Twelve Caesars: Images of Power from the Ancient World to the Modern - The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts (Hardback)Mary Beard (author)
Examining representations of the Twelve Caesars through over 2,000 years, Beard's beautifully eloquent and stunningly illustrated volume makes eye-opening connections across history.
From the bestselling author of SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome, the fascinating story of how images of Roman autocrats have influenced art, culture, and the representation of power for more than 2,000 years.
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? In this book -against a background of today's "sculpture wars" - Mary Beard tells the story of how for more than two millennia portraits of the rich, powerful, and famous in the western world have been shaped by the image of Roman emperors, especially the "Twelve Caesars," from the ruthless Julius Caesar to the fly-torturing Domitian. Twelve Caesars asks why these murderous autocrats have loomed so large in art from antiquity and the Renaissance to today, when hapless leaders are still caricatured as Neros fiddling while Rome burns.
Beginning with the importance of imperial portraits in Roman politics, this richly illustrated book offers a tour through 2,000 years of art and cultural history, presenting a fresh look at works by artists from Memling and Mantegna to the nineteenth-century American sculptor Edmonia Lewis, as well as by generations of 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 fascinating detective work and offers a gripping story of some of the most challenging and disturbing portraits of power ever created.
Published in association with the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Number of pages: 392
Dimensions: 241 x 165 mm
"A Barnes & Noble Best History Book of the Year"
"A Waterstones Best History Book of 2021"
"A CapX Book of the Year"
"One of Kirkus Reviews' Best Nonfiction Books of the Year"
"One of Kirkus Reviews' Best Biographies of the Year"
"A Library Journal Fall 2021 Nonfiction Must"
"What better escape from the woes of our present day than rolling around in the intrigues of the Roman Empire? Naughty Caesars! Pictures too! Avidly I plunge in!" - Margaret Atwood
"A mesmerizing read."---Michael Dirda, Washington Post
"This deeply researched account explores how Roman art has shaped the Western world’s understanding of power for two millenniums, from ancient Roman imperial portraits to the work of the 19th-century American sculptor Edmonia Lewis." - New York Times
"Beard, a prolific author and a distinguished classical scholar, brilliantly describes the ways in which images of Roman emperors have influenced art, culture and politics for two millennia. . . . Twelve Caesars is a masterly demonstration of scholarship in a variety of fields, from republican Roman politics to Renaissance tapestry to contemporary British collage. Again and again, Ms. Beard gives us unexpected insights. . . . Twelve Caesars is wonderfully readable, with graceful prose and witty comments along the way."---Barry Strauss, Wall Street Journal
"This thoroughgoing survey examines the relationship between ancient imperial imagery and the modern visual imagination. . . . With handsome illustrations of coins, canvases, frescoes, and teacups, Beard brings the prestige and power of these emperors’ half-invented faces into tighter focus." - The New Yorker
"Twelve Caesars is fascinating and not only because its author writes so engagingly. Many years in the making, the world into which it will be born is not quite the same as the one in which it was conceived. Its preoccupations—essentially, it’s about the way that images of Roman emperors from Caesar to Domitian have influenced culture across the centuries—are suddenly and newly of the moment in a Britain that has become completely fixated with statues."---Rachel Cooke, The Observer
"A fantastic new book."---Tom Holland, The Rest Is History
"In [Beard's] work, the consumption of classical culture is as revealing as the culture itself."---Josh Spero, Financial Times
"[A] fascinating book, which embarks on a study of not just the Julio-Claudian dynasty of caesars made infamous by Suetonius and Robert Graves but also of their ubiquitous iconography—in statues, on coins, in paintings and sculpture. It’s an eye-catching field guide to these famous ancient rulers." - Christian Science Monitor
"Beard upends many of our assumptions by looking at how these rulers have been represented in art, from antiquity to the modern-day. It’s a clever and entertaining exercise in helping us reframe how we think about the distant past."---Darragh Geraghty, Irish Times
"[A] rich disquisition on the Caesars’ visual representation. . . . [Twelve Caesars is] handsomely illustrated and brightly ringing with Beard’s enjoyment and scholarship. . . . Beard shows the joy of classical texts, and how they are the ultimate resource when visual art fails to be comprehensible to us."---Hermione Eyre, The Spectator
"[Twelve Caesars] abounds in expert and keen-eyed readings of Roman imperial images, with insights into the meanings they might have held for those who displayed them. . . . [Beard’s] insights are always original and her lively, cheeky prose style always compelling."---James Romm, Daily Beast
"Beard has written a fascinating book, one to browse happily. It sparkles with ideas, many of them characteristically provocative. Pictorially it is a sheer delight. As for the question of attribution or misattribution, well, you can read this delightful book in the spirit of a detective."---Allan Massie, The Scotsman
