed.

    Privilege and punishment: the Vestal Virgins in Ancient Rome

    But despite the powers and privileges granted to the Vestal Virgins, they were still living in a patriarchal society that controlled all aspects of their lives. As priestesses their main task was to guard the sacred flame in the Temple of Vesta, keeping the fire alight. Letting the flame go out led to bad luck for Rome, and worse luck for the responsible priestess, who would be stripped and beaten by the chief priest as punishment.

    As their name suggests, virginity was integral to their identity. While extramarital sex was frowned upon in Rome, those who indulged in it usually faced a fate no worse than confiscation of property. For the Vestal Virgins, however, it was a much more serious matter. They were considered daughters of the state, and having sexual relations with anyone was tantamount to treason.