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Roman art

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Roman art has the visual arts made in Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

, and in the territories of the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. Major forms of Roman art are architecture
Roman architecture
Ancient Roman architecture adopted certain aspects of Ancient Greek architecture, creating a new architectural style. The Romans were indebted to their Etruscan neighbors and forefathers who supplied them with a wealth of knowledge essential for future architectural solutions, such as hydraulics...

, painting
Painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

, sculpture
Sculpture
Sculpture is three-dimensional artwork created by shaping or combining hard materials—typically stone such as marble—or metal, glass, or wood. Softer materials can also be used, such as clay, textiles, plastics, polymers and softer metals...

 and mosaic work
Roman mosaic
A Roman mosaic is any mosaic, made in Ancient Rome or by Roman artists outside of Roman frontiers. The Romans introduced exquisite mosaics in their domestic architecture and in the places of worship. The earliest examples of Roman floor mosaics are dated to the late Republican period and are...

. Metal-work, coin-die and gem engraving, ivory carving
Ivory carving
Ivory carving is the carving of ivory, that is to say animal tooth or tusk, by using sharp cutting tools, either mechanically or manually. The ancient craft has now virtually ceased, as since CITES it is illegal under most circumstances throughout the world....

s, figurine glass, pottery
Ancient Roman pottery
Pottery was produced in enormous quantities in ancient Rome, mostly for utilitarian purposes. It is found all over the former Roman Empire and beyond...

, and miniature book illustrations
Miniature (illuminated manuscript)
The word miniature, derived from the Latin minium, red lead, is a picture in an ancient or medieval illuminated manuscript; the simple decoration of the early codices having been miniated or delineated with that pigment...

 are sometimes considered in modern terms to be minor forms of Roman art, although this would not necessarily have been the case for contemporaries.

Introduction


While the traditional view of Roman artists is that they often borrowed from, and copied Greek precedents (much of the Greek sculpture known today is in the form of Roman marble copies), more recent analysis has indicated that Roman art is a highly creative pastiche relying heavily on Greek models but also encompassing Etruscan, native Italic, and even Egyptian visual culture. Stylistic eclecticism and practical application are the hallmarks of much Roman art.

Pliny
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

, Ancient Rome’s most important historian concerning the arts, recorded that nearly all the forms of art — sculpture, landscape, portrait painting, even genre painting — were advanced in Greek times, and in some cases, more advanced than in Rome. Though very little remains of Greek wall art and portraiture, certainly Greek sculpture and vase painting bears this out. These forms were not likely surpassed by Roman artists in fineness of design or execution. As another example of the lost “Golden Age”, he singled out Peiraikos, “whose artistry is surpassed by only a very few… He painted barbershops and shoemakers’ stalls, donkeys, vegetables, and such, and for that reason came to be called the ‘painter of vulgar subjects’; yet these works are altogether delightful, and they were sold at higher prices than the greatest [paintings] of many other artists.” The adjective "vulgar" is used here in its original meaning, which means "common".

The Greek antecedents of Roman art were legendary. In the mid-5th century BC., the most famous Greek artists were Polygnotos, noted for his wall murals, and Apollodoros, the originator of chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro
Chiaroscuro in art is "an Italian term which literally means 'light-dark'. In paintings the description refers to clear tonal contrasts which are often used to suggest the volume and modelling of the subjects depicted"....

. The development of realistic technique is credited to Zeuxis and Parrhasius
Zeuxis and Parrhasius
.Zeuxis was a painter who flourished during the 5th century BC.-Life and work:Zeuxis was born in Heraclea, probably Heraclea Lucania in southern Italy, around 464 BC and was presumably the pupil of Apollodorus. Zeuxis often thought himself misunderstood by his public and Aristotle did not like...

, who according to ancient Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 legend, are said to have once competed in a bravura display of their talents, history’s earliest descriptions of trompe l’oeil painting. In sculpture, Skopas, Praxiteles
Praxiteles
Praxiteles of Athens, the son of Cephisodotus the Elder, was the most renowned of the Attic sculptors of the 4th century BC. He was the first to sculpt the nude female form in a life-size statue...

