Classical Greek and Roman Art and Architecture
Roman art spans the centuries of the Republic and of the later Empire that governed the lands of the Mediterranean, Europe, and the British Isles from antiquity until the beginning of the Dark Ages. From its own heritage and its conquests and trade, Rome developed a very eclectic artistic palette. Inspiration also came from the lands they conquered, most notably Egypt.
Italy itself was not without artistic representation leading to an influence on Roman art. The arts of Rome were not mere copies of Greek achievement.
The nation and the empire created works that contributed a great deal to the advancement of man in politics and knowledge, and also in architecture, design, and the visual and performing arts. Roman Art — The Colosseum. The beginnings of Roman art in relation to date on not entirely clear as Rome existed in the days of the Etruscans and once Rome took hold of Italy still needed time to firmly establish a culture.
When Rome achieved victory in the Punic wars they were finally confident enough to feel pride in their culture and began to create rather trade or buy. In the beginning, Rome did take most of their artistic influence from the Greeks whom they saw as a superior culture regarding artistic endeavors.
Roman consumers also saw art as a status symbol and therefore wanted the best, which to them was Greek art. Roman artists met the challenge by patterning their early works after the Greeks. One arena in which the Romans excelled above all other art movements was in architecture. The Roman arch, the aqueducts, and the multiple tiers of the Colosseum were engineering masterpieces that advanced the field of architecture the world over.
Roman roads and buildings are still in use today because of the masterful engineering and craftsmanship employed by Roman artists and designers. Roman sculpture followed the Grecian style for many years but established their own style in creating a sculpture for their own unique social rituals. Romans, like the Etruscans before them, decorated tombs with portrait sculptures of the deceased and the Romans excelled at it.
They also made great strides in relief work, with the triumphal arches and columns giving evidence to that fact in the exquisite reliefs narrating stories on their surfaces. Sadly, in the 3rd-century Roman sculpture and relief declined to such a point as to be heavy in nature and overly simplistic in design.
Portrait sculpture lent itself more to unfinished caricature than to realistic portrayal. Citizens that could not afford relief built into the wall of their home that wanted to enjoy them before they had one commissioned for their sarcophagus could turn to Campana pottery reliefs for economical versions. Small sculptures of other sorts, such as those made from glass, silver, or cameo were also available.
Romans used secco painting on a dry rather than wet wallfrescoes, and mosaics to decorate the walls of homes, palaces, and tombs. As Rome became Christianized and the seat of the empire moved to Byzantium, Roman art was absorbed by other more fashionable trends of the day including Byzantine art and LaTene Celtic art.
Shopping cart close. Menu Categories.The Museum has temporarily closed its three locations. Learn more. The Museum's collection of Greek and Roman art comprises more than thirty thousand works ranging in date from the Neolithic period ca. It includes the art of many cultures and is among the most comprehensive in North America.
The geographic regions represented are Greece and Italy, but not as delimited by modern political frontiers: Greek colonies were established around the Mediterranean basin and on the shores of the Black Sea, and Cyprus became increasingly Hellenized. For Roman art, the geographical limits coincide with the expansion of the Roman Empire. The department also exhibits the art of prehistoric Greece Helladic, Cycladic, and Minoan and pre-Roman art of Italic peoples, notably the Etruscans.
The Greek and Roman galleries reveal classical art in all of its complexity and resonance. The objects range from small, engraved gemstones to black-figure and red-figure painted vases to over-lifesize statues and reflect virtually all of the materials in which ancient artists and craftsmen worked: marble, limestone, terracotta, bronze, gold, silver, and glass, as well as such rarer substances as ivory and bone, iron, lead, amber, and wood.
The strengths of the collection include painted Greek vases, Greek grave reliefs, Cypriot sculpture, marble and bronze Roman portrait busts, and wall paintings from two villas on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius, one at Boscoreale and the other at Boscotrecase.
The department's holdings in glass and silver are among the most important in the world, and the collection of archaic Attic sculpture is second only to that in Athens. The Museum's first accessioned object was a Roman sarcophagus from Tarsus, donated in Its first director —Luigi Palma di Cesnola, was appointed on the strength of the acquisition and display of his large collection of antiquities from Cyprus.
