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Roman Sculpture. Is there such a thing as a Roman style of sculpture? Romans have reputation as imitators- copied many Greek sculptures, vast quantities of work are adaptations and variations of Greek models

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Is there such a thing as a Roman style of sculpture?

  • Romans have reputation as imitators- copied many Greek sculptures, vast quantities of work are adaptations and variations of Greek models
  • Roman demand for sculpture was high- attributed to ANTIQUARIANISM (the love of antiquities) and their desire for interior design- Greek and Egyptian copied were in vogue at the time
  • The slides that follow focus on wholly Roman subjects- portraiture and narrative relief
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Republican Sculpture

  • Political and military heroes were honored by having their statues put on public display
  • Found in Etruscan territory
  • This gesture reoccurs in hundreds of Roman statues
  • Artist was probably Etruscan, but worked in the Roman style
  • Very, serious, factual in detail(tied shoelaces)

Aulus Metellus, early 1st c., Bronze

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Unmistakable purely Roman style of portraits

  • Detailed record of “facial topography”
  • Designed not to bring out emotion like Hellenic sculpture, but to show a Roman personality-rugged, stern, iron-willed, authoritative
  • Roman custom- at death, a waxen image was taken of the head of the family, this was then preserved in a special shrine in the house- none remain
  • Towards the 1st century BC, as the Republican era waned, people felt the need to record these images in stone, to prove their ancient lineage

Portrait of a Roman, c.80 BC

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Shows the tradition of Roman with these busts

  • The wax images weren’t works of art- they were just copies of the face-when they were put into marble, the faces took on a spiritual quality
  • The waxes were often copied in marble many times-uniqueness was not an important Roman goal

Roman Patrician with Bust of his Ancestors, 1st c. BC

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Imperial Sculpture--

  • Portrait sculptures become more god-like
  • The idea of the divine ruler (Egypt and Near East) has returned!!
  • Has common Roman pose
  • Idealized figure and face
  • Realistic surface detail
  • “inspired” glance
  • Does have a definite likeness, when compared with other Augustus portraits
  • Emperor’s likeness was reproduced so many times, that it became a national emblem

Augustus of Prima Porta, c.20BC

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Ara Pacis, c.13-9 BC

  • Narrative relief was also popular- to commemorate emperor’s achievements
  • This had not been done in Greece- no specific historic events were recorded
  • Ara Pacis- Augustus preferred to be depicted as a defender of peace rather than as a military hero
  • Monumental frieze depicts allegorical and legendary scenes
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Ara Pacis detail

  • Has a Hellenistic, classicist style
  • Procession of a concrete event- the founding of the altar in 13 BC
  • People depicted are meant to be portraits
  • Great concern for spatial depth
slide9

Spoils from the Temple in Jerusalem, Arch of Titus, 81 AD

  • Arch erected in 81 AD to commemorate the victories of Emperor Titus
  • Idea of movement is successfully portrayed-shows the procession moving away from the viewer
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The purposes of Imperial art sometimes were incompatible with a realistic treatment of space

  • Commemorated Trajan’s victories over the Dacians (ancient Romanians)
  • Free standing columns were used as monuments since Hellenic times
  • Continuous spiral band of relief documents the history of the war
  • Column was originally topped with a statue that was destroyed in the Middle Ages
  • Band of relief is 656 Ft long- can only follow the relief if the viewer keeps turning around and the detail disappears as the column gets taller
  • Rarely shows actual combat-more attention to geography and politics
  • Similar to Near East reliefs, although unclear if there is a link

Column of Trajan, Rome, 106-13 AD

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Production of portraits was vast in Imperial Rome

  • Vespasian did not really believe in the idea of the divine ruler
  • There is a Republican flavor to the portrait
  • Focus on skin and texture is very Greek

Vespasian, 75 AD

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Graceful and gentle, softness of skin and detail of fashionable hair

Portrait of a Lady c. 90 AD

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Portrait has emotional intensity-a combination of Greek pathos and Roman nobility

  • Seen in strong brow, commanding gaze
  • Conformed to the Roman tradition of being clean-shaven-after this, emperors wore beards to depict Hellenic tradition

Trajan, 100 AD

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Statue reflects the reign of Marcus Aurelius who was very interested in classical Greek philosophy

  • One of the few Roman sculptures to remain on public view through out the Middle Ages
  • Equestrian statues had been a tradition since Julius Caesar
  • Marcus Aureilius saw himself as a bringer of Peace

Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, 161-180

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3rd century saw the empire in constant crisis

  • Emperors were “soldier emperors”- from outlying provinces
  • Emperors gained the throne through force
  • This is reflected in the portraits- a different mood- more emotional, less documentary
  • Plontius was a Greek philosopher who was very mystical
  • There was a spread of Oriental Mystery cults that foreshadowed the middle ages rather than reflecting Classicist tradition

Portrait Head (Plontius) late 3rd C. BC

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First Christian ruler of Rome

  • Portraiture has become more symbolic than realistic- a visible symbol of the spiritual self
  • Statue does not show us what Constantine looked like, but what he thought about himself and his office

Constantine the Great, early 4th C. AD

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Decorated with sculpture taken from earlier Imperial monuments- probably because of the poor conditions of the sculpture studios at the time

  • Also shows that Constantine saw himself as the restorer of Roman glory

Arch of Constantine, Rome, 312-15 AD

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Frieze, Arch of Constantine, early 4th c.

  • Made specifically for the arch (not taken from elsewhere)
  • Shows Constantine addressing the Senate- no sense of movement, no spatial depth, no foreshortening, shallow doll-like figures, no contrapposto
  • Abstracted on purpose- symmetrical to show the importance of the emperor in the center= the only figure to be shown full-frontal (although head has been knocked off)- looks forward to Christian art- does not revert back to archaic sculpture