Roma 2024

Effigies (latin word for portrait)

This series explores the psychological portrait, its evolution, memory and legacy; The democratisation of  portraiture as well as its influence in the history of art through photographs of sculptures.

The physiognomical portrait was first introduced around 4th century B.C. in Ancient Greece when artists started paying attention and replicating the physical characteristics of their subjects. Portraits then could only be dedicated to deities or royalty. But I like stories of rogue artists who attempt to bring such privileges down to us commons like that one of Fidias, an artist that carved most of the decorative sculptures in the Parthenon and which legend tells that he was severely punished for daring to portray his own image inside the shield of the Parthenon’s main statue dedicated to Athena. 

This form of portraiture expanded all the way to the Roman Empire giving birth to the Roman republican portrait where artists reached such technical abilities that they were able to reproduce the psychological characteristics of the Roman upper class representing their noble, strong, efficient, intelligent and powerful traits.

Thanks to Christianity, portraiture suffered a period of darkness; It’s not until the 16th century when artists retake the physiognomical and psychological traits left by the Romans and in the 17th century they push it to it’s maximum expression adding emotion to the portraits produce.

We owe it to the birth of the bourgeoisie and their patronage for commissioning portraits of their rich family members, all mortal, men and women alike. But It was Gian Lorenzo Bernini probably the first known artist who dared to dedicate an expensive block of Carrera marble to a common mortal. A beautifully delicate portrait of his lover, Constanza Bonarelli portraing her with her still messy bed hair, unbuttoned shirt from a night of passion and her lips slightly open as she’s a bout to whisper something to the artist.

At the same time, in 17th century Germany, Franz Xavier Messerschmidt lost his mind studying the human face obsessively by looking at himself in the mirror making all sorts of facial expressions. He produced 69 busts of 64 different expressions, all of these still mesmerising to today’s standards. 

It amazes me how humans have had this fascination of recreating the human face and body since the invention of tools painting hunters in caves to this day with digital photography and even through prompting A.I. technologies. But it fascinates me even more how deep our connection is with emotions that we are able to recreate them for thousands of years through different media.

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