, Phidias
Phidias
Phidias or the great Pheidias , was a Greek sculptor, painter and architect, who lived in the 5th century BC, and is commonly regarded as one of the greatest of all sculptors of Classical Greece: Phidias' Statue of Zeus at Olympia was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World...

, and Lysippos
Lysippos
Lysippos was a Greek sculptor of the 4th century BC. Together with Scopas and Praxiteles, he is considered one of the three greatest sculptors of the Classical Greek era, bringing transition into the Hellenistic period. Problems confront the study of Lysippos because of the difficulty of...

 were the foremost sculptors. It appears that Roman artists had much Ancient Greek art to copy from, as trade in art was brisk throughout the empire, and much of the Greek artistic heritage found its way into Roman art through books and teaching. Ancient Greek treatises on the arts are known to have existed in Roman times though are now lost. Many Roman artists came from Greek colonies and provinces...
The high number of Roman copies of Greek art also speaks of the esteem Roman artists had for Greek art, and perhaps of its rarer and higher quality. Many of the art forms and methods used by the Romans—such as high and low relief, free-standing sculpture, bronze casting, vase art, mosaic
Mosaic
Mosaic is the art of creating images with an assemblage of small pieces of colored glass, stone, or other materials. It may be a technique of decorative art, an aspect of interior decoration, or of cultural and spiritual significance as in a cathedral...

, cameo, coin art, fine jewelry and metalwork, funerary sculpture, perspective drawing, caricature
Caricature
A caricature is a portrait that exaggerates or distorts the essence of a person or thing to create an easily identifiable visual likeness. In literature, a caricature is a description of a person using exaggeration of some characteristics and oversimplification of others.Caricatures can be...

, genre and portrait painting
Portrait painting
Portrait painting is a genre in painting, where the intent is to depict the visual appearance of the subject. Beside human beings, animals, pets and even inanimate objects can be chosen as the subject for a portrait...

, landscape painting, architectural sculpture, and trompe l’oeil painting—all were developed or refined by Ancient Greek artists. One exception is the Greek bust, which did not include the shoulders. The traditional head-and-shoulders bust may have been an Etruscan or early Roman form. Virtually every artistic technique and method used by Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 artists 1,900 year later, had been demonstrated by Ancient Greek artists, with the notable exceptions of oil colors and mathematically accurate perspective. Where Greek artists were highly revered in their society, most Roman artists were anonymous and considered tradesmen. There is no recording, as in Ancient Greece, of the great masters of Roman art, and practically no signed works. Where Greeks worshipped the aesthetic qualities of great art and wrote extensively on artistic theory, Roman art was more decorative and indicative of status and wealth, and apparently not the subject of scholars or philosophers.

Owing in part to the fact that the Roman cities were far larger than the Greek city-states in power and population, and generally less provincial, art in Ancient Rome took on a wider, and sometimes more utilitarian, purpose. Roman culture assimilated many cultures and was for the most part tolerant of the ways of conquered peoples. Roman art was commissioned, displayed, and owned in far greater quantities, and adapted to more uses than in Greek times. Wealthy Romans were more materialistic; they decorated their walls with art, their home with decorative objects, and themselves with fine jewelry.

In the Christian era of the late Empire, from 350-500 CE, wall painting, mosaic ceiling and floor work, and funerary sculpture thrived, while full-sized sculpture in the round and panel painting died out, most likely for religious reasons. When Constantine moved the capital of the empire to Byzantium (renamed Constantinople), Roman art incorporated Eastern influences to produce the Byzantine style of the late empire. When Rome was sacked in the 5th century, artisans moved to and found work in the Eastern capital. The Church of Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia
Hagia Sophia is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey...

 in Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 employed nearly 10,000 workmen and artisans, in a final burst of Roman art under Emperor Justinian (527-565 AD), who also ordered the creation of the famous mosaics of Ravenna
Ravenna
Ravenna is the capital city of the Province of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy and the second largest comune in Italy by land area, although, at , it is little more than half the size of the largest comune, Rome...

.

