Chapter 5 HELLENISTIC AND ROMAN ART - ?· Chapter 5 HELLENISTIC AND ROMAN ART • The artwork during the Hellenistic period had the same organic unity of structure of previous Greek art.
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Chapter 5 HELLENISTIC AND ROMAN ART
The artwork during the Hellenistic period had the same organic unity of structure of previous Greek art.
Sarcophagi were rarely used before this period, but now it became the predominant art form.
In addition to this form of art, elements reflecting the attitudes of the afterlife were reintroduced into Greek art.
The Greek civilization was no longer limited to the Mediterranean. Now it reached the boundaries of the Persian empire in the Near East.
Key Terms: Tufa oculas coffering dome Composite order
Learning Objectives: The ways in which the temples of the Hellenistic period differed from previous Greek temples.
The similarities and differences between Greek and Roman temples.
The ways Roman sculpture can be identified as a style unto itself.
THE HELLENISTIC PERIOD The term, Hellenistic, originated as a way to distinguish speakers of the Greek language from others within the empire but came to refer to the period of some three hundred years after the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC.
The rulers during this period were of Greek descent, and the official language was a form of Greek-the Greek of the New Testament.
The Greek culture spread throughout the region with cities trying to emulate the Greek polis.
These cities grew into large and wealthy centers such as Alexandria in Egypt, Seleucia on the Tigris, Antioch near the coast of Syria, and Pergamum in Asia Minor.
The region witnessed a change from small competitive societies to cosmopolitan urban centers.
The Hellenistic period was also the time of two philosophies which influenced the ancient world.
Both of these philosophies stressed a change from Aristotles interest in the problems of human relations to the concerns of the inner life of the individual.
Plato, Aristotle and the Arts In the late fourth and early fifth centuries BC in Alexandria, Egypt, the first histories of art were written; unfortunately, only passages survive.
The term Classical moment or high point in the arts has been credited to Hellenistic writers.
The Hellenistic writers referred to the fourth century BC as the Classical moment.
Platos believed that works of art should conform to some absolute standard and praised the Egyptians for not allowing artistic changes.
Plato also held that works of art by man were pale imitations of heavenly prototypes.
Aristotle, on the other hand, thought that the cause or reason a work of art was made was a matter of judgment.
The teachings of Aristotle opened the door to expressiveness and to the cultivation of the artists individuality.
As laid down in Aristotles Poetics, the visual arts could be categorized the same as literature: epic, tragic, comic, lyric, and elegiac.
The new ideas brought about a profound change in attitudes towards the arts.
Works of art were now viewed as the creations of individual artists.
This new attitude gave rise to art collecting. The arts of the late fourth century BC were used to associate Hellenistic rulers with Alexander and his legacy of prestige and power.
Alexander Sarcophagus (fig. 5.1)
In this piece, Alexander is portrayed as the superhuman victor and hero.
This depiction was meant to be symbolic as well as a likeness of Alexander.
The carving of the figures is sharp and crisp as it was during the Classical period.
The composition is laid out in a carefully devised pattern of diagonals.
Dancer (fig. 5.10) During the Hellenistic period, bronze statuettes were made as independent decorative works of art instead of as votive offerings.
The figure draws the drapery tightly against her body allowing movement to be depicted.
Demosthenes (fig. 5.11)
This statue stresses the strength of the soul over the less than perfect body of this ruler.
The personality comes through in the expression with the body being perhaps more realistic.
Allegory It was during the Hellenistic period that allegory, meaning saying something else, first appeared in European art.
In Hellenistic art, gods became more of personifications of love, death and wisdom.
Also, sleeping figures appear for the first time in Hellenistic sculpture. These figures were expressive in their uncontrolled movements and gestures showing a new awareness of mans instinctual nature.
Before the Hellenistic period a statue of a deity, hero, or athlete was self-sufficient. Now they required an allegorical significance.
Sleeping Eros (fig. 5.14)
The legs are apart and one arm is thrown across the body while the infants flesh is rendered realistically.
The way in which this god is depicted is new to Greek art, there is a sense of the unknown about him.
Victory of Samothrace (fig. 5.15)
This statue was to commemorate a naval victory on a small north Aegean island.
The goddess of victory is depicted with great animation in the drapery.
The wings are shown as if she were landing and the way in which the drapery was carved also gives the viewer a sense of a strong wind.
Hellenistic Architecture The history is hard to trace because we know less about it than that from the Classical period because less of it has survived.
Most of the major cities were rebuilt by later inhabitants changing the original layout and designs.
Altar of Zeus (fig. 5.17)
The qualities that differentiate Hellenistic from Classical Greek art and architecture reach their peak here.
This building is by far the largest sculptural complex in the ancient world.
It was so imposing that it was referred to as Satans seat in the Book of Revelation.
This structure was erected as a memorial to the war, which established Rome as the dominant power in the eastern Mediterranean.
Dying Gaul (fig. 5.18)
The war commemorated by with the Altar of Zeus was illustrated with a series of statues of dead or dying Gauls.
The style now used for the statues, as demonstrated here, is in response to the civilized demands of the patrons.
