The Easel

Archives: Mary Beard

13th March 2018

Sex and death in the classical world

The ancient Greeks thought the finest art should be “a perfect illusion of reality”. Likewise the Romans. Why? In sculpture and even more so the portraits painted on coffin lids, the effort at realism is striking. “These portraits … were not just memorials. They were attempts to keep the dead present among the living and to blur the boundary between this world and the next.”