Iconography and its Use in the Study of Ancient Greek and Roman Music

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Responses to Greek and Roman dance Oxford Szymanski edd , The Muse at Play. Versluys edd , Power, politics and the cults of Isis. Roman art refers to the visual arts made in Ancient Rome and in the territories of the Roman Empire. Roman art includes architecture , painting , sculpture and mosaic work. Luxury objects in metal-work , gem engraving , ivory carvings , and glass are sometimes considered in modern terms to be minor forms of Roman art, [1] although this would not necessarily have been the case for contemporaries.

Sculpture was perhaps considered as the highest form of art by Romans, but figure painting was also very highly regarded. The two forms have had very contrasting rates of survival, with a very large body of sculpture surviving from about the 1st century BC onward, though very little from before, but very little painting at all remains, and probably nothing that a contemporary would have considered to be of the highest quality.

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Ancient Roman 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. Roman coins were an important means of propaganda, and have survived in enormous numbers. While the traditional view of the ancient Roman artists is that they often borrowed from, and copied Greek precedents much of the Greek sculptures known today are in the form of Roman marble copies , more recent analysis has indicated that Roman art is a highly creative pastiche relying heavily on Greek models but also encompassing Etruscan , native Italic, and even Egyptian visual culture.

Stylistic eclecticism and practical application are the hallmarks of much Roman art. Though very little remains of Greek wall art and portraiture, certainly Greek sculpture and vase painting bears this out. These forms were not likely surpassed by Roman artists in fineness of design or execution. As another example of the lost "Golden Age", he singled out Peiraikos , "whose artistry is surpassed by only a very few The Greek antecedents of Roman art were legendary.

In the mid-5th century BC, the most famous Greek artists were Polygnotos , noted for his wall murals, and Apollodoros , the originator of chiaroscuro. It appears that Roman artists had much Ancient Greek art to copy from, as trade in art was brisk throughout the empire, and much of the Greek artistic heritage found its way into Roman art through books and teaching.

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Ancient Greek treatises on the arts are known to have existed in Roman times, though are now lost. The high number of Roman copies of Greek art also speaks of the esteem Roman artists had for Greek art, and perhaps of its rarer and higher quality. The traditional head-and-shoulders bust may have been an Etruscan or early Roman form. There is no recording, as in Ancient Greece, of the great masters of Roman art, and practically no signed works.

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Where Greeks worshiped 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. Owing in part to the fact that the Roman cities were far larger than the Greek city-states in power and population, and generally less provincial, art in Ancient Rome took on a wider, and sometimes more utilitarian, purpose.

Roman culture assimilated many cultures and was for the most part tolerant of the ways of conquered peoples. Wealthy Romans were more materialistic; they decorated their walls with art, their home with decorative objects, and themselves with fine jewelry. In the Christian era of the late Empire, from to CE, wall painting, mosaic ceiling and floor work , and funerary sculpture thrived, while full-sized sculpture in the round and panel painting died out, most likely for religious reasons.

When Rome was sacked in the 5th century, artisans moved to and found work in the Eastern capital. The Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople employed nearly 10, workmen and artisans, in a final burst of Roman art under Emperor Justinian — CE , who also ordered the creation of the famous mosaics of Basilica of San Vitale in the city of Ravenna. Of the vast body of Roman painting we now have only a very few pockets of survivals, with many documented types not surviving at all, or doing so only from the very end of the period.

The best known and most important pocket is the wall paintings from Pompeii , Herculaneum and other sites nearby, which show how residents of a wealthy seaside resort decorated their walls in the century or so before the fatal eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. A succession of dated styles have been defined and analysed by modern art historians beginning with August Mau , showing increasing elaboration and sophistication.

Starting in the 3rd century CE and finishing by about we have a large body of paintings from the Catacombs of Rome , by no means all Christian, showing the later continuation of the domestic decorative tradition in a version adapted - probably not greatly adapted - for use in burial chambers, in what was probably a rather humbler social milieu than the largest houses in Pompeii.

Much of Nero 's palace in Rome, the Domus Aurea , survived as grottos and gives us examples which we can be sure represent the very finest quality of wall-painting in its style, and which may well have represented significant innovation in style. There are a number of other parts of painted rooms surviving from Rome and elsewhere, which somewhat help to fill in the gaps of our knowledge of wall-painting. From Roman Egypt there are a large number of what are known as Fayum mummy portraits , bust portraits on wood added to the outside of mummies by a Romanized middle class; despite their very distinct local character they are probably broadly representative of Roman style in painted portraits, which are otherwise entirely lost.

Nothing remains of the Greek paintings imported to Rome during the 4th and 5th centuries, or of the painting on wood done in Italy during that period. There is evidence from mosaics and a few inscriptions that some Roman paintings were adaptations or copies of earlier Greek works. Roman painting provides a wide variety of themes: During the Hellenistic period, it evoked the pleasures of the countryside and represented scenes of shepherds, herds, rustic temples, rural mountainous landscapes and country houses.

In the late empire, after AD, early Christian themes mixed with pagan imagery survive on catacomb walls.

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The 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, years later. Surface textures, shading, and coloration are well applied but scale and spatial depth was still not rendered accurately.

