«Portraits of Power: Roman Emperors in Modern Spain» by Mary Beard (V.O.)

José Pedro Pérez-Llorca Lecture 2021
Thursday, October 28, 2021, 7:00 p.m.

«This lecture looks at paintings and sculptures of ancient Roman emperors made over the last 500 years. Although they are often treated as rather dull images, as if they were mere badges of status for kings and aristocrats, I shall be arguing that some are far more interesting than that; they question and undermine political power, as well as confirming it. Many of my examples are drawn mainly from work in Spain, with a particular focus on what were once most familiar of all images of Roman emperors. These were Titian’s ‘Eleven Caesars’: originally painted for the Gonzaga of Mantua, bought up by Charles I of England, moved again to the court of Philip IV and destroyed in the Alcázar fire in 1734. How can we reconstruct and understand the changing meanings of these famous paintings?»
Mary Beard


Mary Beard is one of the world’s best-known Classicists – Professor at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Newnham College. She has written numerous books on the Ancient World including the prize-winning Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town and bestseller SPQR – A History of Ancient Rome, in addition to her thought-provoking Women & Power – all of which have been translated into many languages and sold worldwide. She has presented highly-acclaimed television documentary series: Meet the Romans and Rome – Empire without Limit, and is a regular broadcaster and media commentator. Mary was one of the presenters for the BBC’s landmark Civilisations series for which she wrote an accompanying book. Her recent BBC series, The Shock of the Nude explored the history of the depiction of the naked body in Western art and she has recently been working on a series exploring forbidden art. Mary also presents a regular BBC television arts show, Front Row Late, is Classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement and writes a thought-provoking blog, A Don’s Life. Made an OBE in 2013 for services to Classical scholarship, Mary was further made a Dame in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2018. In 2016 Mary was awarded the prestigious Spanish prize, The Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences and more recently the Getty Medal. Mary’s latest book, Twelve Caesars, to be published in autumn 2021, looks at the image of the emperor through Western art history.

José Pedro Pérez-Llorca Lecture
The José Pedro Pérez-Llorca Lecture, instituted in homage to the individual who chaired the Royal Board of Trustees of the National Museum of the Prado between 2012 and 2019, and maintained a deeply committed personal and professional connection with this institution, is scheduled by the Center of Studies as an annual encounter with the classical world. Not by chance, in the proximity of the end of the grape harvest, the José Pedro Pérez-Llorca Lecture brings us each year the visit of a distinguished individual among scholars of Greco-Latin culture, who will speak to us about a subject in which the Prado Museum and Antiquity will necessarily be present.

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