16 Facts About Roman art


Ancient Roman art pottery was not a luxury product, but a vast production of "fine wares" in terra sigillata were decorated with reliefs that reflected the latest taste, and provided a large group in society with stylish objects at what was evidently an affordable price.

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Roman art coins were an important means of propaganda, and have survived in enormous numbers.

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Roman art painted barbershops and shoemakers' stalls, donkeys, vegetables, and such, and for that reason came to be called the 'painter of vulgar subjects'; yet these works are altogether delightful, and they were sold at higher prices than the greatest paintings of many other artists.

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Where Greeks worshipped the aesthetic qualities of great art, and wrote extensively on artistic theory, Roman art was more decorative and indicative of status and wealth, and apparently not the subject of scholars or philosophers.

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Roman art was commissioned, displayed, and owned in far greater quantities, and adapted to more uses than in Greek times.

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When Constantine moved the capital of the empire to Byzantium, Roman art incorporated Eastern influences to produce the Byzantine style of the late empire.

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Roman art painting provides a wide variety of themes: animals, still life, scenes from everyday life, portraits, and some mythological subjects.

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Main innovation of Roman painting compared to Greek art was the development of landscapes, in particular incorporating techniques of perspective, though true mathematical perspective developed 1, 500 years later.

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The Gennadios medallion in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, is a fine example of an Alexandrian portrait on blue glass, using a rather more complex technique and naturalistic style than most Late Roman examples, including painting onto the gold to create shading, and with the Greek inscription showing local dialect features.

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Roman art had perhaps been given or commissioned the piece to celebrate victory in a musical competition.

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Early Roman art was influenced by the art of Greece and that of the neighbouring Etruscans, themselves greatly influenced by their Greek trading partners.

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Traditional Roman art sculpture is divided into five categories: portraiture, historical relief, funerary reliefs, sarcophagi, and copies of ancient Greek works.

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Roman art did not use vase-painting in the way of the ancient Greeks, but vessels in Ancient Roman pottery were often stylishly decorated in moulded relief.

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Roman mosaic was a minor art, though often on a very large scale, until the very end of the period, when late-4th-century Christians began to use it for large religious images on walls in their new large churches; in earlier Roman art mosaic was mainly used for floors, curved ceilings, and inside and outside walls that were going to get wet.

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Less celebrated but just as important if not more so for most Roman citizens, was the five-story insula or city block, the Roman equivalent of an apartment building, which housed tens of thousands of Romans.

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Roman art aqueducts, based on the arch, were commonplace in the empire and essential transporters of water to large urban areas.

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