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Fresco from the Villa of the Mysteries. Pompeii, 80 BCRoman art includes the visual arts produced in Ancient Rome, and in the territories of the Roman empire. Major forms of Roman art are architecture, painting, sculpture and mosaic work. Metal-work, coin-die and gem engraving, ivory carvings, figurine glass, pottery, and book illustrations are considered to be 'minor' forms of Roman artwork. [1]

Contents [hide] 1 Introduction 2 Painting 2.1 Variety of subjects 2.2 Periods 2.3 Landscape and vistas 2.4 Still life 2.5 Portraits 2.6 Genre scenes 2.7 Triumphal paintings 3 Sculpture 3.1 Portraiture 3.2 Historical relief 4 Architecture 5 See also 6 Notes and references 7 Sources 8 External links

[edit] Introduction Ancient art history series Middle East Ancient Egypt Mesopotamia Asia India China Japan Scythia European prehistory Etruscan Celtic Picts Norse Visigothic Classical art Ancient Greece Hellenistic Rome

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, 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.”[2]The adjective "vulgar" is used here in its original meaning, which means "common".

The Greek antecedents of Roman art were legendary. In the mid-fifth century B.C., the most famous Greek artists were Polygnotos, noted for his wall murals, and Apollodoros, the originator of chiaroscuro. The development of realistic technique is credited to Zeuxis and Parrhasius, who according to ancient Greek legend, are said to have once competed in a bravura display of their talents, history’s earliest descriptions of trompe l’oeil painting.[3] In sculpture, Skopas, Praxitele, Phidias, and Lysippos 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 but are now lost.[4] Many Roman artists came from Greek colonies and provinces.[5]

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.[6] 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, cameo, coin art, fine jewelry and metalwork, funerary sculpture, perspective drawing, caricature, genre and portrait painting, landscape painting, architectural sculpture, and trompe l’oeil painting—all were developed or refined by Ancient Greek artists.[7] 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.[8] Virtually every artistic technique and method used by Renaissance artists 1,900 year later, had been demonstrated by Ancient Greek artists, with the notable exceptions of oil colors and mathematically accurate perspective.[9] 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.[10]

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.[6] 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 AD, 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.[11] 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 in Constantinople 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.[12]

[edit] Painting

Pompeian painter with painted statue and framed painting PompeiiOur knowledge of Ancient Roman painting relies in large part on the preservation of artifacts from Pompeii and Herculanum, and particularly the Pompeian mural painting, which was preserved after the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D. 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.[4] In sum, the range of samples is confined to only about 200 years out of the about 900 years of Roman history.[13] Most of this wall painting was done using the secco (“dry”) method, but some fresco 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.[13] 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.[9]

[edit] 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.[9] Erotic scenes are also relatively common. In the late empire, after 200AD, early Christian themes mixed with pagan imagery survive on catacomb walls.[14]

[edit] Periods Roman mural painting is generally distinguished by four periods, as originally described by the German archaeologist August Mau and dealt with in more detail at Pompeian Styles.

[edit] Landscape and vistas

Boscotrecase , Pompeii. Second styleThe 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.[15]

The art of the ancient East would have known the landscape only in terms of civil or military scenes.[16] This theory, defended by Franz Wickhoff, is debatable. It is possible to see evidence of Greek knowledge of landscape portrayal in Plato's Critias (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..."[17]

[edit] Still life Roman still life 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 and Baroque periods.[18]

[edit] Portraits

The Severan Tondo, a panel painting of the imperial family, circa 200 AD Depiction of a woman with a ringlet hairstyle. Royal Museum of Scotland.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.” [19]

In Greece and Rome, wall painting was not considered as high art. The most prestigious form of art besides sculpture was panel painting, i.e. tempera or encaustic painting on wooden panels. Unfortunately, since wood is a perishable material, only a very few examples of such paintings have survived, namely the Severan Tondo from circa 200 AD, and the well-known Fayum mummy portraits. 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.[20] 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.[21]

[edit] 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.[13][9]

[edit] Triumphal paintings

Roman fresco from Boscoreale, 43-30 BCE, Metropolitan Museum of ArtFrom the 3rd century BC, a specific genre known as Triumphal Paintings appeared, as indicated by Pliny[22] (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 describes the painting executed on the occasion of Vespasian and Titus'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."[23]

These paintings have disappeared, but they likely influenced the composition of the historical reliefs carved on military sarcophagi, the Arch of Titus, and Trajan's Column. This evidence underscores the significance of landscape painting, which sometimes tended towards being perspective plans.

Ranuccio also describes the oldest painting to be found in Rome, in a tomb on the Esquiline Hill:

"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 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.

