CFM Gallery
.138 138 West 17th Street 9th Floor, New York, NY 10011 (212)966 3864.
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Open Tuesday thru Saturday 10am to 6pm

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Lisa Lichtenfels
Realism in Fabric
April 2011

Fabric Sculpture


Livia Drusilla (58 BCE to 29 CE) was the most powerful woman of the early Roman Empire, and many historians insist she was the most powerful ever to have lived. As the wife of Caesar Augustus, she not only had the Emperor’s ear, but, if he was slow in implementing her advice, she could just do it herself, and pretend it had been his idea. Besides guiding the first Emperor through his career, she gave birth to the lines of its next four emperors as well, to wit: son Tiberius Caesar, grandson Claudius, great-grandson Caligula, and great-great-grandson Nero. A simple review of this line of succession provides the strongest of all reasons why empires do tend to become so fragile.

She was the daughter of Marcus Livius Drusus Claudianus, a close friend and fellow-conspirator of Marcus Brutus, and among the slayers of Caesar, which Mark Antony chased out of Italy. They regrouped in Greece, but Antony pressed them so hard most of them committed suicide, including Livia’s father. When Otavian (soon to become Emperor Caesar Augustus) came into power, the families of the assassins were pardoned and they returned to Rome, including Livia, then married to Tiberius Claudius Nero, and very pregnant. Caesar himself had set up the Empire, but the power structure had never been established, and there was much work to be done.

When Octavian first met with Livia, he recognized in her a determined capacity for devious and pernicious intrigue that would tolerate no element of opposition – and he knew that, with her at his side, the Empire would succeed, and strengthen under their rule. As it did. They immediately divorced their spouses, and three days after giving birth, Livia’s ex-husband stood for her at her marriage to the new emperor, Caesar
Augustus (Octavian). That marriage lasted over 50 years while she wove her lines of power; and these were often difficult years, especially as Livia had a lot of scores to settle from her time of exile – even her husband’s descendants proved mysteriously short-lived. Indeed, Livia’s grasp on who should be in power, and who should not, was as firm as the hand of death.

In the end, the two not only recognized how much they needed each other, but they came to fear each other as well – thus attaining a kind of wisdom few such unions can boast. Power is a balancing act, and is not only a source of capacity, but of great caution as well.

CFM Gallery
Exquisite technique coupled with artistic vision defines our user-friendly presentation of figurative fine art paintings, sculptures and original graphics. Contemporary symbolism at its apex in the traditions of Bosch, the Italian Renaissance, Art Deco, Art Nouveau, the Viennese and German Secession and the symbolist movements with an edge of surrealism.