Catalog of the Fine Arts Collection
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Pierre Olivier Joseph Coomans (1816-1889), Belgian
Five years after he bought Aspasia at New York's Knoedler Gallery, Fairbanks added another work by the artist to his collection, Roman Women. Unlike the private moment of reflection in the earlier painting, Roman Women depicts a public exchange, as a widow and her daughter appeal to the viewer for donations of clothing or valuables to support them. War and disease were common in ancient Rome, and the elder woman's gesture toward a small funeral vault at lower left suggests that they are appealing for aid after the death of her husband. The woman remains stoic in expression, despite her hardship, exemplifying the Roman ideal of self-containment.