Pop-art Solinjanka: transformations of the most famous Roman portrait in Croatia

History of young Plautilla is a story of a woman who became a victim of two men, her ambitious father Gaius Fulvius Plautianus and her husband and Roman emperor Caracalla. Future empress was born in Rome in the second half of 180's. Since earliest childhood her father was grooming her for marriage into the ruling family. Roman chroniclers even mention that her father castrated grown men in order for her to be surrounded with eunuchs only.
Plautilla grew up to become an educated young woman. Her father’s friendship with emperor Septimius Severus, who gave him the rank of praetorian prefect and the title of consul, resulted in her marriage with emperor’s son Caracalla in 202 AD. Historians tell us that Caracalla’s mother was against their union and that she encouraged her son’s aversion towards his new bride.
After her father’s death in 205 AD, their relationship further deteriorated and she was banished to the island of Lipari. Several years later, when Caracalla assumed the throne and became the Roman emperor in 211 AD, he ordered her death. Because of her father’s ambitions and her husband’s cruelty, Plautilla’s young life abruptly ended.

***

Portrait of a young girl was found in Solin, Roman Salona, and dates at the beginning of the 3rd century AD. It is made out of white marble and it represents the highlight of the imperial art of the Severan dynasty. It is characterized by precision and soft lines, which combined together with peculiar vividness make the marble seem almost transparent. Special attention was given to the empress' hair, divided into twelve parts resembling melon slices at the top, and webbed into a delicate bun at the back. The overall impression was emphasized by the eyes, made out of glass paste, while traces of brown pigment have been found in the hair, suggesting that the portrait was originally coloured.
Contrary to popular belief, ancient sculptors did not envision their works of art in shades of white. When we look at the marble used for sculpting ancient works of art under a microscope, we can see traces of various blue, yellow, red or green pigments. To revive the spirit of ancient sculpture, our Solinjanka is painted in vivid colours, keeping in mind the contemporary public.

Sunčica Habuš Nagradić & Danijel Lončar