Dr. Fischer observes imperial patronage through newly published book

LU’s Dr. Julie Fischer has unveiled groundbreaking insights into the role of imperial patronage and the empowerment of women in Ancient Rome through the publication of her latest book, "Power and Propaganda: Large Imperial Cameos of the Early Roman Empire."  Dr. Fischer

An Imperial cameo typically refers to a cameo that features a portrait or depiction of a notable figure from history, often a ruler or monarch. These cameos are usually crafted from materials such as shell, stone, or glass, with the portrait carved in relief, creating a contrasting image against the background. Imperial cameos have been used throughout history as symbols of power, authority and status, often worn as jewelry or incorporated into decorative objects. They can be found in various forms, including brooches, pendants, and even larger-scale sculptures. 

"I first became interested in the large Imperial cameos of the Roman Empire when I was in my master's program at Mizzou [University of Missouri-Columbia],” Dr. Fischer said. “I was in my second year and taking a Minor Arts of Antiquity class and was struggling to come up with a topic for my thesis. My advisor suggested researching the Tazza Farnese. I fell in love with large Imperial cameos." 

The book delves into the significance of large Imperial cameos within the context of Roman art and iconography, shedding light on their role in propagating political messages and projecting the power of the emperor.  

"Roman Imperial art was all about power, propaganda, and persuasion. Freestanding sculptures, triumphal arches, and other monuments were placed in public locations in Rome. The Romans used art and iconography to advertise to the Roman citizenry the emperor’s strength, connection to the gods, and most significant accomplishments,” Dr. Fischer said. 

Furthermore, "Power and Propaganda" challenges traditional narratives by proposing a feminist theory regarding the commissioning of large Imperial cameos by female imperial family members.  

"The gemstones were the perfect, subtle way for imperial wives and other female imperial family members to persuade the emperor to choose her son as heir, thus utilizing cameos as weapons of propaganda,” Dr. Fischer said. 

However, the journey to publication was not without its challenges.  

"This book was 20 years in the making, so that was the major challenge. But in the last three years, after I got the contract with Routledge to write this book, my major challenge was balancing teaching, research, and service,” Dr. Fisher said. 

"Power and Propaganda" promises to fill a crucial gap in the existing scholarship on Roman art and Imperial patronage.  
“Up to this point, large Imperial cameos have not been treated as a cohesive group that must be studied together to understand each fully. ‘Power and Propaganda’ examines the five extant large Imperial cameos – along with the Aquileia Dish, a figured silver dish that inspired these large Imperial cameos and ignited the Julio-Claudian craze for these luxurious gemstones – as a referential group with complex interrelationships,” Dr. Fischer said. 

In conclusion, Dr. Fischer expresses her hope for the impact of the work. 

"I hope that a reader understands that there is much more to Roman art than public buildings and sculptures commissioned by the male emperors,” Dr. Fischer said. “Female members of the Imperial family, restricted in their opportunities, were nevertheless able to make their own mark in Imperial propaganda in the Early Roman Empire with the creation of several large Imperial cameos."