Painting



Our knowledge of Ancient Roman painting relies in large part on the preservation of artifacts from Pompeii
Pompeii
The city of Pompeii is a partially buried Roman town-city near modern Naples in the Italian region of Campania, in the territory of the comune of Pompei. Along with Herculaneum, Pompeii was destroyed and completely buried during a long catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius spanning...

 and Herculaneum
Herculaneum
Herculaneum was an ancient Roman town destroyed by volcanic pyroclastic flows in AD 79, located in the territory of the current commune of Ercolano, in the Italian region of Campania in the shadow of Mt...

, and particularly the Pompeian mural painting
Pompeian Styles
The Pompeian Styles are four periods which are distinguished in ancient Roman mural painting. They were originally delineated and described by the German archaeologist August Mau, 1840 – 1909, from the excavation of wall paintings at Pompeii, which is one of the largest group of surviving examples...

, which was preserved after the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Nothing remains of the Greek paintings imported to Rome during the 4th and 5th centuries, or of the painting on wood done in Italy during that period. In sum, the range of samples is confined to only about 200 years out of the about 900 years of Roman history, and of provincial and decorative painting. Most of this wall painting was done using the secco (“dry”) method, but some fresco
Fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

 paintings also existed in Roman times. There is evidence from mosaics and a few inscriptions that some Roman paintings were adaptations or copies of earlier Greek works. However, adding to the confusion is the fact that inscriptions may be recording the names of immigrant Greek artists from Roman times, not from Ancient Greek originals that were copied.

Variety of subjects


Roman painting provides a wide variety of themes: animals, still life, scenes from everyday life, portraits, and some mythological subjects. During the Hellenistic period, it evoked the pleasures of the countryside and represented scenes of shepherds, herds, rustic temples, rural mountainous landscapes and country houses. Erotic scenes are also relatively common. In the late empire, after 200AD, early Christian themes mixed with pagan imagery survive on catacomb walls.

Periods


Roman mural painting is generally distinguished by four periods, as originally described by the German archaeologist August Mau
August Mau
August Mau was a prominent German art historian and archaeologist who worked with the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut while studying and classifying the Roman paintings at Pompeii, which was destroyed with the town of Herculaneum by volcanic eruption in 79 AD...

 and dealt with in more detail at Pompeian Styles
Pompeian Styles
The Pompeian Styles are four periods which are distinguished in ancient Roman mural painting. They were originally delineated and described by the German archaeologist August Mau, 1840 – 1909, from the excavation of wall paintings at Pompeii, which is one of the largest group of surviving examples...

.

Landscape and vistas



The main innovation of Roman painting compared to Greek art was the development of landscapes, in particular incorporating techniques of perspective, though true mathematical perspective developed 1,515 years later. Surface textures, shading, and coloration are well applied but scale and spatial depth was still not rendered accurately. Some landscapes were pure scenes of nature, particularly gardens with flowers and trees, while others were architectural vistas depicting urban buildings. Other landscapes show episodes from mythology, the most famous demonstrating scenes from the Odyssey
Odyssey
The Odyssey is one of two major ancient Greek epic poems attributed to Homer. It is, in part, a sequel to the Iliad, the other work ascribed to Homer. The poem is fundamental to the modern Western canon, and is the second—the Iliad being the first—extant work of Western literature...

.

The art of the ancient East would have known the landscape only in terms of civil or military scenes. This theory, defended by Franz Wickhoff
Franz Wickhoff
Franz Wickhoff was an Austrian art historian, and is considered a member of the Vienna School of Art History. Wickhoff studied at the University of Vienna under Alexander Conze and Moritz Thausing. In 1879 he received a position at the k.k...

, is debatable. It is possible to see evidence of Greek knowledge of landscape portrayal in Plato's Critias
Critias (dialogue)
Critias, one of Plato's late dialogues, contains the story of the mighty island kingdom Atlantis and its attempt to conquer Athens, which failed due to the ordered society of the Athenians...

(107b-108b):
"...and if we look at the portraiture of divine and of human bodies as executed by painters, in respect of the ease or difficulty with which they succeed in imitating their subjects in the opinion of onlookers, we shall notice in the first place that as regards the earth and mountains and rivers and woods and the whole of heaven, with the things that exist and move therein, we are content if a man is able to represent them with even a small degree of likeness..."