The third director — was Edward Robinson, an accomplished classical archaeologist whose tenure saw an exceptional enrichment of the collections by bequest, gift, and purchase. The donations of J. Morgan, for example, complemented purchases made possible in particular from the Rogers Fund, established in by a bequest of Jacob S. Rogers, a manufacturer of locomotives.
In addition, some material came from excavations through organizations supporting the exploration of Sardis and from excavations at Praisos on Crete through the Archaeological Institute of America. Despite these propitious conditions for the acquisition of ancient art and the large number of objects that were indeed acquired, an independent Department of Classical Art was not established formally until ; in it was renamed the Department of Greek and Roman Art.
Inthe Museum completed a fifteen-year master plan to renovate the exhibition spaces for Greek and Roman art and reinstall the collection. The second phase, seven galleries for Greek art of the archaic and classical periods sixth through fourth century B. With objects arranged in a new contextual display combining works of different media, the new Greek galleries present such themes as religion, funerary customs, civic life, and athletics, in magnificent Beaux-Arts spaces created for the collection between and by the architectural firm of McKim, Mead and White.
The grand, barrel-vaulted gallery in the center of the installation—now known as the Mary and Michael Jaharis Gallery—is one of New York City's great interior spaces, flooded with natural light and ideal for exhibiting large-scale marble sculpture, bronzes, and vases.
The department's extensive collection of Cypriot art returned to view in April in four newly renovated galleries on the second floor. With more than 5, objects on view in an area of more than 30, square feet, the focal point is the Leon Levy and Shelby White Court —a monumental, skylit peristyle for the display of Hellenistic and Roman art with a soaring two-story atrium.
The new galleries present the most important and familiar masterworks in the Greek and Roman collection. The Study Collection on the mezzanine above the Leon Levy and Shelby White Court supplements the objects on view in the primary galleries and an exhibition gallery allows for temporary displays. The staff of the Greek and Roman Department continuously adds information to the online collection.
They produce publications, contribute to international conferences, and take an active part in archaeological fieldwork in Greece. See highlights of Greek and Roman art in The Met collection. Watch videos about Greek and Roman art—interviews, lectures, exhibition previews, and more. Datable to about B. The Friends of Greek and Roman Art: Philodoroi brings together patrons and collectors in support of the department.
Visit The Met Store to discover publications and products related to The Met's current, upcoming, and past exhibitions. From exhibition previews to curator talks and performances, experience the best of human creativity from every corner of the globe at The Met. Videos Watch videos about Greek and Roman art—interviews, lectures, exhibition previews, and more.
10 Facts about Ancient Roman Art
Crossroads at The Met Fifth Avenue. Through December The study of Roman sculpture is complicated by its relation to Greek sculpture. Many examples of even the most famous Greek sculptures, such as the Apollo Belvedere and Barberini Faunare known only from Roman Imperial or Hellenistic "copies". At one time, this imitation was taken by art historians as indicating a narrowness of the Roman artistic imagination, but, in the late 20th century, Roman art began to be reevaluated on its own terms: some impressions of the nature of Greek sculpture may in fact be based on Roman artistry.
The strengths of Roman sculpture are in portraiture, where they were less concerned with the ideal than the Greeks or Ancient Egyptians, and produced very characterful works, and in narrative relief scenes. Examples of Roman sculpture are abundantly preserved, in total contrast to Roman painting, which was very widely practiced but has almost all been lost. Latin and some Greek authorsparticularly Pliny the Elder in Book 34 of his Natural Historydescribe statues, and a few of these descriptions match extant works.
While a great deal of Roman sculpture, especially in stone, survives more or less intact, it is often damaged or fragmentary; life-size bronze statues are much more rare as most have been recycled for their metal. Most statues were actually far more lifelike and often brightly colored when originally created; the raw stone surfaces found today is due to the pigment being lost over the centuries.
Early Roman art was influenced by the art of Greece and that of the neighbouring Etruscansthemselves greatly influenced by their Greek trading partners. An Etruscan speciality was near life size tomb effigies in terracottausually 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.
A native Italian style can be seen in the tomb monuments of prosperous middle-class Romans, which very often featured portrait busts, and portraiture is arguably the main strength of Roman sculpture. There are no survivals from the tradition of masks of ancestors that were worn in processions at the funerals of the great families and otherwise displayed in the home, but many of the busts that survive must represent ancestral figures, perhaps from the large family tombs like the Tomb of the Scipios or the later mausolea outside the city.
