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Immortales: Norman Hosts the Emperors of Time



Antoninus Pius, 140 A.D. Photo courtesy Capitoline Museums, Rome

 


Regardless of humanity’s long-held and ongoing fascination with fountains of youth, sorcerer’s stones and holy grails, no one actually lives forever.
 

But fame is another story: despite the centuries that lie between their earthly ends and our modern day, more than a dozen denizens of ancient Rome are moving to Norman and taking up residence in the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art. Past presences fill Immortales: The Hall of Emperors of the Capitoline Museums, on display through Dec. 6.


The exhibition contains 20 irreplaceable busts from the Capitoline collection, spanning roughly six centuries in depicting the leaders of the Roman empire: from its founder Octavian Augustus to Honorius, and including Nero, Trajan, Hadrian, Vespasian (who built the Colosseum) and more.

“We chose the portraits based on three principles: the historical importance of the character; the artistic value of the piece; and the ability of the portrait to illustrate a certain shift, a certain change in the history of the art form, of imperial portraiture,” says guest curator Francesca Giani, who describes assembling this all-star collection as “an incredible opportunity.”

Because these are not solely likenesses – part of the viewing experience includes considering what message the subjects were trying to send by ordering the sculptors to make them look younger or more stern and commanding or friendlier.
 

A portrait of an imperial Roman noblewoman, known as the “Fonseca Bust,” carved from white marble between 110-130 A.D. Photo courtesy Capitoline Museums, Rome


Still, there is much of the individual characters of these rulers in their busts; Giani says, “You really get a sense of the presence in our space and time of these people, who were alive at one point … and are still alive in a sense today – 2,000 years later.” That sense is what prompted the title “Immortales,” she adds. “The idea of immortality sort of echoes with Hippocrates’ aphorism that art lasts forever while life ends. These people have reached immortality, in a way, through art.”

Giani also implores Oklahomans not to miss this singular opportunity to view these historic creations: “This is the first time that these portraits have crossed the ocean in the history of humanity, and they will not cross the ocean again in our lifetimes.”

None of us, after all, are immortal. 


Hair Apparent

According to Giani, one aspect of Roman sculptural portraiture that might not immediately register to modern audiences is right in plain sight: atop the head. She explains, “Hairstyle was chosen very carefully, to indicate affiliation with a previous emperor, perhaps. For instance, Nero – who descended directly from Augustus and whose regency was somewhat controversial – used the so-called Julio-Claudian hairstyle, which was modeled after Augustus, so that was his way to legitimize his at-that-point compromised position.”

The idea was that people seeing him with a coiffure like his venerated ancestor would think better of him due to the tonsorial resemblance.

“The portraits are full of visual clues,” says Giani, “so I think the exhibit is very important in that it shows how art communicates, like a hidden language.”

 

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January 2019

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Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
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Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

ArtNow is Oklahoma Contemporary's annual exhibition of Oklahoma-based contemporary artists. It closes with art sale - the first big party of the year with cocktails, tastemakers and the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary
3000 General Pershing Blvd
Oklahoma City, OK  73107
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

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Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
Oklahoma City, OK  73103
View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

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Where:
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Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
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Cost: $12.50

Where:
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Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

ArtNow is Oklahoma Contemporary's annual exhibition of Oklahoma-based contemporary artists. It closes with art sale - the first big party of the year with cocktails, tastemakers and the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary
3000 General Pershing Blvd
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View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
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Show More...
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Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
NW 11th and Broadway
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View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
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Where:
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1 Nature Place
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View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

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Cost: $12.50

Where:
National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum
1700 Northeast 63rd Street
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View map »


Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

ArtNow is Oklahoma Contemporary's annual exhibition of Oklahoma-based contemporary artists. It closes with art sale - the first big party of the year with cocktails, tastemakers and the...

Cost: Free

Where:
Oklahoma Contemporary
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View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
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Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
Campbell Art Park
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View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

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Where:
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Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
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Cost: $12.50

Where:
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Telephone: 405.478.2250
Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

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Cost: Free

Where:
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Telephone: 405.951.0000
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Cost: Free

Where:
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View map »


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Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
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Where:
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Contact Name: Jenni
Website »

More information

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Cost: Free

Where:
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Through March 2019, Oklahoma Contemporary is partnering with Madison Square Park Conservancy to bring Erwin Redl’s installation Whiteout to Campbell Art Park. Whiteout is comprised of...

Cost: Free

Where:
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View map »


Sponsor: Oklahoma Contemporary
Telephone: 405.951.0000
Contact Name: Lori Brooks
Website »

More information

Visitors to Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary will be able to let their imaginations run wild as they travel back in time with life-size animatronic dinosaurs along a half-mile...

Where:
Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
1 Nature Place
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View map »


Sponsor: Heard Natural Science Museum & Wildlife Sanctuary
Telephone: 972.562.5566
Contact Name: Stephanie Jennings
Website »

More information

Men and women from across the American West played critical roles - both “over there” and on the home front - in helping the Allies win World War I. The National Cowboy & Western...

Cost: $12.50

Where:
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View map »


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Contact Name: Jenni
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