Roman Art (750 BCE - 200 CE

Although Rome was founded in 750 BCE, it led a precarious existence for several centuries. Initially, Rome was ruled by Etruscan kings who commissioned a variety of Etruscan-style paintings and sculptures for their tombs and palaces, and to celebrate their military victories. After the founding of the Roman Republic in 500 BCE, Etruscan influence waned and, from 300 BCE, as the Romans started coming into contact with the flourishing Greek cities of southern Italy and the eastern Mediterranean, they fell under the influence of Greek art and culture - a process known as Hellenization. Soon many Greek works of art were being taken to Rome as booty, and many Greek artists followed to pursue their careers under Roman patronage.

Status of Art in Rome However, the arts were still not a priority for Roman leaders who were more concerned about survival and military affairs. It wasn't until about 200 BCE when it won the first Punic War against Hannibal and the Carthaginians, that Rome felt secure enough to develop its culture. Even then, the absence of an independent cultural tradition of its own meant that most Roman painting andsculpture was highly derivative of Greek artworks. In fact, Rome was unique among the imperial powers of the ancient world in developing only a limited artistic language of its own. Roman architecture and engineering was never less than bold, but its paintings and sculptures were largely imitative of Greek art and influenced also by art forms in its vassal states like Egypt and Persia.

Bust of Roman Emperor Augustus (c.50 CE)

Being designed as public art. particularly in portraits of their Emperors. please see: Sculpture of Ancient Greece. despite their huge military successes. their impact on the viewer was paramount. the Romans had an inferiority complex in the face of Greek artistic achievement. see: Classical Colour Palette. Thus many Roman sculptures (like many examples of Roman architecture) were designed to impress the public . the artwork used would be executed in a realistic . using mythological allegories.130 CE) For a useful background article to the sculptures of Classical Antiquity. An example is the equestrian bronze statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (c. For example.and communicate the power and majesty of Rome. friezes and wall paintings. as well as in reliefs. in bronzeor stone. PAINT PIGMENTS For details of colours and pigments used by painters in Ancient Rome. Portraits in both paintings and sculpture were typically detailed and they Roman citizens or 'barbarians' . Their ultrapragmatic response was to recycle Greek sculpture at every opportunity. As Rome grew more confident from the reign of Augustus (31 BCE . Heroic Greek statues would even be supplied headless.175 BCE). Roman Sculpture Heavily influenced by Greek statues and reliefs of the Hellenistic period.27 BCE .510 BCE to 27 BCE) tended to be representational. and sought to convey political messages through the poses and subject matter.200 CE). Roman sculpture includes free-standing statues. early Roman art (c. Greek poses. were pressed into service to reinforce Roman power. realistic and direct. Imperial or military groups of figures were carefully arranged to reflect rank. Reliefs and friezes of military scenes were highly detailed.almost 'documentary' style. when commemorating a battle.Roman Art Seen as Inferior to Greek Art To put it another way. reworked with Roman clothes and accessories. see: Neoclassical Art (Fl. For a guide to the impact of Greek art on more modern culture. reliefs or friezes and busts. whose stance is reworked from the Greek sculpture "Doryphorus" (c. the Romans were keenly aware of their propaganda value. Emperors . 1770-1830) Neoclassical Architecture (1640-1850) Neoclassical Painting (1750-1860) Neoclassical Sculpture (1750-1850) Style of Roman Art Like the Romans themselves.14 CE). This realistic down-toearth Roman style of art contrasts with that of Greek artists who typically celebrated their military achievements indirectly. Bust of Antinous (c.440 BCE). while the mood and expressions of Roman statues was typically solemn and unsmiling. to enable the buyer to fit his own portrait head. although later during the Imperial age of Augustus onwards Hellenistic-Roman art (c.

Unfortunately. Panel Paintings In Rome. and the Renaissance (and Western Art along with it) might have taken a very different course. In addition. lies in its replication of original Greek statues.served an important function in reminding people of Rome's reach. Most of the Pompeii paintings are decorative murals. and were painted by skilled 'interior decorators' rather than genuine artists .and other sculpture-subjects might appear in more magnanimous poses. as set out by the German archaeologist August Mau following his . one of the greatest contributions of Roman sculpture to the history of art. as the erruption of Vesuvius in 79 helped to preserve them. a picture of the imperial family. most of which have disappeared. but with the onset of Empire in the late first-century BCE.200 BCE). these paintings would depict the battle or campaign in meticulous detail. but gravitas and an underlying sense of Roman greatness was never far from the surface of most Roman sculpture. Typically.executed either "al fresco" with paint being applied to wet plaster. Triumphal Paintings Roman artists were also frequently commissioned to produce pictures highlighting military successes . These pictures were executed using the encaustic or tempera methods. Mural Paintings Roman murals .are usually classified into four periods. Roman Painting Most surviving Roman paintings are from Pompeii and Herculanum.a clue to the function of art in Roman society. Note: a modern museum devoted to Roman antiquities. Effigies of Roman leaders had been displayed in public places for centuries. Without these copies. the highest form of painting was panel painting. featuring seascapes and landscapes. only a handful of panel paintings have survived. Greek art would never have received the appreciation it deserves.a form known as Triumphal Painting.which were copied en masse and sent to all parts of the Roman world . as in Greece. one of the best examples being the "Severan Tondo" (c. is theGetty Museum Los Angeles. stone or bronze representations of the Emperor . founded by J Paul Getty (1892-1976). or "al secco" using paint on dry walls . Portrait Busts and Statues These artworks are seen as the most important Roman contribution to the sculpture of Antiquity. and might incorporate mixed-media adornments and map designs to inform and impress the public.

. Fusion of Roman Art and Other Forms The Roman Empire incorporated a host of different nationalities. showed scenes from Greek myths or other fantasy scenes. These styles of Celtic art were accomodated within the Empire in an idiom known as Roman-Celtic art. instead of looking out onto a landscape or cityscape. The wall was divided into precise zones. Another form which appeared in Ancient Rome and further afield from about 315 CE onwards was Christian Roman art. creating the impression that one was looking out of a room onto a real scene. During the period of Late Roman Art (c. the style developed to cover the entire wall. The fourth style was a mixture of the previous two styles.200-80 BCE). namely Hallstatt and La Tene. or merely monochromatic linear drawings.excavations at Pompeii. The second style of Roman mural painting aimed to create the illusion of extra space by painting pictures with significant depth. Scenes painted in the zones were typically either exotic representations of real or imaginery animals. religious groups and associated styles of art. such as views overlooking a garden or other landscape. It uses vivid colours and simulates the appearance of marble. The first style (c. The third style was more ornamental with less illusion of depth. Chief among them were two forms of Celtic culture. also known as incrustation or masonry style. using pictures of columns or foliage. with greater use of ornamentation. the artist might paint several windows which. For example. In time.200-400 CE) depth returned to the mural but it was executed more decoratively. including still lifes. was derived from Hellenistic palaces in the Middle East.