ARH2050 The Fall to Grace: The Art of the Late Roman Empire


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ARH2050 The Fall to Grace: The Art of the Late Roman Empire

  1. 1. The Fall To Grace TheArtOfTheLateRomanEmpire Introduction  To  Art  History  I   Professor  Will  Adams  
  2. 2. The High Imperial Age §  After  Domitian’s  death,  the   Senate  and  the  army  played  a   more  active  role  in  the  selection  of   the  emperor,  which  resulted  in  the   appointment  of  the  Emperor   Nerva  in  96  AD,  who  ruled  until  98   AD.   §  When  he  was  elected  by  the   Senate,  Nerva  was  already  elderly,   and  passed  away  in  office.   §  Between  96  CE  and  180  CE,  the   Romans  handled  the  problem  of   succession  by  having  each   emperor  select  a  younger   colleague  to  train  as  a  successor.   §  Resulted  in  almost  a  century  of   stability  
  3. 3. The High Imperial Age §  Following  Nerva’s  death,  the   Senate  elected  the  Emperor   Trajan  to  lead  Rome.   §  Born  in  Spain,  he  was  the  first   Roman  Emperor  of  non-­‐Italian   origin  &  was  a  great  ruler.   §  He  was  able  to  extend  Rome’s   territory  to  its  greatest  size   during  his  reign.   §  Wisely,  Trajan  was  mindful  to   keep  the  Senate  informed   about  his  campaigns,  and   waited  for  their  approval  before   signing  treaties.  
  4. 4. The High Imperial Age §  The  Emperor  was  very   popular  with  the  public   because  he  greatly  increased     Rome’s  wealth  through   conquest  &  spent  large  sums   on  building  aqueducts,   temples  and  public  baths   §  Today  his  body  is  entombed   beneath  his  column  in  the   Roman  Forum.   §  His  reign  ended  with  his   death  in  117  AD.  
  5. 5. The High Imperial Age
  6. 6. The High Imperial Age
  7. 7. The High Imperial Age
  8. 8. The High Imperial Age
  9. 9. The High Imperial Age
  10. 10. The High Imperial Age
  11. 11. The High Imperial Age
  12. 12. The High Imperial Age
  13. 13. The High Imperial Age
  14. 14. §  This  belvedere  was   erected  in  celebration   of  Emperor  Trajan’s   victory  over  the   Dacians  (ancient   Romanians).   §  The  story  of  the   campaign  is  depicted   in  a  spiral  relief  that   winds  up  the  length   of  the  column’s  shaft.   §  The  Emperor’s  tomb   is  located  beneath   the  column’s  plinth  in   the  Roman  Forum.   The High Imperial Age Trajan’s  Column,  Rome,  Italy;    113  CE  
  15. 15. The High Imperial Age §  After  Hadrian’s  death,  Antonius   ruled  as  Emperor  from  138  CE  –   161  AD.   §  He  was  later  assigned  the   honorific  “Pius”  in  recognition  of   his  just  and  honest  nature.   §  Due  to  his  skillful  management,   the  Roman  Empire  reached  its   peak  under  his  guidance   §  Historically,  he  ruled  during  the   final  few  years  of  tranquility  in   Rome.   §  As  a  result,  his  death  is  associated   by  many  with  the  end  of  the  Pax   Romana.  
  16. 16. Portrait  of  a  Man   Faiyum,  Egypt;  160-­‐170  CE   The Late Imperial Age §  Historically,  Egyptians  buried   their  dead  in  sarcophagi  with   portrait  masks.     §  In  Roman  times,  however,   painted  encaustic  portraits  on   wood  replaced  the  traditional   stylized  portrait  masks.     §  The  man  in  this  mummy   painting,  mimicking  Marcus   Aurelius,  has  long  curly  hair  and   a  full  beard.   §  This  all  indicates  a  strong   influence  on  Egyptian  artists  of   the  time  by  Roman  artists.  
  17. 17. The Late Imperial Age §  These  portraits  were  most  likely   created  while  their  subjects  were   still  alive  and  quite  young.   §  By  examining  them,  we  can   determine  the  evolution  of   Roman  portrait  painting  after   the  eruption  of  Mt.  Vesuvius   buried  those  at  Pompeii.   §  Qualities  to  note  are  the  use  of   the  palette  knife  or  spatula,   creating  texture  and  modeling   on  the  portrait’s  surface,  and  the   calm,  thoughtful  demeanor   given  to  the  portrait’s  subject.   Portrait  of  the  Boy   Eutyches   Faiyum,  Egypt;  c.  150  CE   Mummy  Portrait  of  a   Woman   Faiyum,  Egypt;  c.  100  CE  
  18. 18. The High Imperial Age §  The  Emperor  Marcus  Aurelius,   who  succeeded  Antonius  Pius,   was  the  most  well-­‐educated   Roman  Emperor.     §  Apparently,  he  preferred   studying  &  writing  philosophy   –  such  as  his  work  Meditations   –  to  fighting  wars.       §  Unfortunately  for  him,  during   his  reign,  Rome  was  forced  to   fight  constantly  against   foreign  invaders,  such  as  the   Germanic  Goths,  and  the  Asian   Huns.  
