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"The most beautiful female portrait I have ever seen" - Palmyrene Funerary Portraiture and Its Significance for the Study of Ancient Portrait Representations

Live-streamed lecture by Rubina Raja at Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. RSVP required (see link in event description).

Info about event


Thursday 25 March 2021,  at 12:30 - 15:00


Institute of Fine Arts, New York University.

N.B. Thursday, March 25, 2021, 12:30 PM ET. 

Please note that this is a live-streamed event local NY time. RSVP here, to receive the webinar link. 


In the 1920s and ‘30s the Danish archaeologist Harald Ingholt undertook archaeological work in Palmyra and investigated more than 100 graves. Ingholt’s interest in Palmyra was originally spurred by his knowledge of the collection of Palmyrene funerary portraits in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen, an institution where he also worked for five years as a curator. In 1928, he published his higher doctoral dissertation Studier over Palmyrensk Skulptur, where he presented a typological and chronological study of more than 500 funerary portraits. This work – published in Danish – has remained a standard work since then. Taking its point of departure in Ingholt’s work and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek’s collection, the Palmyra Portrait Project team has since 2012 been collecting all known funerary portraiture from the city in order to create a comprehensive corpus. The corpus holds more than 4,000 portraits at present, making it the largest group of funerary portraits from the Roman world stemming from one place. This lecture takes the corpus as its point of departure and focusses on giving an insight into this unique material and its significance for our understanding of trends and traditions in local portrait representations in Roman Palmyra. Furthermore, the lecture draws in new research done on Ingholt’s excavation diaries and connects this to objects in the corpus, showing the importance of considering archival material and fieldwork notes when reevaluating earlier studies.

Rubina Raja is a Professor of Classical Archaeology at Aarhus University, Denmark and director of the Danish National Research Foundation’s centre of excellence Centre for Urban Network Evolutions. She heads the Palmyra Portrait Project, Archive Archaeology and Circular Economy and Urban Sustainability projects – all collective research projects focusing on the archaeology, history and cultural heritage of Palmyra in Syria. She directs fieldwork projects in Rome and the Middle East. Raja’s research focusses on societal and urban developments and networks from the Hellenistic to the medieval periods, iconography, religion and religious life in Antiquity. While being a classical archaeologist, she also works in the fields intersecting archaeology and natural sciences bringing high definition studies of the past to the forefront. Her most recent books include a translation and edited version of Ingholt’s Studier over Palmyrensk Skulptur from 1928 (Brepols, 2021) and the new collection catalogue of the Palmyra collection in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen (Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, 2019).