Roman art is considered to be very rich and luxurious, and mostly it comprises of architecture, sculpture, painting, and mosaic work. This paper explores the art and architecture of Roman with its most sufficient features and characters. Moreover, a comparison of the peculiarities between art and architecture of Roman is presented.
Undoubtedly, Roman art has a powerful influence on the world that is around people of new centuries, namely on the nowadays city planning, art and architecture. However, Romans were not as original as they could think about themselves. There exists quite a fair amount of proves that early Roman pieces of art were duplicates of Greek architectural structures. Nonetheless, in the course of time, they introduced their own feature by producing new building materials and constructing peculiar out of the ordinary shapes and forms (Stewart, 2005).
The most valuable contribution of the Romans to the world’s art is their architecture. They established a generous amount of various structures that combine utility with glory. The Romans were combing not only styles, but also materials. For instance, they were using quarried stone together with timber beams, as well as terra-cotta plaques and tiles as well as marble. They also managed to manufacture a completely new kind of material, which they named caementum (cement) and concretus (concrete) (Stewart, 2005). With the help of such new material, the Romans constructed great amphitheatres and baths of the Roman world, and also the dome of the Pantheon. The major part of the most valuable constructions was built within the imperial period, between 27 B.C. to A.D. 476 (Andreae, 1977).
If to talk about Roman traditional patrician townhouses, or domus, one can say that there were a lot of factors that have an impact on their design. Those factors are the mild climate of the Italian peninsula, its fresh air, and, of course, an access to water sources. The design of domus is quite different from the modern houses in many ways. It looked like a fortress that is why it helped to protect families and their slaves as well as provide privacy inside the walls and keep the noise of the streets outside the house. The windows of such houses were of interesting structure: they were little, but high, and it gave an access to a daylight into the house, but at the same time, they did not allow the heat of the sun to get inside the walls. The size of the windows made the house convenient, and it was not cold in winters and not hot in summers (Andreae, 1977).
Within the period of Augustus’s reign, from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D., the Rome’s population was rapidly increasing, and finally, became more than a million people. The amount of domus was not big enough, and all of those people needed shelter. As a result, the Romans designed the block of flats for big amount of people, which was called an insula. Its purpose was to keep numerous families together in one construction. It was presumed that those buildings could hold approximately 200 inhabitants. Most of them had three or four floors; however, some of them even reached nine floors, but it was only until the time when Augustus established safety precautions by introducing height limit of nearly 20 meters. These buildings were divided into two functional parts: the ground floor was usually designed for stores or taverns, the upper floors were reserved for families (Andreae, 1977). Because of the great fire in 64 A.D., Nero implemented new strict rules for building of the insulae, banning exceeding their heights more than five floors. Furthermore, he suggested few more standards in order to secure houses from fire, namely, he concluded that all flat building must be constructed in stone and also must be fitted with porches in front of the building and fire-fighting equipment.
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Despite the fact that those apartment buildings solved some housing problems for inhabitants in Rome, they did not meet some of the sanitary and safe requirements. On one hand, flats on the upper floors were fitted with wooden stairs only and did not have a heating system, running water and restrooms. On the other hand, apartments on the lower floors were more expensive, since they were equipped with toilet rooms, running water and had more convenient way of access. Another disadvantage of those buildings was noise. In addition, flats did not have glass on the windows that gave possibility for the light to get inside. People also started to throw trash out of the windows directly on the street (Andreae, 1977).
Roman sculpture is famous for its bewildering variety and eclectic combination. It includes idealized sophistication of early Classical Greek sculpture and a great aspiration of East culture with its delicate taste and style. The Romans were making their masterpieces out of stone, metal of value, glass and terracotta. However, their most remarkable masterworks are made of marble, and sometimes of bronze (Andreae, 1977).
The popular themes for sculptures were statues of emperors with size even bigger than life size, gods and heroes, namely, enormous bronze statues of Marcus Aurelius sitting on the horse, or even huge statue of Constantine I. Both of these statues are now kept in Capitoline Museums of Rome, however, the one of Constantine I consists only of those parts that survived, in particular, the head, hand and some limbs. Later, statues became a bit different than in the beginning: they were less proportional, their heads were extremely exaggerated, and also they were shown flatter and from the front, in order to represent the impact of Eastern art (Ramage, 2001).
The most popular statue of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius sitting on the horse was raised in 175 A.D. It is now a debatable question about its primary whereabouts: the Roman Forum or Piazza Colonna (Hays, 2008). A gold-filled bronze statue is bigger than a life-size and holds out his hand in such a way that it resembles the portrait of Augustus. Many believe that this gesture means mercy, since some of the historians claim that next to the Emperor may have been raised a statue of his enemy who is asking for grace standing under the raised hoof of the Emperor’s horse (Richter, 1970). In such a way, the Emperor was described as a triumphant and autocratic governor. Despite his strength and desire to win the enemies, he was presented without any weapons, which presented him as a peaceful hero rather than a military warrior (Ramage, 2001).
Statues were often used as means of decoration in the house or in the garden; moreover, they could be diminished and made out of precious metal, for example, silver. Lares Familiares characterized Romans. Those statues mostly were made out of bronze, and were the symbols of house protection. These young figures with the raised arms always were notable for long hair, and they usually were shown wearing sandals and a tunic. In addition, there always had to be two of them within a house, placed in a special niche (Kleiner, 2007).
One more kind of art that needs attention is painting. The Roman painting is considered to be a wall painting on plaster. Despite conclusions of numerous historians who claim that Romans were painting on wood, ivory and many other different materials, the only works that survived to the present day are frescos.
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Several art historians distinguish four styles of Roman painting. The first style was a mixture of different types and colors of marble on plaster. The artists of the first style were borrowing the ideas of wall painting from Hellenistic wall painting, which were portraying gods, heroes and mortals in various contexts (Kelly, 2003).
The second style was characterized by imitating architectural forms by pictorial means. Instead of stucco, artists of the second period started to use flat plaster, as a result of which, forms became more complex.
The third style began at the period of Augustus’ reign, and it gave up illusion and started to present surface ornamentation. The background of the painting of this period was a single monochrome, namely red, white or black, with some architectural or vegetal elements. The dominant element of the wall painting was landscape scenes that were placed in the middle of the wall. The most prominent masterpieces of the third style are the frescos from the Imperial villa at Boscotrecase (Dunbabin, 1999).
Contrary to its predecessors, the fourth style is considered to be less disciplined, and it is distinguished as a baroque reaction to the third style. There were a lot of heroes from mythology depicted on the walls in this period. There is also information that Roman artists of the fourth style were reaching the desired colors by using pigments. For instance, black color was produced from the carbon. Ocher was derived from the mines and was used as a yellow color. Red was extracted from cinnabar, heating white lead or red ocher. Blue was derived from combining sand and copper, and baking the mixture. The most precious color was the purple, and it was usually reached from sea whelks (American Federation of Arts, 2007).
A complement to the Roman painting was Roman mosaics. It played a role in architecture, being an element of Roman houses. The biggest advantage of Roman mosaics is its fatigue life and intensity of colors. The most interesting fact is that after the destruction of villa, the mosaic on the floor can be still in a good condition. Some of the wonderful examples were found at the Hadrian’s villa, the villa at Piazza Armerina in Sicily, and of course, Antioch (Dunbabin, 1999).
Roman art and architecture had a strong influence throughout the ages by effecting the planning of modern cities, architecture, and art. The Roman art is not only defined as an art of the city of Rome, but the art of the whole civilization. Despite the fact that Romans were copying from Greeks to some extent, they still managed to implement and their own peculiarities and distinct features.