Still life


Roman still life
Still life
A still life is a work of art depicting mostly inanimate subject matter, typically commonplace objects which may be either natural or man-made...

 subjects are often placed in illusionistic niches or shelves and depict a variety of everyday objects including fruit, live and dead animals, seafood, and shells. Examples of the theme of the glass jar filled with water were skillfully painted and later served as models for the same subject often painted during the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 and Baroque
Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 periods.

Portraits



Pliny complained of the declining state of Roman portrait art, “The painting of portraits which used to transmit through the ages the accurate likenesses of people, has entirely gone out…Indolence has destroyed the arts.”

In Greece and Rome, wall painting was not considered as high art. The most prestigious form of art besides sculpture was panel painting
Panel painting
A panel painting is a painting made on a flat panel made of wood, either a single piece, or a number of pieces joined together. Until canvas became the more popular support medium in the 16th century, it was the normal form of support for a painting not on a wall or vellum, which was used for...

, i.e. tempera
Tempera
Tempera, also known as egg tempera, is a permanent fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigment mixed with a water-soluble binder medium . Tempera also refers to the paintings done in this medium. Tempera paintings are very long lasting, and examples from the 1st centuries AD still exist...

 or encaustic painting
Encaustic painting
Encaustic painting, also known as hot wax painting, involves using heated beeswax to which colored pigments are added. The liquid/paste is then applied to a surface—usually prepared wood, though canvas and other materials are often used...

 on wooden panels. Unfortunately, since wood is a perishable material, only a very few examples of such paintings have survived, namely the Severan Tondo
Severan Tondo
The Severan Tondo, from circa AD 200, is one of the few preserved examples of panel painting from Classical Antiquity. It is a tempera or egg-based painting on a circular wooden panel , with a diameter of 30.5 cm...

 from circa 200 AD, a very routine official portrait from some provincial government office, and the well-known Fayum mummy portraits
Fayum mummy portraits
Mummy portraits or Fayum mummy portraits is the modern term given to a type of naturalistic painted portraits on wooden boards attached to mummies from the Coptic period. They belong to the tradition of panel painting, one of the most highly regarded forms of art in the Classical world...

, all from Roman Egypt, and almost certainly not of the highest contemporary quality. The portraits were attached to burial mummies at the face, from which almost all have now been detached. They usually depict a single person, showing the head, or head and upper chest, viewed frontally. The background is always monochrome, sometimes with decorative elements. In terms of artistic tradition, the images clearly derive more from Greco-Roman traditions than Egyptian ones. They are remarkably realistic, though variable in artistic quality, and may indicate the similar art which was widespread elsewhere but did not survive. A few portraits painted on glass and medals from the later empire have survived, as have coin portraits, some of which are considered very realistic as well.

Genre scenes


Roman genre scenes generally depict Romans at leisure and include gambling, music and sexual encounters. Some scenes depict gods and goddesses at leisure.

Triumphal paintings


From the 3rd century BC, a specific genre known as Triumphal Paintings appeared, as indicated by Pliny (XXXV, 22). These were paintings which showed triumphal entries after military victories, represented episodes from the war, and conquered regions and cities. Summary maps were drawn to highlight key points of the campaign.
Josephus
Josephus
Titus Flavius Josephus , also called Joseph ben Matityahu , was a 1st-century Romano-Jewish historian and hagiographer of priestly and royal ancestry who recorded Jewish history, with special emphasis on the 1st century AD and the First Jewish–Roman War, which resulted in the Destruction of...

 describes the painting executed on the occasion of Vespasian
Vespasian
Vespasian , was Roman Emperor from 69 AD to 79 AD. Vespasian was the founder of the Flavian dynasty, which ruled the Empire for a quarter century. Vespasian was descended from a family of equestrians, who rose into the senatorial rank under the Emperors of the Julio-Claudian dynasty...

 and Titus
Titus
Titus , was Roman Emperor from 79 to 81. A member of the Flavian dynasty, Titus succeeded his father Vespasian upon his death, thus becoming the first Roman Emperor to come to the throne after his own father....

