The Moral Mirror: Reflection and Metamorphosis in Roman Art


Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowships


History of Art and Architecture


In Roman visual and literary culture, the mirror is often represented as an index and an engine of personal transformation. The theme of metamorphosis through reflectivity extends far beyond the famous example of Narcissus; it emerges in ecstatic religious ritual and moral philosophy as well as narratives of many kinds, both verbal and visual. I seek to follow the theme through ancient Greek and Italian cultures in all of its manifestations, and to distill its significance in a book-length study that focuses particularly on Roman art. Special attention will be given to reflections in mythological tableaux and in representations of Dionysiac ritual; but the project also inquires about similar phenomena in the folklore of other cultures around the world.