This November, we will welcome one of the world’s leading classicists to the bookshop.
In this richly illustrated book, published in association with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, Beard asks: what does the face of power look like? Who gets commemorated in art and why? And how do we react to statues of politicians we deplore? Against a background of today’s ‘sculpture wars’, she tells of how portraits of the rich, powerful and famous throughout history have been shaped by the image of Roman emperors.
Beginning with the importance of imperial portraits in Roman politics, the book takes us through 2,000 years of art and cultural history, offering a fresh perspective on works by artists from Memling and Mantegna to the nineteenth-century African American sculptor Edmonia Lewis, as well as by generations of now-forgotten weavers, cabinetmakers, silversmiths, printers, and ceramicists. Rather than a story of a simple repetition of stable, blandly conservative images of imperial men and women, Twelve Caesars is an unexpected tale of changing identities, clueless or deliberate misidentifications, fakes, and often ambivalent representations of authority.
From Beard’s reconstruction of Titian’s extraordinary lost Room of the Emperors to her reinterpretation of Henry VIII’s famous Caesarian tapestries, Twelve Caesars includes some fascinating detective work and offers a gripping story of some of the most challenging and disturbing portraits of power ever created.