's sack of Jerusalem:
"There was also wrought gold and ivory fastened about them all; and many resemblances of the war, and those in several ways, and variety of contrivances, affording a most lively portraiture of itself. For there was to be seen a happy country laid waste, and entire squadrons of enemies slain; while some of them ran away, and some were carried into captivity; with walls of great altitude and magnitude overthrown and ruined by machines; with the strongest fortifications taken, and the walls of most populous cities upon the tops of hills seized on, and an army pouring itself within the walls; as also every place full of slaughter, and supplications of the enemies, when they were no longer able to lift up their hands in way of opposition. Fire also sent upon temples was here represented, and houses overthrown, and falling upon their owners: rivers also, after they came out of a large and melancholy desert, ran down, not into a land cultivated, nor as drink for men, or for cattle, but through a land still on fire upon every side; for the Jews related that such a thing they had undergone during this war. Now the workmanship of these representations was so magnificent and lively in the construction of the things, that it exhibited what had been done to such as did not see it, as if they had been there really present. On the top of every one of these pageants was placed the commander of the city that was taken, and the manner wherein he was taken."


These paintings have disappeared, but they likely influenced the composition of the historical reliefs carved on military sarcophagi
Sarcophagus
A sarcophagus is a funeral receptacle for a corpse, most commonly carved or cut from stone. The word "sarcophagus" comes from the Greek σαρξ sarx meaning "flesh", and φαγειν phagein meaning "to eat", hence sarkophagus means "flesh-eating"; from the phrase lithos sarkophagos...

, the Arch of Titus
Arch of Titus
The Arch of Titus is a 1st-century honorific arch located on the Via Sacra, Rome, just to the south-east of the Roman Forum. It was constructed in c.82 AD by the Roman Emperor Domitian shortly after the death of his older brother Titus to commemorate Titus' victories, including the Siege of...

, and Trajan's Column
Trajan's Column
Trajan's Column is a Roman triumphal column in Rome, Italy, which commemorates Roman emperor Trajan's victory in the Dacian Wars. It was probably constructed under the supervision of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus at the order of the Roman Senate. It is located in Trajan's Forum, built near...

. This evidence underscores the significance of landscape painting, which sometimes tended towards being perspective plans.

Ranuccio
Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli
Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli was an Italian archaeologist and art historian.-Biography:A Marxist, Bianchi Bandinelli was descended from ancient aristocracy in Siena. His early research focused on the Etruscan centers close to his family lands, Clusium and Suana...

 also describes the oldest painting to be found in Rome, in a tomb on the Esquiline Hill
Esquiline Hill
The Esquiline Hill is one of the celebrated Seven Hills of Rome. Its southern-most cusp is the Oppius .-Etymology:The origin of the name Esquilino is still under much debate. One view is that the Hill was named after the abundance of holm-oaks, exculi, that resided there...

:
"It describes a historical scene, on a clear background, painted in four superimposed sections. Several people are identified, such Marcus Fannius and Marcus Fabius. These are larger than the other figures...In the second zone, to the left, is a city encircled with crenellated walls, in front of which is a large warrior equipped with an oval buckler and a feathered helmet; near him is a man in a short tunic, armed with a spear...Around these two are smaller soldiers in short tunics, armed with spears...In the lower zone a battle is taking place, where a warrior with oval buckler and a feathered helmet is shown larger than the others, whose weapons allow to assume that these are probably Samnites.


This episode is difficult to pinpoint. One of Ranuccio's hypotheses is that it refers to a victory of the consul Fabius Maximus Rullianus
Fabius Maximus Rullianus
Quintus Fabius Maximus Rullianus , son of Marcus Fabius Ambustus, of the patrician Fabii of ancient Rome, was five times consul and a hero of the Samnite Wars. He was brother to Marcus Fabius Ambustus ....

 during the second war against Samnites in 326 BC. The presentation of the figures with sizes proportional to their importance is typically Roman, and finds itself in plebeian reliefs. This painting is in the infancy of triumphal painting, and would have been accomplished by the beginning of the 3rd century BC to decorate the tomb.

Sculpture





Traditional Roman sculpture is divided into five categories: portraiture, historical relief, funerary reliefs, sarcophagi, and copies of ancient Greek works. Roman sculpture was heavily influenced by Greek examples, in particular their bronzes. It is only thanks to some Roman copies that a knowledge of Greek originals is preserved. One example of this is at the British Museum
British Museum
The British Museum is a museum of human history and culture in London. Its collections, which number more than seven million objects, are amongst the largest and most comprehensive in the world and originate from all continents, illustrating and documenting the story of human culture from its...

