Roman Statues in the Greek Style
For half a millennium, the Roman Empire was purveyor and destroyer of classical art and western culture…
The Romans based much of their culture on that of the ancient Greeks and their art was copied directly. Roman sculptors would hone their skills by copying the bronzes of the classical Greek masters. To begin with, most Roman statues perpetuated the same conventions of style and aesthetics, though gradually things developed and Roman style diverged, albeit subtly, from the Greek. This is a good example of how the art of society, and that society's attitude toward art, signifies its core values.
The relaxed contrapposto stance of classical Greek sculpture evolved into a more distinctively Roman authoritarian stance. The facial features also became more severe again and the fleshy texture fell from fashion. The Romans wanted their statues to look like stone or metal in order to emphasise the enduring properties of the materials, and so imply that their culture would have similar longevity.
They wanted the faces of their leaders and Caesars to appear strong, hard and unyielding. They often posed holding a weapon, a symbol of office or simply indicating a direction with raised arm. There’s no denying the skill of the Roman era sculptors and there is a clear attempt to make the portrait heads as accurate as possible whilst, no doubt, remaining flatteringly idealised.
One of the first things the Roman Empire would do when it absorbed a new territory was to carve their laws in a stone slab and display it prominently in town squares, marketplaces, and outside houses of authority. Literally, the letter of the law and hence the phrase we still use to this day, “it’s written in stone”, or if a rule may be challenged, or at least ‘bent’, “it’s not written in stone.” I always prefer to hear the latter.
The Romans added new techniques and technology to art and architecture. They invented concrete, for example, and used it architecturally. Though they did nothing to improve on the conventions of the Greeks… The Romans were also very reactionary…