The famous " Capitoline Brutus ", a bronze head supposedly of Lucius Junius Brutus is very variously dated, but taken as a very rare survival of Italic style under the Republic, in the preferred medium of bronze.
Introduction to ancient Roman art
The Romans did not generally attempt to compete with free-standing Greek works of heroic exploits from history or mythology, but from early on produced historical works in reliefculminating in the great Roman triumphal columns with continuous narrative reliefs winding around them, of which those commemorating Trajan CE and Marcus Aurelius by survive in Rome, where the Ara Pacis "Altar of Peace", 13 BCE represents the official Greco-Roman style at its most classical and refined.
Among other major examples are the earlier re-used reliefs on the Arch of Constantine and the base of the Column of Antoninus Pius Campana reliefs were cheaper pottery versions of marble reliefs and the taste for relief was from the imperial period expanded to the sarcophagus. All forms of luxury small sculpture continued to be patronized, and quality could be extremely high, as in the silver Warren Cupglass Lycurgus Cupand large cameos like the Gemma AugusteaGonzaga Cameo and the " Great Cameo of France ".
After moving through a late 2nd century "baroque" phase,  in the 3rd century, Roman art largely abandoned, or simply became unable to produce, sculpture in the classical tradition, a change whose causes remain much discussed. Even the most important imperial monuments now showed stumpy, large-eyed figures in a harsh frontal style, in simple compositions emphasizing power at the expense of grace.
The contrast is famously illustrated in the Arch of Constantine of in Rome, which combines sections in the new style with roundels in the earlier full Greco-Roman style taken from elsewhere, and the Four Tetrarchs c. Ernst Kitzinger found in both monuments the same "stubby proportions, angular movements, an ordering of parts through symmetry and repetition and a rendering of features and drapery folds through incisions rather than modelling The hallmark of the style wherever it appears consists of an emphatic hardness, heaviness and angularity — in short, an almost complete rejection of the classical tradition".
This revolution in style shortly preceded the period in which Christianity was adopted by the Roman state and the great majority of the people, leading to the end of large religious sculpture, with large statues now only used for emperors, as in the famous fragments of a colossal acrolithic statue of Constantineand the 4th or 5th century Colossus of Barletta.Classical Art encompasses the cultures of Greece and Rome and endures as the cornerstone of Western civilization.
Including innovations in painting, sculpture, decorative arts, and architecture, Classical Art pursued ideals of beauty, harmony, and proportion, even as those ideals shifted and changed over the centuries. While often employed in propagandistic ways, the human figure and the human experience of space and their relationship with the gods were central to Classical Art. Over the span of almost years, ideals of human beauty and proportion occupied art's subject.
Variations of those ideals were later adopted during the Renaissance in Italy and again during the 18 th and 19 th century Neoclassical trend throughout Europe. Connotations of moral virtue and stability clung to Classical Art, making it attractive to new nations and republics trying to find an aesthetic vocabulary to convey their power, while, later, in the 20 th century it came under attack by modern artists who sought to disrupt and overturn power and traditional ideals.
Considered the first Greeks, the Mycenaeans had a lasting influence on later Greek art, architecture, and literature. A bronze age civilization that extended through modern day southern Greece as well as coastal regions of modern day Turkey, Italy, and Syria, Mycenaea was an elite warrior society dominated by palace states.
Divided into three classes - the king's attendants, the common people, and slaves - each palace state was ruled by a king with military, political, and religious authority. The society valorized heroic warriors and made offerings to a pantheon of gods. In later Greek literature, including Homer's The Iliad and The Odysseythe exploits of these warriors and gods engaged in the Trojan War had become legendary and, in fact, appropriated by later Greeks as their founding myths. This work depicts a nude muscular warrior, as he steps forward, his head turns slightly to his right, and his left hand would have readied a spear that originally rested upon his left shoulder.
The figure's anatomical realism conveys potential movement through a complex interaction of tensed and relaxed muscles. Almost seven feet tall, the monumental work conveys an imposing sense of male heroic beauty that could face whatever may come with dispassionate calm, as shown in the serious but expressionless face.
