2023 Author: Leah Sherlock | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-11-27 12:28
The sculpture of Ancient Rome is primarily distinguished by its diversity and eclectic combination. This art form blended the idealized perfection of the early classical Greek works with a great desire for realism and absorbed the artistic characteristics of the styles of the East to create stone and bronze images that are now considered to be the best examples of the period of antiquity. Also, Roman sculptors, with the help of their popular copies of earlier Greek masterpieces, preserved for posterity priceless specimens that would otherwise be completely lost to world culture.
Like their Greek counterparts, the Romans worked stone, precious metals, glass and terracotta, but preferred bronze and marble. Since the metal was often reused, most of the surviving Roman sculptures are made of marble.
Roman love for Greek and Hellenisticsculpture meant that after stocks of original pieces were exhausted, the craftsmen had to make copies, and they could be of varying quality. Indeed, in Athens and in Rome itself there were schools specially engaged in copying Greek originals. They were headed by: Pasitel, Apollonius and other famous masters. Roman sculptors also made miniature copies of Greek originals, most often in bronze.
Over time, the search for new ways of artistic expression began, leaving the styles of the Etruscans and Greeks, and by the middle of the 1st century AD. e. this resulted in the desire to capture and create for greater realism visual effects using light and shadow. In late antiquity, there was even a transition to Impressionism with the use of chiaroscuro and abstract forms.
Roman sculpture took on a more monumental character with massive, almost "living" statues of emperors, gods and heroes, such as the huge bronze images of Marcus Aurelius on horseback or the even larger statue of Constantine I (partially preserved). Both of them are currently in the Capitoline Museum of Rome. Towards the end of the Empire, there was a tendency to change proportions, especially the heads were enlarged, and the figures were most often presented as flatter in front, which demonstrated the influence of oriental art.
It is also important to distinguish between two differently oriented "markets": members of the ruling class preferred more classical and idealistic images, whilethe second, more provincial "middle class" market liked the naturalistic emotional type of antique sculpture, especially in portrait and funerary works.
Statuary and portrait sculptures
As with the Greeks, the Romans loved to make statues of their gods. When emperors began to claim divinity, colossal and idealized images were dedicated to them, often with an object depicted in a raised hand, and occupied a fairly significant place. For example, the statue of Augustus in Prima Porta.
The statues were also used for decorative purposes at home or in the garden, and they could be miniature, cast from metal, including silver. One of the types of such statues that were characteristic of the Romans were Lares Familiares (family guardian spirits). Usually they were made of bronze. They, as a rule, were exhibited in pairs in a niche of the house. They were images of young people with raised arms, long hair, wearing a tunic and sandals.
Trends & Features
However, it is in the specific field of portraits that Roman sculpture becomes the leading art form, acquiring certain differences from other artistic traditions. The realism that characterizes her may well have developed from the tradition of keeping the wax funeral masks of deceased family members, worn by mourners at funerals, in the house. These were generally fairly accurate depictions, including even imperfections and not the most flattering aspects of a particular face. Transmitted in stone, they represent a large number of portraits that have come down to us.busts that move away from the idealized images of an earlier period.
Thus, the official portraits of the ruling elite were usually idealized. An example of this is the statue of Augustus, where the emperor looks much younger and fresher than he actually was at the time of its creation (late 1st century BC). However, by the time of Claudius in the middle of the 1st century AD. e. and even more so under Nero and Flavius, official portrait art strove for greater realism. During the same period, Roman sculptures of women were distinguished by their elaborate hairstyles, and they were no doubt considered the forerunners of fashion trends.
Under Hadrian there was a return to idealized images, such as in the classical Greek manner, but began to use a more natural image of the eyes in marble sculptures.
Realism returned again during the Antonine dynasty, and with it the depiction of traits such as crow's feet and flabbiness. At the same time, there was a trend towards polishing marble on those parts where there was skin. After such processing, they strongly contrasted, for example, with hair that was cut deep and left without processing. Also during this period, there was a fashion for the image of the torso or part of it, and not just the shoulders (for example, the bust of Commodus in the form of Hercules, c. 190 AD). The bust of Caracalla (c. 215 AD) is another example of the rejection of idealism in elite Roman portrait sculpture.
Towards the end of the Empire, plastic art abandons all attempts to realistically convey physical featuressubject. For example, images of emperors (Diocletian, Galerius and Constantine I) hardly have any distinguishable physiognomic features. Perhaps this was done in an attempt to alienate the emperor from ordinary mortals and bring him closer to the deities.
Use in architecture
Sculptures on Roman buildings could be just a decorative element or have political significance, for example, on triumphal arches. The architectural Roman sculpture in this case reflected the key events of the campaign and the emperor's victory. An example of this is the Arch of Constantine in Rome (c. 315 AD), which also depicts defeated and enslaved "barbarians" to convey the message of Rome's superiority. This depiction of real people and specific historical figures in architecture contrasts sharply with the Greek style, where great military victories are usually presented as a metaphor using figures from Greek mythology such as the Amazons and centaurs, as on the Parthenon.
Funeral busts and steles (tombstones) are one of the most common forms of sculptural art in the Roman world. They were images of the deceased with his partner, children and even slaves. Such figures are usually dressed in a toga, and women are depicted in a modest pose with a hand on their chin.
From the 2nd century AD e. as burial became more common (as opposed to the more traditional cremation), this contributed to the development of a market for sarcophagi. They were carved from stone and often depicted scenes from mythology in high relief withall four sides and even on the lid. Asian-type sarcophagi were decorated with reliefs carved almost in a circle. The proconnesian type was characterized by images of girls with garlands.
Two large relief panels from the Arch of Titus in Rome are considered the first successful attempt at creating depth and space in sculpture. The panels depict scenes from the triumphal procession of the emperor in 71 CE. e. after his campaigns in Judea. One depicts Titus in a chariot with four horses, and the other depicts booty from the Temple in Jerusalem. The perspective is successfully achieved due to the different height of the relief.
Among other famous Roman sculptures, one should mention the statue of wrestlers, made according to the Greek original; Sleeping Ariadne (another copy); a marble statue of Venus Capitoline; Antinous Capitoline; Colossus of Constantine.
The 3.52m tall Marcus Aurelius Equestrian Statue is one of the most imposing bronze statues preserved from antiquity. It was probably created between 176-180. n. e.
Roman sculpture in the Hermitage
The museum presents a collection of art monuments dating back to the 1st century BC. BC e. - IV century. n. e. There are sculptural portraits here, including images of men, women, children, emperors, prominent statesmen and private individuals. Thanks to them, one can trace the development of the sculptural portrait of Ancient Rome. The most outstanding examples include a bronze bust of a Roman (1st century BC). BC e.), the so-called Syrian woman (II c. e.), portraits of the emperors Balbinus and Philip the Arabian (both III c. e.).
Among the images of emperors should be noted Augustus in the form of Jupiter (1st century AD), bust of Lucius Verus (2nd century AD). You can also pay attention to the statue of Jupiter (1st century AD), found in the country villa of Emperor Domitian. The collection is also complemented by Roman altars, reliefs, marble sarcophagi.
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