"Beard provides a masterclass for art historians and classicists on the challenges of interpretation and the potentialities of meaning in this neglected area of classical studies, so important to elite visual power politics between the 15th and 19th centuries."---Simon J. V. Malloch, Literary Review
"Beard wades boldly into muddy territory and emerges with a portrait of the emperors’ afterlives that is as vivid as the busts themselves. The book leaves little room for doubt as to how influential the role of later artists and buyers has been in adding muscle to the sinews of emperors passed down from the ancient world. The twelve Caesars are arguably among the finest inventions of posterity."---Daisy Dunn, The Critic
"A leading scholar as well as a writer of bestsellers, [Mary] Beard, as always, asks important questions. . . . [In Twelve Caesars,] she leads us through the best available evidence and delivers insightful answers in lucid prose accompanied by dazzling images. . . . A lively treatise on Roman art and power, deliciously opinionated and beautifully illustrated." - Kirkus Reviews, starred review
"Incisive prose and wit. . . . This lavishly illustrated volume will be accessible and interesting to a wide variety of readers; a must-read for anyone interested in classics or art history." - Library Journal
"A sumptuously illustrated, beautifully designed, gloriously rich work of history from the distinguished classicist with a lively literary voice, an extraordinary eye for telling detail, and a grand sense of humor. Twelve Caesars is a masterful, brilliant work of detection, a joy to read." - B&N Reads
"[Twelve Caesars] currently sits on my nightstand. . . . . I've been interested in power for quite a while: who has it, who doesn’t, how to acquire it and how to use it for the greater good."---Bernardine Evaristo, Elle.com
"With her reputation for viewing Roman history through a feminist lens, Mary Beard may be the most popular classicist in the world. . . . Focusing on images of power throughout the ages, from ancient Rome to the present, [Twelve Caesars] will only grow her fan base." - ARTnews Magazine
"[Beard] explores in fascinating and entertaining detail how the long-dead Roman emperors have lived on in the Western imagination, providing a rich store of moral and political exemplars to instruct, warn and mock their successors. . . . Beard provides instruction as well as entertainment."---Stephen Mills, Inside Story
"There’s lots of moments in this book that are surprising and very funny."---Andrew Roberts, BBC Radio Four: Start The Week
"A detective masterpiece of entertaining misattributions, reinterpretations, and blatant fakes. "---Eugenia Ellanskaya, Minerva Magazine
"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 fascinating detective work and offers a gripping story of some of the most challenging and disturbing portraits of power ever."---Angela Crocombe, Readings
"An enthralling story of how images of Roman emperors have influenced art, culture, and the representation of power for more than 2,000 years. . . . Drawing on a wealth of research, and a multitude of paintings and sculptures, Beard explores the importance of portraits in Roman politics and provides interesting insights into famous pieces of art. A fascinating book." - Canberra Weekly
"Beard is a consummate reader of images. One of her great strengths is the way she is constantly alive to the potential for images to misbehave. . . . A clever, witty, thought-provoking book."---Alastair J. L. Blanshard, Australian Book Review
"In discussing what the faces of imperial power looked like, Beard presents a fascinating detective story of changing identities told through a selection of historical artworks."---Lindsay Powell, Ancient History
"Engaging, erudite and enormously informative. . . . Beard’s fascinating book asks its readers to be curious about, and critical of, redeployments of the images of Roman emperors from the Renaissance in Italy to 20th-century America."---Marguerite Keane, America
"Beard’s style of investigation is often just as interesting as some of her findings. . . . 'Are we sure we know that?' is her consistent refrain. It’s a refreshing sort of intellectual humility—speaking confidently when an answer can be known, but also recognizing when caution is warranted."---Regina Munch, Commonweal
"[Beard’s] latest triumph. Twelve Caesars takes readers on a delightful journey through artistic representations of Rome’s emperors. . . .This book could be read at the beach, then cited in a dissertation."---Mikayla Barreiro, Comitatus
"An amazing, richly illustrated, book that reveals Mary Beard as a sleuth."---Scot McKnight, Christianity Today
"[A] welcome contribution to the study of representation of Roman emperors in early modern visual arts."---Miryana Dimitrova, Classical Review
"A tour de force of art and intellectual history."---James Corke-Webster, Greece and Rome
"Twelve Caesars by Mary Beard is a brilliant and engaging historical account of the lives of twelve Roman emperors. The book is a remarkable feat of scholarship that brings to life the personal and political complexities of these powerful men." - The F
"[Mary Beard] masterfully combines expert knowledge and scholarly rigour with a clear and engaging writing style. . . .An important book with much to say about the place of the Classical World in modern society."---Donald MacLennan, The Journal of Classics Teaching
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