Ancient Roman sculptures

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AP Art History on Ancient Roman Sculpture

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  • Roman graves were marked with Greek style stelae, tombstones with inscriptions, reliefs or both
    Cremation and cinerary urns
    And sarcophagi, which Hadrian’s empire considered an expression of status
    Greek iconography: Four seasons, nude males, contrappasto,
    Roman order: anatomy proportions are different, Bacchus sits sideways on a panther and holds a thyrsos (a phallic staff surmounted by a pine cone)
    Bacchus is the god of wine and many deem this as Dionysus
    He is surrounded by mythological figures, satyrs, goats, cupids, maenads (frenzied female followers)
    Isophaly is present
  • Idealized official portraits from the fifth century BCE
    Veristic- strict realism or naturalism in art and literature
    Romans designed Classical statues of mature men head was veristic body was idealized
    Slaves could not possess any family portraits because under Roman law, their parents and grandparents were not people but propertry. Freed slaves often ordered portrait reliefs for their tombs to commemorate their new status as roman citizens.
    Early Empire
    Private portraits, mosaics, mythological themes, landscapes, also popular
    Sensitive studies of the person’s individual face
    Realistic portrait painted on a conventional figure.
    Emperors during the Early Empire
    Portrait and monuments covered with reliefs recounted the rulers’ great deeds
    Propaganda everywhere as a reminder of their beneficence
    Bore little resemblance to historical fact
    Purpose was to mold public opinion
    Supreme confidence changed to weary , saddened and worried to du Nero’s self indulgence and extravagance

    Also pompous trappings of imperial iconography
    Larger than life size
    Super human grandeur
    On a horse for equestrian imperialism expressing majesty and authority
    Supreme confidence

  • Portrait of a Roman General from the sanctuary of Hercules, Tivoli, Italy, c 75-50 BCE
    Based on idealized Greek Statues of heroes and athletes, but the head is veristic likeness
    Eclectic combination- Roman order
  • Portrait of a young Flavian lady, c. 90 CE
    Chronolgy can be determined by women’s hair styles in Roman art as they imitated the fashion of the current empress.
    Composition and deep carving create a sense of mass of her hair
    Smoothly carved face and neck
  • Augustus of Prima Porta, c. 20 CE, commissioned by Tiberius
    In every town throughout the vast Roman Empire portraits of emperors and empresses and their families were on display, in forums, basilicas, baths, markets, temples, triumphal arches, anywhere a statue could be placed. There were more statues of Augustus than Hadrian
    The rulers’ heads varied little from Britain to Syria.
    Replicas of official images, imported or copied by local artists
    Roman sculptors placed the portrait heads on many types of bodies
    The type chosen depended on the position the person held in Roman society or various fictitious guises members of the imperial family assumed. Portraits of Augustus show him not only as armed general but also as a recipient of the civic crown for saving the lives of fellow citizens. Other statues show him as a veiled priest, toga clad magistrate, traveling commander on horseback, heroically nude warrior and with various Roman gods, including Jupiter, Apollo, and Mercury
    These roles were extended to their wives, daughters, sisters, mothers.
    They also appear as the personification of health, justice and piety
    The common people followed the lead of the emperors and empresses depicting themselves not as they truly were, educated, royal, godlike.

  • The relief on his cuirass advertises an important diplomatic victory.
    The return of Roman military standards the Parthians had captured from a Republican general
    The cupid at Augustus's feet proclaims his divine decent
    Caesar and the Julians traced their ancestry back to Venus. Cupid was the goddess’s son
    Thus the sculptor designed every facet of the Primaporta statue to carry a political message, what was it?
  • Contrapposto
    Left leg back
    Right leg forward
    Organic
    Idealism
    No emotion
    Overall shape
    Sharp ridges of the brows, tight cap of layered hair
    Proportional
  • Small painted terra cotta plaques immortalizing the activities of merchants and professional people.
    The first is a child found in a cemetery that claimed children were murdered there and also that it is a burial ground for children. The former has never been recorded in primary documents.
    The center depicts a vegetable seller behind his counter with the clear view of the vegetables.
    The last picture is a midwife helping the mother give birth. Although all the figures are looking out, it is believed that this was the grave of the midwife because she is not concentrating on her skills.
    Funerary reliefs appeared all over the Roman Empire and into the Middle ages. They are as much a part of classical legacy to the later history of art as the monuments commissioned by roman emperors, which until recently were the exclusive interest of art historians.
  • Hadrian chosen successor and fellow Spaniard of Trajan’s
    A connoisseur and lover of all the arts, an author and architect.
    Admired Greek culture
    Traveled widely as emperor
    He commissioned statues and arches everywhere he went in his honor. There are more statues of Hadrian than any other Roman Emperor except Augustus
    He was 41 when Trajan died and ruled for 20 years.
    He is always depicted as a mature man who never ages

    This is a fragmentary statue of Hadrian wearing a cuirass
    A bronze statue of Hadrian is the fragmentary statue of the emperor wearing a cuirass found at the Tel Shalem Israel,
    Hadrian had reorganized Judaea as a new province called Syria Palaestina.
    A bronze statue of Hadrian is the fragmentary statue of the emperor wearing a cuirass found at the Tel Shalem Israel,
    Hadrian had reorganized Judaea as a new province called Syria Palaestina.
    How did the Hellenistic Greek and Roman statuary inspire this portrait?

