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Release Date: March 11, 2011

Mary Beard to Present The Twelve Caesars: Images of Power From Ancient Rome to Salvador Dalí for the Sixtieth A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts at the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Washington, DC—Mary Beard, professor of classics, University of Cambridge, will present the Sixtieth A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts series, entitled The Twelve Caesars: Images of Power from Ancient Rome to Salvador Dalí, this spring at the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

The series will include the following lectures:

Julius Caesar: Inventing an Image
March 27

Heroes and Villains: In Miniatures, Marble, and Movies
April 3

Warts and All? Emperors Come Down to Earth
April 10

Caesar's Wife: Above Suspicion?
April 17

Dynasty: Collecting, Classifying, and Connoisseurship
May 1

Rough Work? Emperors Defaced and Destroyed
May 8

All lectures take place Sunday afternoons at 2:00 p.m. in the East Building Auditorium. The programs are free and open to the public, and seating is first come, first served.

The Roman emperors—especially the first twelve, from the assassinated Julius Caesar to the monster Domitian—are the most frequently represented mortal men in the history of the West. From the ancient world until (almost) the present day, they have been recreated in marble, bronze, silver, and gold; in cameo, painting, and ceramic; in colossal size and in miniature; and more recently in movies and caricatures. And of course, hundreds of thousands of tiny imperial portraits flooded the Roman world on coins; for it was the Roman Empire that first systematically put images of rulers on its money.

Twelve Caesars: Images of Power from Ancient Rome to Salvador Dalí will explore the astonishing variety of ancient images of Roman emperors (from ancient cookie molds to those familiar arrays of look-alike portrait busts), and they will wonder how the individuals have been pinned down. How do we distinguish a Julius Caesar from a Domitian? And how did the Romans? But they will also explore the even more numerous modern images of these men (along with their wives, mistresses, boyfriends, and daughters), created by some of the world's most notable artists, from Mantegna through Titian, to Alma-Tadema and Dalí. Why did monarchs and potentates choose to cast themselves in the image of the Caesars? Most of them were said to be immoral, despotic, and murderous, and several were themselves murdered in the name of liberty; they were hardly great examples to follow. The series will show just how striking and sometimes disturbing these images of ancient power still are, from the hints of luxury and excess they convey to the idea that any ineffectual modern politician is like a new emperor Nero—fiddling while Rome burns.

The Gallery's bookshop on the Concourse will offer a selection of publications by Beard, including The Classics (A Brief Insight) (with John Henderson, 2010), The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found (2008), The Roman Triumph (2007), The Colosseum (2005), The Parthenon (2002, rev. ed. 2010), and Classical Art: From Greece to Rome (with John Henderson, 2001).

The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts

The A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts were established in 1949 to bring to the people of the United States the results of the best contemporary thought and scholarship bearing upon the subject of the fine arts. The program is named for Andrew W. Mellon, the founder of the National Gallery of Art, who gave the nation his art collection and funds to build the West Building, which opened to the public in 1941.

Mary Beard

Mary Beard is professor of classics, University of Cambridge, and fellow of Newnham College, where she has taught for the last 25 years. She has written numerous books on the ancient world, which have been translated into more than a dozen languages. In 2008, Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town (published by Harvard University Press under the title The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found) received the Wolfson History Prize. Her many articles range in topic from the social and cultural life of ancient Greece and Rome to the Victorian understanding of antiquity.

Beard is classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement and writes a blog, A Don's Life, a selection of which has been published in book form. She is also a regular advisor and contributor to radio and television programs on the ancient world. She is currently co-principal investigator for the Leverhulme Project "Abandoning the Past in Victorian Britain." Beard's academic achievement has been acknowledged with election to fellow of the British Academy (2010) and the Society of Antiquaries (2007), and of the Archaeological Institute of America (2009), which made her corresponding member. She has delivered named lectures around the world. In 2008 Beard was Sather Professor at the University of California, Berkeley, where she gave a series of lectures on Roman laughter, one of her current research interests.

General Information

For additional press information please call or send inquiries to:
Department of Communications
National Gallery of Art
2000 South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
phone: (202) 842-6353
e-mail: [email protected]
Anabeth Guthrie
Chief of Communications
(202) 842-6804
[email protected]

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