Some landscapes were pure scenes of nature, particularly gardens with flowers and trees, while others were architectural vistas depicting urban buildings. Other landscapes show episodes from mythology, the most famous demonstrating scenes from the Odyssey. In the traditional view, the art of the ancient East would have known landscape painting only as the backdrop to civil or military narrative scenes. It is possible to see evidence of Greek knowledge of landscape portrayal in Plato's Critias b—b:. Roman still life subjects are often placed in illusionist niches or shelves and depict a variety of everyday objects including fruit, live and dead animals, seafood, and shells.

Examples of the theme of the glass jar filled with water were skillfully painted and later served as models for the same subject often painted during the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Pliny complained of the declining state of Roman portrait art, "The painting of portraits which used to transmit through the ages the accurate likenesses of people, has entirely gone out Indolence has destroyed the arts. In Greece and Rome, wall painting was not considered as high art. The most prestigious form of art besides sculpture was panel painting , i.

Unfortunately, since wood is a perishable material, only a very few examples of such paintings have survived, namely the Severan Tondo from c. The portraits were attached to burial mummies at the face, from which almost all have now been detached. They usually depict a single person, showing the head, or head and upper chest, viewed frontally. The background is always monochrome, sometimes with decorative elements. They are remarkably realistic, though variable in artistic quality, and may indicate that similar art which was widespread elsewhere but did not survive. A few portraits painted on glass and medals from the later empire have survived, as have coin portraits, some of which are considered very realistic as well.

Gold glass, or gold sandwich glass, was a technique for fixing a layer of gold leaf with a design between two fused layers of glass, developed in Hellenistic glass and revived in the 3rd century AD. There are a very few large designs, including a very fine group of portraits from the 3rd century with added paint, but the great majority of the around survivals are roundels that are the cut-off bottoms of wine cups or glasses used to mark and decorate graves in the Catacombs of Rome by pressing them into the mortar.

They predominantly date from the 4th and 5th centuries. Most are Christian, though there are many pagan and a few Jewish examples. It is likely that they were originally given as gifts on marriage, or festive occasions such as New Year. Their iconography has been much studied, although artistically they are relatively unsophisticated. As time went on there was an increase in the depiction of saints.

Music and creativity in Ancient Greece - Tim Hansen

The earlier group are "among the most vivid portraits to survive from Early Christian times. They stare out at us with an extraordinary stern and melancholy intensity", [25] and represent the best surviving indications of what high quality Roman portraiture could achieve in paint. 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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He had perhaps been given or commissioned the piece to celebrate victory in a musical competition. Roman genre scenes generally depict Romans at leisure and include gambling, music and sexual encounters. Summary maps were drawn to highlight key points of the campaign. Josephus describes the painting executed on the occasion of Vespasian and Titus 's sack of Jerusalem:.

Greek and Roman Musical Studies | brill

There was also wrought gold and ivory fastened about them all; and many resemblances of the war, and those in several ways, and variety of contrivances, affording a most lively portraiture of itself. For there was to be seen a happy country laid waste, and entire squadrons of enemies slain; while some of them ran away, and some were carried into captivity; with walls of great altitude and magnitude overthrown and ruined by machines; with the strongest fortifications taken, and the walls of most populous cities upon the tops of hills seized on, and an army pouring itself within the walls; as also every place full of slaughter, and supplications of the enemies, when they were no longer able to lift up their hands in way of opposition.

Fire also sent upon temples was here represented, and houses overthrown, and falling upon their owners: Now the workmanship of these representations was so magnificent and lively in the construction of the things, that it exhibited what had been done to such as did not see it, as if they had been there really present. On the top of every one of these pageants was placed the commander of the city that was taken, and the manner wherein he was taken. These paintings have disappeared, but they likely influenced the composition of the historical reliefs carved on military sarcophagi , the Arch of Titus , and Trajan's Column.

This evidence underscores the significance of landscape painting, which sometimes tended towards being perspective plans. Ranuccio also describes the oldest painting to be found in Rome, in a tomb on the Esquiline Hill:. It describes a historical scene, on a clear background, painted in four superimposed sections. Several people are identified, such Marcus Fannius and Marcus Fabius. These are larger than the other figures In the second zone, to the left, is a city encircled with crenellated walls, in front of which is a large warrior equipped with an oval buckler and a feathered helmet; near him is a man in a short tunic, armed with a spear Around these two are smaller soldiers in short tunics, armed with spears In the lower zone a battle is taking place, where a warrior with oval buckler and a feathered helmet is shown larger than the others, whose weapons allow to assume that these are probably Samnites.

This episode is difficult to pinpoint. One of Ranuccio's hypotheses is that it refers to a victory of the consul Fabius Maximus Rullianus during the second war against Samnites in BC. The presentation of the figures with sizes proportional to their importance is typically Roman, and finds itself in plebeian reliefs.

This painting is in the infancy of triumphal painting, and would have been accomplished by the beginning of the 3rd century BC to decorate the tomb. Early Roman art was influenced by the art of Greece and that of the neighbouring Etruscans , themselves greatly influenced by their Greek trading partners.

Introduction to ancient Roman art

An Etruscan speciality was near life size tomb effigies in terracotta , usually lying on top of a sarcophagus lid propped up on one elbow in the pose of a diner in that period. As the expanding Roman Republic began to conquer Greek territory, at first in Southern Italy and then the entire Hellenistic world except for the Parthian far east, official and patrician sculpture became largely an extension of the Hellenistic style, from which specifically Roman elements are hard to disentangle, especially as so much Greek sculpture survives only in copies of the Roman period.

Vast numbers of Greek statues were imported to Rome, whether as booty or the result of extortion or commerce, and temples were often decorated with re-used Greek works.