Verism in art is the preference for contemporary and mundane subject matters in favour of heroic or legendary narratives.

Verism dates back to the Roman empire, and the term verism is thus derived from the Roman Latin word verus (true). In art that translates into a form of realism that takes everything on as it is. I.e. if a producing a veristic sculpture or painting you depict a sitter with warts, wrinkles and all instead of a highly idealised depiction.

Verism as evident in Roman Art

In contrast to the Greeks, the Romans used verism in their art rather than idealism. Greek sculptures usually portrayed men with perfect bodies and faces, whereas Roman sculpture portrayed men as themselves or as their real image.

Veristic sculptures usually portray older men with physical imperfections. These imperfections were used to show the individual as he or she was, and to produce an image of individuality. Wrinkles were welcome signs of old age, and old age was a sign that the individual was wise. This can be explained quite simply. While Rome was still a Republic, only the elders actually held power. Hence, republican veristic portraits celebrate higher status in society.

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