This statue bestows dignity on the defeated Gaul. In keeping with Hellenistic, thought the spirit persists while life slowly leaves the body.
HELLENISTIC AND ROMAN PAINTING AND MOSAICS Though the wall paintings and floor mosaics done in Italy during the last two centuries BC and first century AD, the subject matter was in the Hellenistic style.
By this time the Roman upper class had absorbed Hellenistic culture.
The vast expansion of the Roman empire geographically and ethnically raises many problems in defining Roman art.
Battle of Issus (fig. 5.24)
This mosaic is both Hellenistic in both subject matter and style.
It is the depiction of the actual event of Alexanders victory over the Persians.
The emphasis is on the drama of the moment, illustrated by the movement of the spears.
The figures in the mosaic are rendered with shading, giving them substance.
There is also great use of foreshortening, with the horse in the middle of the composition.
Ixion Room (fig. 5.28)
The illusionism of the architectural framework is characteristic of painting in Italy during this period.
The illusion would visually enlarge the space of rooms by using columns, entablatures, and other architectural elements.
Sometimes make-believe windows would be used to disclose an illusionistic view of colonnades stretching into the distance.
The use of a perspective system may have had Italian origins with the use of lines slanting towards a central axis.
In this room, above the windows are paintings of statues
ROMAN ARCHITECTURE Architecture was regarded as one of the liberal arts, whereas painting and sculpture were not.
Vitruvius, a practicing architect, believed that an architect should be, among other things, a man of letters.
Many feel that the Romans artistic genius was fully expressed in architecture.
Domestic Architecture Nearly all of the types of ancient Roman buildings and methods of construction are represented at Pompeii.
The Pompeiian house was inward looking with an unimpressive exterior.
Temples and Public Works A heightened sense of the relationship between architecture and landscape is evident in the Roman designs.
The Roman temple evolved by skillful and inventive blending of Etruscan and Greek elements.
Unlike the Greek temple, the Roman temple was not the largest structure in the city.
There was a change in the attitude towards public works such as harbors and aqueducts.
This was very different from early civilizations, which believed that the greatest service to the community was a temple to a god.
In Rome, politics played a bigger role than religion in architecture.
During the first century BC, greater public works and building programs began, in part, as propaganda.
Augustus completed the building program began by Julius Caesar.
Marble was a symbol of magnificence and, because of the size of the empire, marble of any color was available.
Maison Carre (fig. 5.37) This temple combines the raised temple and processional entryway of the Etruscans with the use of a pediment and Corinthian columns from the Greeks.
The Romans employed engaged columns for decorative purposes only.
Pont du Gard (fig. 5.41)
The purpose of this structure was to carry water some 30 miles to Nimes.
This aqueduct is constructed of dressed stone. The width of the arches at the top are six times their total height.
The Colosseum and the Invention of Concrete The most important material was concrete which helped the Romans revolutionize architecture.
Roman concrete was a combination of mortar and pieces of aggregate and was laid in courses.
Concretes unique strength and durability came from the binding agent, which was a mortar made of lime and volcanic sand.
The ability of concrete to hardened into an homogeneous mass revolutionized architecture when combined with the arch and vault.
The arch became the essential element in Roman architecture and symbolized the sustaining power of the empire itself.
Romans could now cover large areas of space; whereas, before architecture was simply an art of mass.
Architecture of space replaced the previous limited concept of building
Colosseum (fig. 5.42) The exterior of this structure incorporates the use of the arch and the Greek architectural orders starting with Doric on the bottom, followed by Ionic, and topped with Corinthian.
The Colosseum had an estimated seating capacity of 45,000 to 55,000.
The architects took care of the entrance/exit problem with an ingenious arrangement of stairways and corridors all leading down to the continuous ground floor arched openings.
This structures plan measured 615 by 510 feet externally and 159 feet high, and was completed in a decade.
Various materials were used such as concrete travertine, tufa, and brick faced concrete for the walls between the piers.
There was a huge awning, which was supported by wooden poles to protect the public from the sun.
With the Colosseum, concrete was used only for foundations and walls.
Pantheon (fig. 5.48)
This structure was built on the site of an earlier temple with a different design.
The Pantheon consists of two parts, a traditional temple-front portico with massive granite columns, and an enormous domed rotunda, which was possible because of the use of the slow drying concrete.
This dramatic combination of shapes was not missed by the public as they passed from the angular forms into one of spherical infinity.
The surface of the dome is broken into 5 bands of coffers, which serve the dual purpose of decoration and an architectural means of reducing weight.
The bands diminish in area as they approach the oculas but are equal in depth.
It is believed that the coffers originally had gilded moldings around the edges and contained gilt bronze rosettes.
The design of the Pantheon differed from previous Roman temples and this, in addition to its beauty, may have been one of the reasons the Christians did not destroy it.
ROMAN SCULPTURE The ruler Hadrian preferred Athens to Rome, spoke Greek better than Latin, and furnished his villa with Greek statues.
Romans had begun to collect Greek statues before the end of the third century BC.
The demand was greater than the supply, which led to a proliferation of copies and imitations, which were generally of poor quality.