, where an intact 2nd century AD. Roman copy of a statue of Venus is displayed, while a similar original 500 BC. Greek statue at the Louvre
Louvre
The Musée du Louvre – in English, the Louvre Museum or simply the Louvre – is one of the world's largest museums, the most visited art museum in the world and a historic monument. A central landmark of Paris, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the 1st arrondissement...

 is missing her arms.

Contrary to the belief of early archaeologists, many of these sculptures were large polychrome
Polychrome
Polychrome is one of the terms used to describe the use of multiple colors in one entity. It has also been defined as "The practice of decorating architectural elements, sculpture, etc., in a variety of colors." Polychromatic light is composed of a number of different wavelengths...

 terra-cotta images, such as the Apollo of Veii (Villa Givlia, Rome), but the painted surface of many of them has worn away with time. Romans were nearly unique in the mixtures of materials (e.g. marble
Marble
Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite.Geologists use the term "marble" to refer to metamorphosed limestone; however stonemasons use the term more broadly to encompass unmetamorphosed limestone.Marble is commonly used for...

 and porphyry
Porphyry (geology)
Porphyry is a variety of igneous rock consisting of large-grained crystals, such as feldspar or quartz, dispersed in a fine-grained feldspathic matrix or groundmass. The larger crystals are called phenocrysts...

) used both for painting and sculptures themselves, largely due to cost.

Portrait sculpture



Portrait sculpture from the Republican era tends to be somewhat more modest, realistic, and natural compared to early Imperial works. A typical work might be one like the standing figure “A Roman Patrician with Busts of His Ancestors” (c. 30 BC.)

By the imperial age, though they were often realistic depictions of human anatomy, portrait sculpture of Roman emperors were often used for propaganda purposes and included ideological messages in the pose, accoutrements, or costume of the figure. Since most emperors from Augustus on were deified, some images are somewhat idealized. The Romans also depicted warriors and heroic adventures, in the spirit of the Greeks who came before them. Portrait sculptures were more commonly found.

History reliefs


While Greek sculptors traditionally illustrated military exploits through the use of mythological allegory, the Romans used a more documentary style. Roman reliefs of battle scenes, like those on the Column of Trajan, were created for the glorification of Roman might, but also provide first-hand representation of military costumes and military equipment. Trajan's column records the various Dacian wars conducted by Trajan
Trajan
Trajan , was Roman Emperor from 98 to 117 AD. Born into a non-patrician family in the province of Hispania Baetica, in Spain Trajan rose to prominence during the reign of emperor Domitian. Serving as a legatus legionis in Hispania Tarraconensis, in Spain, in 89 Trajan supported the emperor against...

 in what is modern day Romania
Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

. It is the foremost example of Roman historical relief and one of the great artistic treasures of the ancient world. This unprecedented achievement, over 650 foot of spiraling length, presents not just realistically rendered individuals (over 2,500 of them), but landscapes, animals, ships, and other elements in a continuous visual history—in effect an ancient precursor of a documentary movie. It survived destruction when it was adapted as a base for Christian sculpture. During the Christian era after 300 AD, the decoration of door panels and sarcophagi continued but full-sized sculpture died out and did not appear to be an important element in early churches.

Architecture




It was in the area of architecture that Roman art produced its greatest innovations. Because the Roman Empire extended over so great an area and included so many urbanized areas, Roman engineers developed methods for city building on a grand scale, including the use of concrete
Concrete
Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...

. Massive buildings like the Pantheon
Pantheon, Rome
The Pantheon ,Rarely Pantheum. This appears in Pliny's Natural History in describing this edifice: Agrippae Pantheum decoravit Diogenes Atheniensis; in columnis templi eius Caryatides probantur inter pauca operum, sicut in fastigio posita signa, sed propter altitudinem loci minus celebrata.from ,...

 and the Colosseum
Colosseum
The Colosseum, or the Coliseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheatre , is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire...

 could never have been constructed with previous materials and methods. Though concrete had been invented a thousand years earlier in the Near East, the Romans extended its use from fortifications to their most impressive buildings and monuments, capitalizing on the material’s strength and low cost. The concrete core was covered with a plaster, brick, stone, or marble veneer, and decorative polychrome and gold-gilded sculpture was often added to produce a dazzling effect of power and wealth.

