Marcia Furnilla Roman, Marcia Furnilla
79-81 CE. Marble. Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Denmark.
Oskar 2013 Chuck Close, Oskar, 2013
color Polaroid diptych mounted on aluminum
53-1/4 x 43-7/8" (135.3 x 111.4 cm), overall installed
53-3/4 x 22" (136.5 x 55.9 cm), left panel
53-1/4 x 21-7/8" (135.3 x 55.6 cm), right panel
Photograph courtesy the artist and Pace Gallery
© Chuck Close, courtesy Pace Gallery


In her statue Marcia Furnilla is given the body of Venus, which acts as a kind of costume; the woman's actual body is replaced by a divine one. This explains the contrast between Furnilla's aged face and round youthful body. The Venus body in this case is an indicator of femininity and fertility, important qualities for the Roman woman to possess. In this case the body into an expressive tool, a symbol for qualities a person may possess that are deeper than the exterior.

Unlike the coy covering gestures of Furnilla, Oskar holds her arms up to expose her nudity to us. However, in this case the body can also be understood as symbol, as something that can tell us about the person we are looking at. This idea is strengthened by the fact that Oskar's face is not very visible. It is turned aside, allowing the focus to lie on the body. Though the face may be able to tell us plenty, the body can be as important as an indicator of who we are.

In both of these works, the subject is in some sense disembodied. Furnilla is denied a depiction of her actual body, and given another – though her body acts as a symbol, it does not tell us anything about her particular life, but rather communicates general ideal qualities for a Roman woman to have. And Oskar is in a sense denied her individualism too – her face is turned aside, and her body has been fractured in two.