Greek bronze statues were reproduced into marble with no concern for the change of the medium, and there generally was an addition of an unsightly support.
Laocon and his Two Sons (fig. 5.52)
The representation of the figures is suggestive of those found on the Altar of Zeus, which is one reason why many believe that this is an original.
The bodies are depicted with strained muscles and tortured looks on their faces, which are traits of the Hellenistic period.
Towards a Definition of Roman Art Romans were blatant in their use of Greek sculpture. One of their practices was to use a copy of the body part of a Greek statue and add the portrait head of the individual.
The Roman preoccupation with actuality enabled them to enlarge their range.
Even though there was a great degree of realism in Hellenistic sculptures, Roman portraits surpassed them in their extreme realism.
Augustus of Primaporta (fig. 5.55)
This statue is one of the finest examples of the copying practice.
Here though, not only was the head added but also the generals costume and additional carvings which allude to one of Augustuss victories.
Though this is a copy of a Greek statue, adjustments were made in the pose giving Augustus a speaking gesture.
This statue raises the questions of whether there is such a thing as a Roman style and how does one define Roman art.
Many believe that because of the Romans extracting so much from other cultures; there truly is not a Roman identity.
The term Roman may be used for works of art produced in its territory, but this does not take into consideration the ethical diversity of the Roman Empire.
There is, however, certain characteristics which do lend themselves to be recognized as pure Roman.
Quite different from the Greeks, wrinkles were not considered unsightly. Instead, they were regarded as an implication of a successful life.
Roman husband and wife (fig. 5.53)
This funerary portrait is from the late Roman Republican period.
The wife has a superior expression in keeping with republican decorum.
The husband is in keeping with the Roman embodiment of dignity, with his unsmiling, heavily wrinkled face.
Ara Pacis Augustae (fig. 5.54)
This structure was made to mark the return of Augustus to Rome in 13 BC and to celebrate the peace that followed the civil wars.
It is actually an altar on a podium surrounded by a rectangular wall enclosure. Its design was influenced by the Greeks.
The outer walls contain deeply carved panels of foliage ornament, figurative reliefs of mythological subjects, and two long processions.
Frieze of the Ara Pacis Augustae (fig. 5.56)
These friezes differ from those of the Parthenon in that the figures are not idealized youths or expressionless.
The figures here are presented in a manner that suggests that they are communicating with each other and that they are recognizable portraits.
This frieze also differs from the Parthenon in the fact that it includes younger members of the family.
The friezes differ from other processional reliefs in other ways such as the fact that this marks a specific moment in time.
This is an excellent example of the use of low and high relief to show the illusion of distance.
Portrait bust of a Roman lady (fig. 5.61)
The portrait bust was one of Romes most famous contribution to sculpture.
This form of sculpture, consisting of the head, neck and a portion of the torso, evolved out of the Roman practice of making wax masks of their ancestors.
This bust is one of the finest examples to survive this period.
The detail in the hair alone is amazing as is the soft modeling of the face.
Equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius (fig. 5.62)
This statue is the only one to survive from the Roman period.
The addition of hair on the face is a feature left over from the emperor Hadrian, who favored beards.
There is a strong contrast between the tension of the horse and the calm appearance of the rider.
The figures are not in scale to each other, and it is believed that they were not meant to be fitted together.
Arch of Titus (fig. 5.63)
One method frequently used for visual propaganda was the triumphal arch, which was another Roman invention.
These arches usually stood over a thoroughfare and were not used as an entrance.
This arch was built of concrete and was faced with honey colored marble.
The engaged columns are the Composite order combining Corinthian and Ionic elements.
Spoils from the temple in Jerusalem, from the Arch of Titus (fig. 5.64)
This relief reveals a strong sense of illusion of space and movement in the way the men and the horses are depicted passing through another arch.
LATE ANTIQUE ART The great Roman empire began to show stress before Marcus Aurelius died in 180 AD.
The center of the empire shifted from Rome towards the East. Even with these changes there does appear to be an awareness in architecture of the decline of the empire.
During the third century AD, a shift began away from clarity in sculpture towards inner thoughts and feelings.
The sculpture of the late third and early fourth century AD disregards the Greek notion of ideal beauty,though it is not known if this change was a reflection of the turmoil of the times.
Frigidarium of the Baths of Diocletian (fig. 5.72)
This was the cold room of the complex and shows the continual grandiose approach to architecture.
The great vault of this structure spanned an area of some 200 feet by 80 feet.
This complex was built partly to illustrate the ability of Diocletian to restore imperial authority after a period of near anarchy within the empire.
Sarcophagus from Acilia (fig. 5.77)
The figures are very different from those on the Ara Pacis where each was presented in their own self confident physical presence.
The figures shown here are not in proportion and are self absorbed.
Reliefs from the Arch of Constantine (fig. 5.78)
This traditional archs reliefs are a blend of traditional and new sculpture.
The roundels were made in the second century AD and offer a good contrast to the panel below them, which was done in the fourth century AD.
The panel is generalized in its depiction of Constantine and the space is flattened, scale is ignored and gestures are not individualized.