Famous Ancient Roman Sculptures & Historical Facts
The Roman sculpture is blended with the perfection of the classic Greek sculpture along with a much greater aspiration in terms of realism.
The ancient roman sculptures also imbibed artistic styles and preferences from the Eastern region to craft images in bronze and stone that now ranks among the world's finest antiquity works.
Keeping aside Roman's unique and varied contribution, they also have popular copies of the Greek masterpieces that are preserved for futuristic invaluable works.
If not for the Romans, these classic Greek world works would have been lost into oblivion, especially the art made by the Greeks in valuable bronze material.
Like the Greeks, the Romans used stone, glass, terracotta, and precious metals to work with sculptures but above all these, they favored marble and bronze to create their finest of all works.
It is a life-size statue made of bronze. It is a sculpture of a man called Aule Metele and it dates back to a time as old as the first century BCE.
It is a significant sculpture that portrays one of the big milestones that the Roman achieved in terms of art. The orator as a sculpture has a raised hand waving to a crowd.
The man is Etruscan but the sculpture contains an outfit depicting the man as a Roman magistrate wearing boots and a short toga. The sculpture has his original Etruscan name along with his parent's name on the sculpture.
Statue of Electra and Orestes
The Romans had an exquisite taste for the Hellenistic and Greek sculptures, which meant when the supply of authentic or original pieces used to get exhausted, sculptors used to make fine copies which could have been of a different quality that totally depended on the skills of the sculptor.
The copying culture was so predominant that there were legitimate schools dedicated just to copying the much-celebrated originals of the Greeks.
A splendid example of those school works is the first century BC statue of Electra and Orestes made with marble. These are presently kept in the Naples archaeological museum.
Augustus (Prima Porta)
Just like the Greek sculptors, the sculptors from Rome also loved to sculpt their Gods in the form of statues.
As the emperors of Rome started to claim godliness, they started becoming the subject related to the idealistic and colossal statues.
These statues were often portrayed with a posture of an arm raised so that it signified waving to the masses along with an authoritative stance just like the Prima Porta's Augustus.
However, when it was the time of the mid-first century CE, essentially during the reign of Claudius, Flavian, and the Nero emperors, where the official portraiture strove for more realistic attributes or realism. This period was also well-known for its female portraits due to the notable elaborate hairstyles.
The Antinous colossal statue
It showed the return of idealistic images like the Greek classic sculptures under Hadrian. During this time, there was an essential innovation related to rendering more natural eyes with marble.
Before this, the iris and the pupil used to be hand-painted but, at this point, they were also being sculpted on marble just like on terracotta and bronze. Towards the decline of the Empire, the figure sculptures started lacking in proportion.
Especially the heads were disproportionately enlarged and the figure statues were often portrayed flatter from the front, essentially displaying an influence of the Eastern art.
The Hercules (Commodus's bust) and Caracalla
Are great examples of the idealism abandonment in an elite emperor's portraiture. In this period, the statues started having a complete torso and not just the head and shoulders.
The elite portraiture of the late Empires became formulaic and it abandoned every attempt at capturing the subject's realistic physical attributes.
Great examples of these are the representation of late emperors like Diocletian, Constantine I, and Galerius.
Romans began to search for new aspects of art and expression and eventually started moving away from their roots in Greek and Etruscan.
Later by the middle of the first century CE, the Roman artists were looking out for capturing and creating optical effects of shade and light to create a dash of greater realism in objects.
Even later, they tried a move on impressionism by utilizing the tricks and facts of abstract forms and light.
At this point in time the ancient Roman sculptures became even more monumental, along with larger-than-life, and massive statues of gods, heroes, emperors, and many more.
The significant ones are the massive statue of Marcus Aurelius sitting on horseback, portraying the detailed and impressive musculature, which was made of bronze, and an even larger statue of Constantine I (currently, only the hand, head, and few limbs survive). Both of these significant statues can be found in the museums of Capitoline of Rome.
Equestrian statues like the Marcus Aurelius were made to honor civic and military achievements.
Columns like Trajan's Column portrayed real people and historical figures. It marked contrast to the Greek sculptures in which the military victories are present by using metaphoric figures derived from Greek mythology such as Centaurs and Amazons on the temple of Parthenon (situated at the acropolis of Athens).
The sculptors from Rome also used to craft miniature copies of the infamous Greek originals, mainly made in bronze. These miniature sculptures used to be collected by lovers of art and were displayed in their home cabinets.
One of the most popular altars of this time is the altar of Augustus's Ara Pacis. It depicts participants and spectators indulged in a religious procession.
Funeral stelae or tombstones and busts were also one of the most popular sculpture forms in Rome. These sculptures portrayed the deceased individual, the individual with their children and partners, and also slaves.
For example, the Ampidius (a corn merchant's gravestone built in the first century CE) is presently displayed in the UK British museum.
The very first and most successful attempt at creating space and depth in a sculpture is the 2 large panels of relief in Rome called the Arch of Titus. Further, there are many more sculptures portraying Titus riding a horse chariot in Jerusalem.
Roman sculptures are known for their priceless accounts of Greek masterpieces and also they have contributed to art coming from their own light.
Unique contributions like the utilization of historical narratives, realism, impressionism, etc. have made the ancient Roman sculptures the best known worldwide.