Saturday, April 22, 2006

Mars, Venus and the admonitory hand

Here is another tombstone showing the woman wearing a head covering. This image is also from Women in the Classical World.

    The woman extends an admonitory hand to touch her husband, as the little boy peeps out from behind them. The inscription with its many names cannot be used to identify the self-absorbed family group set before us, but the woman's gesture is based on a scene from high art, showing the divine couple Venus and Mars; yet the simple and veristic style of the relief seems worlds away from such classical sources. For the freed slaves who commissioned this group of reliefs, upward mobility came from the public self-representation of family, something to which only a free person was entitled, since a slave had no right to her or his own children, or to make a legal contract such as marriage.

In sculptures of Mars and Venus, Venus is often posed with a hand on Mars shoulder. This pair have occasonally been used as a model for a married couple in art ever since. I know the story of Mars and Venus, but I am not familiar with the reference to the 'admonitory hand'. I have posted this image for its simple beauty, the way it shows a married couple, the woman wearing a veil, with her hand on her husband. There is no other intention but just to enjoy it. And if you know the history of the admonitory hand, I would love to hear it.

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