Art History for Chapter 5:
Imperium Romanum: The Romans, 753 B.C. to A.D. 300
ROMAN ART (ART of CLASSICAL ANTIQUITY, part II)
Roman art is usually characterized as being dominated by the cultural influence of the Greeks. Much of Greek Art actually survives because the Romans so enthusiastically made copies for their own palaces, temples, markets, and homes.
The Etruscans who ruled Rome before 500 seem to also have instructed the Romans on art. Ancient burial tombs of the Etruscans, that housed families in death as they lived, survive to show us how personal and touching and graceful Etruscan art could be.
The buried remains of Pompeii and Herculaneum uniquely instruct us about much of the graphic arts. Only there did a substantial number of paintings survive to be excavated after the Eighteenth Century. The Romans also showed a special talent in mosaics. Roman paintings and mosaics reveal their ability to portray objects naturalistic anatomy, perspective, and color. The artists of the Renaissance a thousand years later had to re-invent those skills without benefit of being familiar with Roman precedents.
With their sculpture the carried on the Hellenistic trend toward emotion laden realism. Portraits of emperors were used to solidify imperial loyalty. All the emperors were recognizable as individuals, some with aspects of their character showing through.
Important sculptures in bas-relief adorned triumphal arches or columns to memorialize victories of slaughter and conquest.
The busts of many regular Roman citizens likewise survive, often with quite moving results.
Roman engineering skills helped them to secure their empire across the ancient world. The Roman contributions to urban architecture were practical and beautiful. The rounded arch, vaults (barrel vault for naves, groin vault where naves intersect), use of brick and concrete, covered with marble facades, allowed buildings to be constructed with speed and grandeur. They were taller and covered more square footage than any thing rival civilizations, or barbarians, had.
The Pantheon built from A.D. 118 to 125 survives as a noble ruin to engineering and grace. The forums, the basilicas, baths, colosseums, and aqueducts enriched urban life.
Many of their governmental and religious structures followed Greek style and format. The Romans preferred this late Corinthian style of columns.
For private living the rich had villas out outside of town, the middle classes and urban poor lived in tenement apartments in the cities.