Because marble copies needed additional support, the tree stump was an addition to the bronze original. What is known of the original is based upon the exceptional quality of later copies, including this one. Polycleitus thought this work was synonymous with his Canon, a treatise of sculptural principles, based upon mathematical proportions. Though his treatise has been lost, references to it survived in later accounts, including Galen's, a 2 nd century Greek writer, who wrote that its "Beauty consists in the proportions, not of the elements, but of the parts, that is to say, of finger to finger, and of all the fingers to the palm and the wrist, and of these to the forearm, and of the forearm to the upper arm, and of all the other parts to each other.
Moon and Barbara Hughes Fowler write, the Doryphorus ushered in "a new definition of true human greatness This iconic temple, dedicated to Athena, goddess of wisdom and patron of Athens, stands majestically on top of the Acropolis, a sacred complex overlooking the city.
The 17 Doric columns on either side and the eight at each end create both a sense of harmonious proportion and a dynamic visual and horizontal movement. The building exemplifies the Doric order and the rectangular plan of Greek temples, which emphasized a flow of movement and light between the temple's interior and the surrounding space, while the movement of the columns, rising out of the earth, to the entablature that rings the building, draws the eye heavenward to the carved reliefs and statues that, originally, brightly painted, crowned the temple.
Ictinus and Callicrates were identified as the architects of the building in ancient sources, while the sculptor Phidias and the statesman Pericles supervised the project.
Dedicated in BCE, the Parthenon replaced the earlier temple on the city's holy site that also included a shrine to Erechtheus, the city's mythical founder, a smaller temple of the goddess Athena, and the olive tree that she gave to Athens, all of which were destroyed by the invading Persian Army in BCE.
The Persians also killed the priests, priestesses, and citizens who had taken refuge at the site, and, when the new Parthenon was dedicated, following that experience of trauma and desecration, it was a monument to the restoration and continuation of Athenian values and became, as art critic Daniel Mendelsohn wrote, a "dramatization of the political and moral differences between the victims and the perpetrators.
While Doric temples commonly had thirteen columns on each side and six in the front, the Parthenon pioneered the octastyle, with eight columns, thus extending the space for sculptural reliefs. Originally the Parthenon Marbles decorated the entablature, as 92 metopesor rectangular stone panels, depicted mythological battle scenes - of gods fighting giants, Greek warriors fighting Trojans or Amazons, and men battling centaurs - while the pediments contained statues depicting the stories of Athena's life, so that as Mendelsohn wrote, "Merely to walk around the temple was to get a lesson in Greek and Athenian civic history.
Forty feet tall, the statue held a six foot tall gold statue of Victory in her hand. A frieze, carved in relief, lined the surrounding walls, innovatively introducing a decorative feature of Ionic architecture into the Doric order.
The foot long frieze has been described by art historian Joan Breton Connelly as "showing human and animal figures Aesthetically, though, as Mendelsohn explains, "[T]he slight swelling also conveys the subliminal impression of muscular effort Arching, leaning, straining, swelling, breathing: the over-all effect This nude statue, a little over seven feet tall, depicts Apollo, the Greek god of art and music, as he strides forward, having just shot an arrow from a bow which his extended left hand originally held.Trajan's Column Showing pedestal, shaft, capital and statue of St Peter on top.
Note: For later artists and styles inspired by the arts of ancient Rome, see: Classicism in Art onwards. The Severan Tondo: panel painting of the Imperial Family c. Depicts the "rain miracle of Quadi". God rescues the Roman Legion from destruction by barberians by creating a terrible storm. For several centuries Ancient Rome was the most powerful nation on earth, excelling all others at military organization and warfare, engineering, and architecture.
Its unique cultural achievements include the invention of the dome and the groin vault, the development of concrete and a European-wide network of roads and bridges. Despite this, Roman sculptors and painters produced only a limited amount of outstanding original fine artpreferring instead to recycle designs from Greek art, which they revered as far superior to their own. Indeed, many types of art practised by the Romans - including, sculpture bronze and marble statuary, sarcophagifine art painting murals, portraiture, vase-paintingand decorative art including metalworkmosaics, jewelleryivory carving had already been fully mastered by Ancient Greek artists.
Not surprisingly, therefore, while numerous Greek sculptors like Phidias, Kresilas, Myron, Polykleitos, Callimachus, Skopas, Lysippos, Praxiteles, and Leochares, Phyromachos and painters like Apollodorus, Zeuxis of Heraclea, Agatharchos, Parrhasius, Apelles of Kos, Antiphilus, Euphranor of Corinth were accorded great respect throughout the Hellenistic world, most Roman artists were regarded as no more than skilled tradesmen and have remained anonymous.
