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Explore the Art of Classical Roman Sculpture

By OGP Reporters / Members Contribute File Photos

Oh Good Party

Roman sculpture is notable for its enormous variety and diverse mix, with artists from across a vast empire and shifting public tastes over ages. The art form combined the idealised perfection of older Classical Greek sculpture with a stronger aim for realism, as well as absorbing artistic tastes and styles from the East, to produce representations in stone and bronze that rank among the best works of antiquity.

The atmosphere in Italy's revered capital is set by epic architecture, ancient art, and sunny piazzas. Although it was once the world's largest city, the seat of the world's largest empire, and the centre of the Christian world, it is now a fairly compact city.


No visit to Rome is complete without experiencing its architectural and artistic landmarks. There are Renaissance wonders like the Palazzo Senatorio and the Sistine Chapel within Vatican City. Baroque masterpieces, including magnificent St. Peter's Basilica, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain are also must-see destinations. Step back further in time and stroll through the history of the Roman Empire at the Roman Forum, which ends at the awe-inspiring Colosseum.


In between excursions, relax and have a cup of coffee in one of the historic town squares, such as Piazza Navona.


Some outstanding examples:


1. St. Peter's Basilica

The Vatican's Papal Basilica of Saint Peter is the most famous work of Renaissance architecture and the world's largest church by interior measurement. It is considered one of the most sacred Catholic shrines. St. Ornate building in the early morning with a massive order of columns beneath a Latin inscription, fourteen statues on the roofline, and big dome on top, designed mostly by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Marble, reliefs, architectural sculpture, and gilding adorn the whole interior of St. Peter's Basilica. The basilica has several tombs of popes and other significant figures, many of which are considered remarkable pieces of art.


2. Trajan's Column

Trajan's Column is a triumphal column in Rome, Italy, commemorating the victory of Roman Emperor Trajan over the Dacians during the Dacian Wars. The almost 100-foot-tall column, which also served as Trajan's tomb, is adorned with a continuous spiral frieze honouring the two Dacian battles. Although archaeologists have studied the column to better comprehend both Roman military tactics and the enigmatic Dacian culture, the veracity of its story has been questioned. ll Trajan appears 58 times on the frieze, which features nearly 2,000 figures carved in shallow relief. The continuous helical frieze, which winds 25 times from base to capital, was an architectural breakthrough at the time. Later emperors, such as Marcus Aurelius, followed the pattern. The narrative band stretches from the base of the column to the top, measuring around 1 metre (3.3 ft). The scenes are always changing.


3. The Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain is an 18th-century fountain in Rome's Trevi district, designed by Nicola Salvi and built by Giuseppe Pannini and others. It is one of the world's most famous Baroque fountains. The Palazzo Poli, which has a new façade with a massive order of Corinthian pillars linking the two main stories, serves as a backdrop for the fountain. The figure of the nautical god Neptune, dragged to the sea on his shell-shaped chariot by two winged horses and tritons, stands in the centre beneath the arch (young gods of the sea). One horse is quiet and obedient, while the other is rowdy. They represent the sea's changing tides. The two statues in the niches next to Neptune (crafted by Filippo della Valle) symbolise Abundance on the left and Health on the right. The name 'La Fontana di Trevi' comes from the words tre via, which means three highways. At the fountain's location, three roadways used to meet. Many films featuring the Trevi Fountain, including as La Dolce Vita, Angels and Demons, The Lizzie McGuire Movie, and Roman Holiday, have contributed to the fountain's reputation.


4. The Colosseum

The Colosseum is an oval amphitheatre located immediately east of the Roman Forum in the heart of Rome, Italy. Despite its age, it is the largest ancient amphitheatre ever erected and remains the world's largest standing amphitheatre today. The Flavian dynasty was the patrons of the endeavour, and the amphitheatre was dubbed the Flavian Amphitheatre by later classicists and archaeologists because of its affiliation with their surname (Flavius). The Colosseum, although being severely damaged by earthquakes and stone robbers stealing spolia, is an iconic symbol of Imperial Rome and was named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.


Roman art is a wide subject that spans about 1,000 years and three continents, from Europe to Africa and Asia. The first Roman art dates from 509 B.C.E., when the legendary Roman Republic was founded, and lasted until 330 C.E. (or much longer, if you include Byzantine art). Marble, painting, mosaic, jewels, silver and bronze work, and terracottas, to name a few, are all examples of Roman art. The city of Rome was a melting pot, and the Romans had no qualms about incorporating creative influences from the surrounding and preceding Mediterranean cultures. As a result, Greek, Etruscan, and Egyptian influences can be found throughout Roman art.


This is not to argue that all Roman art is derivative, and one of the challenges presented by specialists is defining what constitutes "Roman" art.


Roman sculpture is notable for its enormous variety and diverse mix, with artists from across a vast empire and shifting public tastes over ages. The art form combined the idealised perfection of older Classical Greek sculpture with a stronger aim for realism, as well as absorbing artistic tastes and styles from the East, to produce representations in stone and bronze that rank among the best works of antiquity. Apart from their own unique contribution, Roman sculptors have also saved for posterity invaluable works that would have otherwise been lost to world art through their popular reproductions of older Greek masterpieces.


Moving away from its Etruscan and Greek roots, Roman sculpture began to seek new paths of creative expression, and by the mid-first century CE, Roman artists were attempting to capture and produce optical phenomena of light and shade for more realism. There was also a tendency towards impressionism in later antiquity, using light tricks and abstract forms. Roman sculpture really comes to the fore and distinguishes itself from other creative traditions in the field of portraiture.


The evolution of Roman portraiture is marked by a style cycle that emphasises realistic and idealising features alternately. Each imperial dynasty tried to stress specific characteristics of representation in order to legitimise their rule or identify themselves with renowned predecessors, and each stage of Roman portraiture might be regarded as either "veristic" or "classicizing." These style periods interacted with one another, pushing the medium toward new artistic possibilities.


Not only did Roman sculpture offer us with a priceless record of early Greek masterpieces, but it also produced some outstanding works of its own. The utilisation of historical narrative and extraordinary realism in portraiture are two notable contributions to the art genre.



Postscript

The modern art collection spans the first half of the twentieth century and includes a wide range of paintings, sculptures, and decorative arts. With the expansion of the OGP's holdings (totaling over 3,500 sculptures and decorative works), our collections now span the Byzantine and early Catholic periods, as well as the Art Nouveau period. Within the European relevance and representative artistic sculpture works


Join the Private Collectors Club to see European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, meet other collectors and art enthusiasts, and learn more about the museum's incredible collection and behind-the-scenes.


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