Roman altar of a woman

Designing Women on Roman Funerary Altars

1:00pm - 2:00pm / Thursday 4th March 2021
Type: Seminar / Category: Department
  • Add this event to my calendar

    Create a calendar file

    Click on "Create a calendar file" and your browser will download a .ics file for this event.

    Microsoft Outlook: Download the file, double-click it to open it in Outlook, then click on "Save & Close" to save it to your calendar. If that doesn't work go into Outlook, click on the File tab, then on Open & Export, then Open Calendar. Select your .ics file then click on "Save & Close".

    Google Calendar: download the file, then go into your calendar. On the left where it says "Other calendars" click on the arrow icon and then click on Import calendar. Click on Browse and select the .ics file, then click on Import.

    Apple Calendar: The file may open automatically with an option to save it to your calendar. If not, download the file, then you can either drag it to Calendar or import the file by going to File >Import > Import and choosing the .ics file.

Guest speaker: Sarah Sheard (University of Cambridge)

This paper looks at the representation of female bodies on 1st-2nd century AD Italian funerary altars, a corpus that has been subjected to rigorous sociological analysis but remains underworked in terms of its construction of gender. Some altars do represent women and girls through the fantastical lens of myth – in a manner not dissimilar from the mythological sarcophagi that have so far dominated discussions of gender in the funerary sphere. Yet more striking are those altars which construct gender difference by representing femininity as image, appearance: funerary altars that depict women who are so exceedingly practiced in the art of cultus and self-fashioning that they construct themselves as a sight that visually harmonises with the decorative elements of the funerary altar, in particular the popular seashell tondo. In this sense, the funerary altars offer a very different perspective on the female as looked-at in Roman visual culture, and the construction of gender difference even in death.

Please email Rachael Cornwell ( or Daniel Lowes ( for the zoom link.