Because of these methods, Roman architecture is legendary for the durability of its construction; with many buildings still standing, and some still in use, mostly buildings converted to churches during the Christian era. Many ruins, however, have been stripped of their marble veneer and are left with their concrete core exposed, thus appearing somewhat reduced in size and grandeur from their original appearance, such as with the Basilica of Constantine.

During the Republican era, Roman architecture combined Greek and Etruscan elements, and produced innovations such as the round temple and the curved arch. As Roman power grew in the early empire, the first emperors inaugurated wholesale leveling of slums to build grand palaces on the Palatine Hill and nearby areas, which required advances in engineering methods and large scale design. Roman buildings were then built in the commercial, political, and social grouping known as a forum, that of Julius Caesar being the first and several added later, with the Forum Romanum being the most famous. The greatest arena in the Roman world, the Colosseum
Colosseum
The Colosseum, or the Coliseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheatre , is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire...

, was completed around 80 AD. at the far end of that forum. It held over 50,000 spectators, had retractable fabric coverings for shade, and could stage massive spectacles including huge gladiatorial contests and mock naval battles. This masterpiece of Roman architecture epitomizes Roman engineering efficiency and incorporates all three architectural orders—Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian. Less celebrated but just as important if not more so for most Roman citizens, was the five-story insula or city block, the Roman equivalent of an apartment building, which housed tens of thousands of Romans.

It was during the reign of Trajan (98-117 AD.) and Hadrian (117-138 AD.) that the Roman Empire reached its greatest extent and that Rome itself was at the peak of its artistic glory— achieved through massive building programs of monuments, meeting houses, gardens, aqueducts, baths, palaces, pavilions, sarcophagi, and temples. The Roman use of the arch
Arch
An arch is a structure that spans a space and supports a load. Arches appeared as early as the 2nd millennium BC in Mesopotamian brick architecture and their systematic use started with the Ancient Romans who were the first to apply the technique to a wide range of structures.-Technical aspects:The...

, the use of concrete
Concrete
Concrete is a composite construction material, composed of cement and other cementitious materials such as fly ash and slag cement, aggregate , water and chemical admixtures.The word concrete comes from the Latin word...

 building methods, the use of the dome
Dome
A dome is a structural element of architecture that resembles the hollow upper half of a sphere. Dome structures made of various materials have a long architectural lineage extending into prehistory....

 all permitted construction of vaulted ceilings and enabled the building of these public spaces and complexes, including the palaces, public baths and basilicas of the “Golden Age” of the empire. Outstanding examples of dome construction include the Pantheon
Pantheon, Rome
The Pantheon ,Rarely Pantheum. This appears in Pliny's Natural History in describing this edifice: Agrippae Pantheum decoravit Diogenes Atheniensis; in columnis templi eius Caryatides probantur inter pauca operum, sicut in fastigio posita signa, sed propter altitudinem loci minus celebrata.from ,...

, the Baths of Diocletian
Baths of Diocletian
The Baths of Diocletian in Rome were the grandest of the public baths, or thermae built by successive emperors. Diocletian's Baths, dedicated in 306, were the largest and most sumptuous of the imperial baths. The baths were built between the years 298 AD and 306 AD...

, and the Baths of Caracalla
Baths of Caracalla
The Baths of Caracalla in Rome, Italy were Roman public baths, or thermae, built in Rome between AD 212 and 216, during the reign of the Emperor Caracalla.- History :...

. The Pantheon (dedicated to all the planetary gods) is the best preserved temple of ancient times with an intact ceiling featuring an open “eye” in the center. The height of the ceiling exactly equals the interior diameter of the building, creating an enclosure that could contain giant sphere. These grand buildings later served as inspirational models for architects of the Italian Renaissance, such as Brunelleschi
Filippo Brunelleschi
Filippo Brunelleschi was one of the foremost architects and engineers of the Italian Renaissance. He is perhaps most famous for inventing linear perspective and designing the dome of the Florence Cathedral, but his accomplishments also included bronze artwork, architecture , mathematics,...

