2022 Wardrobe Malfunctions: Uncovering Roman Women by Lillian Joyce

Lecture Poster

The Department of Classical Studies presents “Wardrobe Malfunctions: Uncovering Roman Women” by Lillian Joyce (The University of Alabama in Huntsville) on Thursday, October 20, 2022 at 5PM in Jones 108.

Ancient Roman artists portrayed the exposed female breast on a variety of characters from mytho-historical figures to deities to portraits of actual women. It is a common display in art and occurs in diverse media and contexts. Its appearance poses a conundrum. Actual Roman women wore clothing that concealed most of their body and modesty was a celebrated female virtue. If the Romans considered revealing the female breast as indecorous in real life, why do we see it so often in art? I argue that the revealed breast could signal a variety of meanings, sometimes even multiple meanings in the same figure. The range of possibilities includes loss of decorum, gender inversion, erotic display, culpability, vulnerability, maternal nurture, supplication, and valor.