The Freedman in Roman Art and Art History
From monumental tombs and domestic decoration, to acts of benefaction and portraits of ancestors, Roman freed slaves, or freedmen, were prodigious patrons of art and architecture. Traditionally, however, the history of Roman art has been told primarily through the monumental remains of the emperors and ancient writers who worked in their circles. In this study, Lauren Petersen critically investigates the notion of 'freedman art' in scholarship, dependent as it is on elite-authored texts that are filled with hyperbole and stereotype of freedmen, such as the memorable fictional character Trimalchio, a boorish ex-slave in Petronius' Satyricon. She emphasizes integrated visual ensembles within defined historical and social contexts and aims to show how material culture can reflect preoccupations that were prevalent throughout Roman society. Interdisciplinary in scope, this book explores the many ways that monuments and artistic commissions by freedmen spoke to a much more complex reality than that presented in literature.