Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz
Project title: Konzepte vom toten Körper in der römischen Bildkunst von der späten Republik bis zur mittleren Kaiserzeit
Supervisors: Univ.-Prof. Dr. Heide Frielinghaus, apl. Prof. Dr. Annemarie Ambühl
Dead bodies feature in numerous pictorial representations and also in a broad spectrum of differently designed themes. Corresponding pictures are linked with various material genres of Roman art, such as round sculpture, relief art, wall painting and mosaic, and are found in different contexts of use. This applies to the depictions of human and animal bodies as well as the bodies of mythological creatures.
The aim of the dissertation is to achieve an overview of the occurrence, the conception and the function of the dead body in the Roman pictorial world of the Late Republic and Early/Middle Empire to allow a better understanding of the motif in future research. This includes a critical evaluation of the established interpretation of the dead body as a symbol for superiority, cult of the dead or sacrificial rituals. This involves investigating which figures are characterized as "dead", how this is done and in what pictorial contexts to distinguish the representation of a dead body from that of a sleeping or a dying body. Furthermore, defined categories can concern the dead figure itself, but also the mode of representation, the posture, the manner of death, the positioning in the image field or the context of the picture. Differentiated according to genres and their specific functions, potentially different concepts of the dead body will be highlighted and an overview of their contextual and diachronic use can be achieved. Based on this, and including written sources, the meaning and the handling of the dead body as well as the functions of its representation can be studied. In addition, the existence of different concepts of the dead body throughout object genres, contexts or time has to be taken into consideration as well as its significance in the socio-cultural context.