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


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

  1. 1. The Fall To Grace The Art Of The Late Roman Empire 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
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  11. 11. The High Imperial Age
  12. 12. The High Imperial Age
  13. 13. The High Imperial Age
  14. 14. The High Imperial Age  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. 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. Mummy Portrait of a Woman Faiyum, Egypt; c. 100 CE Portrait of the Boy Eutyches Faiyum, Egypt; c. 150 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. 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. Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius Rome, Italy; 175 CE
  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. The High Imperial Age Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aurelius, Rome, Italy; 175 CE
  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.
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  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 Arch Of Constantine Rome, Italy, 312-315 AD, Late Empire Roman  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.
  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