Sunday, October 16, 2011

Ancient Rome (pt. 2)

Ancient Roman art is another story.  The Romans were obsessed with Greek art, and they copied the style whenever they could.  They purchased artwork from Greece and even imported many Greek artists.  This is why there is so much Greek influence seen in Roman art and architecture.  The original statues made by Greek sculptors like Polyclitus and Myron have been lost; and the ones we have today are Roman copies (of which there are many).  In fact, it could be said that Roman art was merely a copy of Greek art, but for a few changes.
The Romans, like the Greeks, loved idealized bodies of young athletes to show power and domination; however, they believed that a person's true character was to be seen in the person's face.  And as Greek artists had to satisfy the tastes of their patrons, the result was young athletic bodies with old heads.
Eventually, the Romans realized that it was cheaper just to make busts (head portraits) instead of whole body portraits.  Since they cared so much about faces, many busts appear during this time.  And not all of these were public works of art.  Sometimes a bust was made for the private purpose of remembering a deceased loved one in a particular family.  The Romans introduced "death masks" at this time, which were busts cast from an imprint of the actual head of a corpse, giving the exact image of the deceased's face.  Realism enters the scene, as people want to remember the images of others as how they really looked, wrinkles and all.  Where the Greeks tried to exaggerate the human physique tout entier, the Romans focused on specific traits unique to each person.  The art had become realistic, lifelike, and personal.
Also note the appearance of common people in art.  More or less up till now, hierarchic scaling has pointed out the king or ruler who we are supposed to look at in a piece of art, but many Roman busts are of common citizens.  This fresco shows an ordinary baker and his wife.

No comments:

Post a Comment