Of course it is wrong to say that Roman art was devoid of innovation: its urban architecture was ground-breaking, as was its landscape painting and portrait busts. Nor is it true that Roman artists produced no great masterpieces - witness the extraordinary relief sculpture on monuments like Ara Pacis Augustae and Trajan's Column.
But on the whole, we can say that Roman art was predominantly derivative and, above all, utilitarian. It served a purpose, a higher good: the dissemination of Roman values along with a respect for Roman power. As it transpired, classical Roman art has been immensely influential on many subsequent cultures, through revivalist movements like Neoclassical architecturewhich have shaped much European and American architectureas exemplified by the US Capitol Building The lesser-known Classical Revival in modern art led to a return to figure painting as well as new abstract movements like Cubism.
Although Rome was founded as far back as BCE, it led a precarious existence for several centuries. Initially, it was ruled by Etruscan kings who commissioned a variety of Etruscan art murals, sculptures and metalwork for their tombs as well as their palaces, and to celebrate their military victories. After the founding of the Roman Republic in BCE, Etruscan influence waned and, from BCE, as the Romans started coming into contact with the flourishing Greek cities of southern Italy and the eastern Mediterranean, they fell under the influence of Greek art - a process known as Hellenization.
Soon many Greek works of art were being taken to Rome as booty, and many Greek artists followed to pursue their careers under Roman patronage. However, the arts were still not a priority for Roman leaders who were more concerned about survival and military affairs. It wasn't until about BCE after it won the first Punic War against Hannibal and the Carthaginians, that Rome felt secure enough to develop its culture.
Even then, the absence of an independent cultural tradition of its own meant that most ancient art of Rome imitated Greek works. Rome was unique among the powers of the ancient world in developing only a limited artistic language of its own.
Cultural Inferiority Complex. Roman architecture and engineering was never less than bold, but its painting and sculpture was based on Greek traditions and also on art forms developed in its vassal states like Egypt and Ancient Persia.
To put it another way, despite their spectacular military triumphs, the Romans had an inferiority complex in the face of Greek artistic achievement. Their ultra-pragmatic response was to recycle Greek sculpture at every opportunity. Greek poses, reworked with Roman clothes and accessories, were pressed into service to reinforce Roman power. Heroic Greek statues were even supplied headless, to enable the buyer to fit his own portrait head. An example is the equestrian bronze statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius c.
See: Greek Sculpture Made Simple.Today only! Offer ends tonight at midnight EST. Chungkong Art. Alexis Birkill. Paul Wilford. Guido Borelli. Melvin Kearney. Ivan Aleshin. Andrey Yurlov. Gabriel Scott. Tom Bennink. Barnuti Daniel Ioan. Er Marco Rubino. Viacheslav Lopatin. Studio Dagdagaz. Nikola Knezevic. Carol Leigh. Juan Bosco. Cameron Gray. Anna Rose Bain. Studio Grafiikka.
Jane Small. Julian Allen.The Museum has temporarily closed its three locations. Learn more. This fully illustrated resource is designed for teachers of grades K—12 and includes a discussion of the relevance of Rome to the modern world, a short historical overview, and descriptions of forty-five works of art from The Met collection of Roman art.
Lesson plans, classroom activities, maps, bibliographies, and a glossary are also included. Download the resource PDF. The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History pairs essays and works of art with chronologies, telling the story of art and global culture through The Met collection. The Artist Project asks artists to reflect on what art is and what inspires them from across 5, years of art. Their unique and passionate ways of seeing and experiencing art reveal the power of a museum and encourage all visitors to look in a personal way.
Program times and topics vary. The Met is the place to be for teens. Check out classes, workshops, and special events designed especially for teens to develop their skills, and connect with art, ideas, and other young people! Thompson This fully illustrated resource is designed for teachers of grades K—12 and includes a discussion of the relevance of Rome to the modern world, a short historical overview, and descriptions of forty-five works of art from The Met collection of Roman art.
Timeline of Art History The Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History pairs essays and works of art with chronologies, telling the story of art and global culture through The Met collection. The Artist Project The Artist Project asks artists to reflect on what art is and what inspires them from across 5, years of art. MetTeens The Met is the place to be for teens.