. By the age of Constantine (306-337 AD), the last great building programs in Rome took place, including the erection of the Arch of Constantine
Arch of Constantine
The Arch of Constantine is a triumphal arch in Rome, situated between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. It was erected to commemorate Constantine I's victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312...

 built near the Colosseum
Colosseum
The Colosseum, or the Coliseum, originally the Flavian Amphitheatre , is an elliptical amphitheatre in the centre of the city of Rome, Italy, the largest ever built in the Roman Empire...

, which recycled some stone work from the forum nearby, to produce an eclectic mix of styles.

Roman aqueducts, also based on the arch, were commonplace in the empire and essential transporters of water to large urban areas. Their standing masonry remains are especially impressive, such as the Pont du Gard
Pont du Gard
The Pont du Gard is a notable ancient Roman aqueduct bridge that crosses the Gard River in southern France. It is part of a long aqueduct that runs between Uzès and Nîmes in the South of France. It is located in Vers-Pont-du-Gard near Remoulins, in the Gard département...

 (featuring three tiers of arches) and the aqueduct of Segovia
Aqueduct of Segovia
The Aqueduct of Segovia is a Roman aqueduct and one of the most significant and best-preserved ancient monuments left on the Iberian Peninsula...

, serving as mute testimony to their quality of their design and construction.

See also

  • Latin literature
    Latin literature
    Latin literature includes the essays, histories, poems, plays, and other writings of the ancient Romans. In many ways, it seems to be a continuation of Greek literature, using many of the same forms...

  • Music of ancient Rome
  • Naturalis Historia
    Naturalis Historia
    The Natural History is an encyclopedia published circa AD 77–79 by Pliny the Elder. It is one of the largest single works to have survived from the Roman Empire to the modern day and purports to cover the entire field of ancient knowledge, based on the best authorities available to Pliny...

  • Pliny the Elder
    Pliny the Elder
    Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

  • Roman architecture
    Roman architecture
    Ancient Roman architecture adopted certain aspects of Ancient Greek architecture, creating a new architectural style. The Romans were indebted to their Etruscan neighbors and forefathers who supplied them with a wealth of knowledge essential for future architectural solutions, such as hydraulics...

  • Roman sculpture
    Roman sculpture
    The study of ancient Roman sculpture is complicated by its relation to Greek sculpture. Many examples of even the most famous Greek sculptures, such as the Apollo Belvedere and Barberini Faun, are known only from Roman Imperial or Hellenistic "copies." At one time, this imitation was taken by art...

  • Erotic art in Pompeii and Herculaneum
    Erotic art in Pompeii and Herculaneum
    Erotic art in Pompeii and Herculaneum was discovered in the ancient cities around the bay of Naples after extensive excavations began in the 18th century. The city was found to be full of erotic art and frescoes, symbols, and inscriptions regarded by its excavators as pornographic. Even many...

  • Bacchic art
    Bacchic art
    Bacchic art refers, in general, to art honouring the god Bacchus, but in specific to representations, particularly sculpture, of his followers, such as satyrs, centaurs and hermaphrodites...


Sources

  • Benton, Janetta Rebold and DiYanni, Robert. Arts and Culture. Volume 1. Prentice-Hall, 1998. New Jersey, United States.
  • Janson, H. W. The History of Art, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1986, ISBN 0-8109-1094-2
  • Hyun, Marie Sue. " The Art of Dream Healing." DK Publishing, 1998. New York, New York.
  • Kleiner, Fred S. A History of Roman Art. Thompson Wadsworth, 2007. Belmont, CA.
  • Marceau, Jo. Art: A World History. DK Publishing, 1998. New York, New York.
  • Montverdi, Mario. The Book of Art. Volume 1: The Origins of Western Art. Grolier 1967. Milan, Italy.
  • Nuttgens, Patrick. The World's Great Architecture. Excalibur, 1981. New York, New York.
  • Piper, David. The Illustrated Library of Art, Portland House, New York, 1986, ISBN0-517-62336-6
  • Turner, Jane. The Dictionary of Art. Volumes 26 and 27. Macmillan, 2002. Hong Kong.

External links