  19. 19. Equestrian  Statue  of  Marcus  Aurelius   Rome,  Italy;  175  CE   The High Imperial Age §  This  larger-­‐than-­‐life  gilded   bronze  equestrian  statue  was   selected  by  Pope  Paul  III  as  the   center  piece  for  Michelangelo’s   new  design  for  the  Capitoline   Hill  (Rome’s  city  hall).   §  Most  ancient  bronze  statues   were  melted  down  for  their   metal  value  during  the  Middle   Ages,  but  this  one  happened  to   have  survived.   §  He  possesses  a  superhuman   grandeur  and  is  much  larger   than  any  normal  human  would   be  in  relation  to  his  horse.  
  20. 20. The High Imperial Age §  He  stretches  out  his  right  arm  in  a   gesture  that  is  both  a  greeting   and  an  offer  of  clemency  (an  act   that  bestows  or  shows  mercy   toward  another  person  over   whom  somebody  has  ultimate   power).   §  Some  speculate  that  an  enemy   once  cowered  beneath  the   horse’s  raised  right  foreleg   begging  the  Emperor  for  mercy.   §  The  statue  conveys  the  awesome   power  of  the  god-­‐like  Roman   Emperor  as  ruler  of  the  whole   world.  
  21. 21. Equestrian  Statue  of  Marcus  Aurelius,  Rome,  Italy;  175  CE   The High Imperial Age
  22. 22. The High Imperial Age Deep Thoughts with Marcus Aurelius §  The  happiness  of  your  life   depends  on  the  quality  of   your  thoughts.   §  Very  little  is  needed  to   make  a  happy  life.  It  is  all   within  yourself,  in  your  way   of  thinking.     §  The  first  rule  is  to  keep  an   untroubled  spirit.  The   second  is  to  look  things  in   the  face  and  know  them  for   what  they  are.    
  23. 23. The Late Imperial Age
  24. 24. The Late Imperial Age §  The  start  of  Marcus  Aurelius'  insane   son,  Commodus’s,  reign  from  180  –   192  AD,  signals  the  beginning  of   the  Empire’s  end.   §  Quite  probably  mentally  disturbed,   Commodus  was  a  terrible,  vain  man   who  fought  in  the  gladiatorial   contests  of  the  Coliseum.   §  He  is  said  to  have  fought  in  over   1,000  gladiatorial  contests,  often   dressed  as  Hercules.     §  For  his  amusement,  wounded   soldiers  or  amputees  would  often   be  brought  into  the  arena  for  him   to  kill.       Commodus  As  Hercules,  c.  191-­‐192  AD,   Late  Empire  Roman  
  25. 25. The Late Imperial Age §  Once,  the  citizens  of  Rome  who   were  missing  their  feet  through   some  accident  were  tied   together,  and  Commodus   clubbed  them  to  death  while   pretending  he  was  a  giant.   §  For  each  appearance  in  the  arena,   he  charged  the  city  of  Rome  a   huge  fee.   §  He  was  later  poisoned  by  his   mistress,  but  he  vomited  the   poison  up.   §  Finally,  Commodus  was  strangled   as  he  bathed  by  his  wrestling   partner.  
  26. 26. The Late Imperial Age §  For  the  next  300  years,  Europe   witnessed  the  decline  of  the  Empire.   §  After  Commodus  died,  the  throne   was  up  for  auction.   §  From  192  –  193  AD,  several  men   tried  to  gain  power  by  buying  the   loyalty  of  different  Roman  armies.   §  The  Emperor  Septimius  Severus,   who  ruled  from  193  –  211  AD  was  a   weak  military  commander  who   catered  to  the  army  to  hold  his   power   §  He  let  the  men  go  soft  by  allowing   their  families  to  travel  with  them,   (which  slowed  them  down),  and  also   admitted  barbarians  to  the  army.  