  • Mature Roman Emperor
    Emotion in the face
    Fit athletic body
    War raging on the cuirass
  • Marcus Aurelius, Equestrian Statue, from Rome, Italy, c. 175 CE
    This image retains the pompous of imperial iconography on a gilded bronze horse and the emperor possesses a superhuman grandeur larger than normal humans, and stretches out his right hand in greeting and clemency,
    There may have been an enemy pleading for mercy under the horse’s right foot,
    The equestrian portraits expresses the Roman emperor’s majesty and authority

    The message of supreme confidence is not portrayed or is it in any other portraits the years before his death
    This is the first portrait where Roman emperors look sad, worried, and weary.
    The strain of constant warfare and the burden of ruling a worldwide empire show in his face
    Exposes the ruler’s character, his thoughts, and his soul
    Marcus revealed his worries in his Meditations a deeply moving philosophical treatise setting forth the emperor’s personal worldview. This was a major turning point in the history of ancient art , it marked the beginning of the end of Classical art’s domination in Greco roman world.
  • Painted Portrait of Septimius Severau and his family, from Egypt, c. 200 CE
    Tempera on wood, tondo or roundel (circular format)
    Septimius Severus claimed he was Marcus Aurelius’ son
    The portrait painted in tempera (egg yolk pigments) on wood shows Severus with his wife Julia Domna, the daughter of a Syrian priest and their two sons, Caracalla and Geta.
    The severan family portrai is of special interest for two reasons, Severus’s hair is tinged with gray, suggesting his age, and the face of the Geta was erased by the younger son Caracalla who succeed his father as emperor. He had his older brother murdered and the Senate damned his memory. Caracalla also ordered the death of his wife plautilla
    This kind of defacement of a political rival’s portrait is not new, Thutmost destroyed Hatshepsut’s portraits after her death. But the roman government employed damnatio memoriae as a political tool more often and more systematically than any other civilization
  • Portrait of Caracalla, c 211-217
    The portrait of Caracalla as a boy shows him soft and chubby with curly hair
    His portraits as a ruler are quite different
    The sculptor suggests the texture of his short hair and close cropped beard, which shows talented handling of the chisel.
    “But he also captures Caracalla’s suspicious nature. His brow is knotted and he abruptly turns his head over his left shoulder as if he suspects danger from behind. He was assassinated in the sixth year of his rule, which was the fate of many Roman emperors during the third century CE. Many Roman Emperors were assassinated during the third century CE.

  • Monumental Head of Constantine, from the Basilica Nova, Rome, 313.
    eight feet six inches tall
    Detached from its body expressed power
    Long nose, cleft chin, clean shaven cheeks, thick neck,
    Emperor’s image dominated the interior of the basilica in an apse much like the cult figures in Greek temples loomed over awestruck mortals who entered the cellas.
    Eternally youthful
    Confidence
    Enigmatic smile
    Aloof from his subjects
    Stylized hair
    Geometric eyes, Classical character is gone,
    powerful
    Tetrarch -one of four joint rulers

  • The four tetrarchs were often displayed together either on coins or in the round
    Artists did not try to capture individual appearances but represented the nature of the tetrarchy as four equal partners in power. Therefore it is impossible to tell who they are.
    They are presented in two pairs of porphyry (purple marble)
    Each grasps a sword in their left hand and embrace each other with their right
    All are clad in identical cuirass and cloak.
    The drapery is schematic (showing the basic form or layout)
    Bodies are shapeless.
    Faces are emotionless masks, two wear beards
    800 years after the rigid Egyptians and then the Greeks freed the human form from the formal conventions the human figure was once again conceived in iconic terms: idealism, naturalism, and individualism, and personality now belonged to the past.
  • Ancient Roman sculptures

    1. 1. Portraiture of Roman Emperors Republic- 509-27 BCE Idealized heroes and athletes’ bodies Heads were veristic likeness Head and body were an integral whole Mature men Elevated the person to heroic status
    2. 2. Portrait Bust of Julius Caesar, from Tusculum, Mid 1st Century, BCE
    3. 3. Portrait of a Roman General from the sanctuary of Hercules, Tivoli, Italy, c 75-50 BCE
    4. 4. Private portraits; Mythological themes; Imperial iconography
    5. 5. Portrait of a Young Flavian Lady, c. 90 CE
    6. 6. Augustus as General from Primaporta, c. 20 CE, commissioned by Tiberius
    7. 7. Augustus of Primaporta: detail showing cuirass reliefs, ca. 20 B.C.E.
    8. 8. Augustus as General from Primaporta, c. 20 CE, Polykleitos, Doryphorus, Spear Bearer, 450 BCE Write an Essay Explaining how the Roman sculptor used Polykleitos’ canon , while sculpting Augustus as General
    9. 9. Funerary reliefs of workers’ tombs, 100 CE
    10. 10. High Empire 96 -192 BCE Supreme confidence changed to weariness, sadness and worry. Portraits ended the Classical art’s domination of revealing superiority and captured the emperor’s personality.
    11. 11. Portrait bust of Hadrian as general, from Tel Shalem, Israel, c. 130-138 CE
    12. 12. Marcus Aurelius, Equestrian Statue, from Rome, Italy, c. 175 CE
    13. 13. Painted Portrait of Septimius Severus and his family, from Egypt, c. 200 CE
    14. 14. Portrait of Caracalla, r. 211-217
    15. 15. Monumental Head of Constantine, from the Basilica of Constantine, Rome, 313.
    16. 16. Constantine, head and fragments from a colossal statue Rome, ca. 313-315 (or 330) C.E.
    17. 17. The Tetrarchs: ca. 305 C.E.

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