Verism is the artistic preference of contemporary everyday subject matter instead of the heroic or legendary in art and literature; a form of realism. The word comes from Latin verus (true).
In Roman art
Verism was often used by the Romans in marble sculptures of heads. Verism, often described as "warts and all", shows the imperfections of the subject, such as warts, wrinkles and furrows. It zeroes in on the minuscule details of the human head. It should be absolutely noted that the term veristic in no way implies that these portraits are more "real". Rather, they too can be highly exaggerated or idealised, but within a different visual idiom, one which favours wrinkles, furrows, signs of age as indicaters of gravity and authority. Although the marble heads themselves came from the Greeks, this style is extremely different from Greek head sculptures because the Greek would idealize the subject, and liken the subject to a god. The Veristic style was favoured in the late Republican period. It has been noted that veristic Roman sculptures were generally credited to a Greek or someone of Eastern background, and argued that this suggests the veristic style is of Greek origin.
The subject of the so-called "veristic" portraits of the late Republic holds a special fascination for the classical art historian, especially on the difficult question of the origins of the style, which still remains, essentially, open and unresolved. Yet despite the thoroughness with which the topic is debated, one possible influence upon the emerging veristic style, that of the ancestral portrait, continues to receive inadequate consideration.
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