[edit] Sculpture Main article: Roman sculpture

Bust of Antinous, c. 130 AD Detail of the Antonine column. Drawn by Eugène Viollet-le-DucTraditional Roman sculpture is divided into five categories: portraiture, historical relief, funerary reliefs, sarcophagi, and copies of ancient Greek works.[24] 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, where an intact 2nd century A.D. Roman copy of a statue of Venus is displayed, while a similar original 500 B.C. Greek statue at the Louvre is missing her arms.

Contrary to the belief of early archaeologists, many of these sculptures were large polychrome 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 and porphyry) used both for painting and sculptures themselves, largely due to cost.

[edit] Portraiture Main article: Roman portraiture 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 B.C.) [25]

By the imperial age, though they were often realistic depictions of human anatomy, portrait sculpture of Roman emperors was 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.[8] The Romans also depicted warriors and heroic adventures, in the spirit of the Greeks who came before them.

[edit] Historical relief 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 in what is modern day Romania. 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.[26] 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.[11]

[edit] Architecture Main article: Roman architecture

Aqueduct of SegoviaIt 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. Massive buildings like the Pantheon and the Colosseum 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.[27] 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.[27]

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.[28]

During the Republican era, Roman architecture combined Greek and Etruscan elements, and produced innovations such as the round temple and the curved arch.[29] 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, was completed around 80 A.D. 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.[30] 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.[31]

It was during the reign of Trajan (98-117 A.D.) and Hadrian (117-138 A.D.) 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.[26] The Roman use of the arch, the use of concrete building methods, the use of the dome 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, the Baths of Diocletian, and the Baths of Caracalla. 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.[28] These grand buildings later served as inspirational models for architects of the Italian Renaissance, such as Brunelleschi. 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 built near the Colosseum, which recycled some stone work from the forum nearby, to produce an eclectic mix of styles.[14]

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 (featuring three tiers of arches) and the aqueduct of Segovia, serving as mute testimony to their quality of their design and construction.[30]

[edit] See also Latin literature Naturalis Historia Pliny the Elder Roman architecture Roman music Roman sculpture Erotic art in Pompeii and Herculaneum

[edit] Notes and references ^ Toynbee, J. M. C. (December 1971). "Roman Art". The Classical Review 21 (3): 439–442. Retrieved on 2007-12-11. ^ Sybille Ebert-Schifferer, Still Life: A History, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1998, p. 15, ISBN 0-8109-4190-2 ^ Ebert-Schifferer, p. 16 ^ a b Piper, p. 252 ^ H. W. Janson, The History of Art, Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1986, p. 158, ISBN 0-8109-1094-2 ^ a b Janson, p. 158 ^ David Piper, The Illustrated Library of Art, Portland House, New York, 1986, p. 248-253, ISBN0-517-62336-6 ^ a b Piper, p. 255 ^ a b c d Piper, p. 253 ^ Piper, p. 254 ^ a b Piper, p. 261 ^ Piper, p. 266 ^ a b c Janson, p. 190 ^ a b Piper, p. 260 ^ Janson, p. 191 ^ according to Ernst Gombrich. ^ Plato. Critias (107b-108b), trans W.R.M. Lamb 1925. at the Perseus Project accessed 27 June 2006 ^ Janson, p. 192 ^ John Hope-Hennessy, The Portrait in the Renaissance, Bollingen Foundation, New York, 1966, pp. 71-72 ^ Janson, p. 194 ^ Janson, p. 195 ^ Pliny, Natural History online at the Perseus Project ^ Josephus, The Jewish Wars VII, 143-152 (Ch 6 Para 5). Trans. William Whiston Online accessed 27 June 2006 ^ Gazda, Elaine K. (1995). "Roman Sculpture and the Ethos of Emulation: Reconsidering Repetition". 'Harvard Studies in Classical Philology' 97 (Greece in Rome: Influence, Integration, Resistance): 121–156. doi:10.2307/311303. Retrieved on 2007-12-11. ""According to traditional art-historical taxonomy, Roman sculpture is divided into a number of distinct categories--portraiture, historical relief, funerary reliefs, sarcophagi, and copies."". ^ Janson, p. 197 ^ a b Piper, p. 256 ^ a b Janson, p. 160 ^ a b Janson, p. 165 ^ Janson, p. 159 ^ a b Janson, p. 162 ^ Janson, p. 167

[edit] Sources Benton, Janetta Rebold and DiYanni, Robert. Arts and Culture. Volume 1. Prentice-Hall, 1998. New Jersey, United States. 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. Turner, Jane. The Dictionary of Art. Volumes 26 and 27. Macmillan, 2002. Hong Kong.

[edit] External links Ancient Rome Art History Resources == Retrieved from "" Categories: Roman Empire art | Ancient Roman art

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