  27. 27. The Late Imperial Age §  The  new  emperor  Septimius  Severus   proclaimed  himself  as  Marcus  Aurelius’s   son.   §  For  this  reason,  he  is  depicted  with  long   hair  and  the  “trademark”  beard.   §  The  Severan  family  portrait  is  special  for   two  reasons  beyond  its  mere  survival.   §  The  emperor’s  hair  is  tinged  with  gray,   suggesting  that  his  marble  portraits  also   may  have  revealed  his  advancing  age  in   this  way.     §  Also  notice  the  face  of  the  emperor’s   youngest  son,  Geta,  was  erased.   §  When  Caracalla  succeeded  his  father  as   emperor,  he  had  his  brother  murdered  and   his  memory  damned.     §  The  painted  tondo,  circular  format,   portrait  is  an  eloquent  testimony  to  that   damnatio  memoriae  and  to  the  long  arm   of  Roman  authority.   Painted  Portrait  Of  Septimius  Severus  And   His  Family,  c.  200  AD,  Late  Empire  Roman  
  28. 28. The Late Imperial Age §  Power  passed  to  Septimius’  son,   Caracalla  (211-­‐217  AD),  a  cruel  man   who  murdered  his  brother  to  gain  the   throne   §  Additionally,  he  was  a  poor  leader   who  raised  the  armies’  wages,  bribed   barbarians  to  stay  away  from  Rome  &   increased  taxes  so  much  that  the   currency  lost  its  value.   §  Following  that,  Rome  descends  into  a   state  of  military  anarchy  during  which   there  were  plagues,  constant  wars,   skyrocketing  taxes,  100  claimants  for   the  role  of  Emperor  &  a  abandonment   of  a  cash  economy  in  favor  of  the   barter  system  until  284  AD.  
  29. 29. The Late Imperial Age §  Typical  sculpture  of  the   ruthless  emperor  Caracalla                                     §  The  sculptor  suggested  the   texture  of  his  short  hair  and   cropped  close  beard.   §  Caracalla’s  brow  is  knotted,   and  he  abruptly  turns  his   head  over  his  left  shoulder,  as   if  he  suspects  danger  from   behind.   §  He  was  killed  by  an  assassin’s   dagger  in  the  sixth  year  of  his   ruling.     Portrait  Of  Caracalla,  c.  211-­‐217  AD,     Late  Empire  Roman  
  30. 30. The Late Imperial Age §  The  Emperor  Diocletian   attempted  to  provide  some   semblance  of  order  during  his   reign  from  284  –  305  AD.   §  His  solution  for  the  unwieldy   Empire  was  to  divide  it  into   Eastern  &  Western  halves,  with   each  half  ruled  by  its  own   Emperor  &  Caesar  (co-­‐ruler).   §  This  four-­‐man  arrangement  was   called  a  tetrarchy.   §  The  Emperor  Constantine  ruled   with  3  others  from  305  –  324  AD,   and  alone  from  324  –  337  AD.   Portraits  Of  The  Four  Tetrarchs   Saint  Mark’s,  Venice,  305  AD,   Late  Empire  Roman  
  31. 31. The Late Imperial Age §  Carved  in  porphyry,  a  hard  purple   stone  used  primarily  for  imperial   objects,  these  four  emperors   symbolize  the  equality  of  their  rule.   §  No  individualized  features  are   represented;  they  are  dressed   identically,  even  to  their  swords,   and  they  are  of  equal  height.   §  Their  embraces  also  indicate  their   unity.   §  The  staring  eyes,  squatty  forms,   and  absract  quality  are   characteristic  of  much  late  Roman   sculpture,  where  symbolism  is   more  important  than  realism  and   individuality.  
  32. 32. The Late Imperial Age §  Constantine’s  decisive  victory   over  Maxentius  at  the  Milvian   Bridge  resulted  with  a  great   triple-­‐passageway  arch  in  the   shadow  of  the  Colosseum  to   commemorate  his  defeat  of   Maxentius.     §  The  arch  was  the  largest  erected   in  Rome  since  the  end  of  the   Severan  dynasty  nearly  a  century   before.   §  There  is  great  sculptural   decoration,  which  was  taken   from  earlier  monuments  of   Trajan,  Hadrian,  and  Marcus   Aurelius.     Arch  Of  Constantine   Rome,  Italy,  312-­‐315  AD,   Late  Empire  Roman  
  33. 33. The Late Imperial Age §  Sculptors  re-­‐cut  the  heads  of   the  earlier  emperors  with  the   features  of  the  new  ruler  in   honor  of  Constantine.   §  They  also  added  labels  to  the   old  reliefs  that  were  references   to  the  downfall  of  Maxentius   and  the  end  of  civil  war.   §  The  reuse  of  statues  and  reliefs   (spoila)  by  Constantinian  artists   has  been  seen  as  a  decline  in   creativity  and  technical  skill  in   the  waning  years  of  the  pagan   Roman  Empire.  
  34. 34. The Late Imperial Age §  In  312  AD,  Emperor  Constantine   had  a  religious  vision  while   preparing  for  battle,  during  which   he  reported  seeing  a  giant  cross   projected  into  the  sky.     §  Upon  witnessing  this,  he  foreswore   his  pagan  beliefs  &  became  a   Christian.   §  Later,  he  would  pass  the  Edict  of   Milan  in  313  AD,    which  granted   religious  toleration  across  the   Empire.   §  As  the  Western  Empire  collapsed,   he  moved  to  Constantinople   (modern-­‐day  Istanbul,  Turkey),  and   made  it  the  capital  city  of  the   Empire.  
  35. 35. Acta Est Fabula