jueves, 29 de mayo de 2008

Roman Painting

It is mainly wall painting on plaster. The best examples were found in Pompeii, where four different styles are distinguished and due to this they are known as Pompeian styles.

The First Style was largely an exploration of simulating marble of various colours and types on painted plaster. the wall was divided into three horizontal, painted zones crowned with a stucco cornice of dentils based upon the Doric order.

The Second Style in Roman wall painting emerged in the early first century B.C., during which time fresco artists imitated architectural forms purely by pictorial means. In place of stucco architectural details, they used flat plaster on which projection and recession were suggested entirely by shading and perspective; as the style progressed, forms grew more complex. There are visual ambiguities to tease the eye, painted masonry, pillars, and columns that cast shadows into the viewer's space, and more conventional trompe l'oeil devices. Objects of daily life are depicted in such a way as to seem real, with metal and glass vases on shelves, and tables appearing to project out from the wall. The intention of the owner was to create a kind of picture gallery, with the choice of subjects most likely based on the quality and renown of the original paintings.

The Third Style during Augustus' reign, rejected illusion in favour of surface ornamentation. Wall paintings from this period typically comprise a single monochrome background—such as red, black, or white—with elaborate architectural and vegetal details. Small figural and landscape scenes appear in the centre of the wall as a part of, not the dominant element in, the overall decorative scheme.

The Fourth Style in Roman wall painting, considered as a baroque reaction against the third is generally less disciplined than its predecessor. It revives large-scale narrative painting and panoramic vistas, while retaining the architectural details of the Third Style. The colours warm up once again, and they are used to advantage in the depiction of scenes drawn from mythology.

Among the technical characteristics we can signal the elaborate methods employed by wall painters, including the insertion of sheets of lead in the wall to prevent the capillary action of moisture from attacking the fresco, the preparation of as many as seven layers of plaster on the wall, and the use of marble powder in the top layers to produce a mirror like sheen on the surface. Preliminary drawings or light incisions on the prepared surface guided the artists in decorating the walls a fresco (on fresh plaster) with bold primary colours. Softer, pastel colours were often added a secco (on dry plaster) in a subsequent phase. Vitruvius informs us about the pigments used by the Roman artist. Black was drawn from the carbon created by burning brushwood or pine chips. Ochre was extracted from mines and served for yellow. Red was derived either from cinnabar, red ochre, or from heating white lead. Blue was made from mixing sand and copper, and then baking the mixture. The deepest shade of purple was by far the most precious colour, as it was usually obtained from sea whelks.

Mosaic was other example of Roman art directly related to painting. These works were common in the decoration of luxurious villas and the subject represented in each of them used to be related to the function to which the room was devoted. They were made of small pieces of coloured stones that could be regular or irregular. A good example is the Villa of Casale in Piazza Armerina.

Roman Sculpture

The most original fields of Roman Sculpture are portrait and historical relief. Anyway, this was not an obstacle to be combined with Greek and Hellenistic influences.
Greek influence was noticeable at the end of the Republic (2nd- 1st centuries BC). The same as in architecture, the models influenced Roman artists. The admiration of the upper classes towards Hellenistic plastic and the fact that many Greek sculptors were working in Rome supported this influence. Greek plastic was considered as a model of beauty and copies proliferated. Thanks to it was possible to know classical artists’ work.
Roman Portrait
It is the most characteristic element of Roman sculpture, the distinctive one. For the Romans, sculpture depicts realism and the sculptor’s mission is not to depict just beauty but to reproduce nature, reality. In front of the abstraction of perfect characters, Romans preferred the depiction of real people, with their real features, even if there were not nice. Artists did not aim at showing their technical mastery but to honour the authorities. This explains the fact of the artists being anonymous.
Roman realism has its root in several points. The first of them is the fidelity pursued by the Etrurian in their funerary portraits and the tombs painting. This led them to realise masks of the dead people that were the model for future images. These busts were kept in the houses to be honoured. Other element is the practical sense of Romans that encouraged them to depict things as they are. The interest for bearing witness of the things that had happened pushed an interest for history and narration that imbued plastic arts. Finally, individual portrait was widely developed during Hellenism and this was a model for the Romans.

Romans cultivated all kind of portraits: bust, half body, full body, head, and any positions: standing, sitting, and equestrian. This last one was reserved for emperors. The portrayed characters are always people important in Roman society, mainly emperors, who could be depicted in different ways. The materials, disposition, folders of the clothes and other elements evidence Greek influence but what is original is the extraordinary realism of the portrayed people, maintaining their hard character or their expression in addition to the psychological elements. Until the 2nd century there were polychrome effect but them they changed for monochromic depictions and the eyes started having volume to depict the pupil.
The development of Roman portraiture is characterized by a stylistic cycle that alternately emphasized realistic or idealizing elements. Each stage of Roman portraiture can be described as alternately "veristic" or "classicizing," as each imperial dynasty sought to emphasize certain aspects of representation in an effort to legitimize their authority or align themselves with revered predecessors. These stylistic stages played off of one another while pushing the medium toward future artistic innovations.
Republican period (until 1st century BC)
Portraits were made just to the neck. Giving emphasis to the head. After that they continued with the bust. They were made of bronze or stone and polychrome. A majority of the artists were Greek. Portrayed characters are seldom private or public, showing gravity and serenity. Faces are energetic, strong and determined, even when public portraits present a certain idealization to underline the virtues of the subject. The most highly valued traits included a devotion to public service and military powers, and so Republican citizens sought to project these ideals through their representation in portraiture. Public officials commissioned portrait busts that reflected every wrinkle and imperfection of the skin, and heroic, full-length statues often composed of generic bodies onto which realistic, called "veristic” portrait heads were attached. The overall effect of this style gave Republican ideals physical form and presented an image that the sitter wanted to express.
Imperial period (2nd half of 3rd century)
Since Rome became an Empire sculpture suffered a transformation and so did portrait. Classical Greek idealism was more influential. Official portrait is idealized, trying to show the grandeur of the character, mainly divine, even without losing their own physical features or character expression. The prototype was established during August’s times. The emperor appeared as a god, his hair falling in an irregular way on his forehead, the face always shaved. With the Flavians and on (2nd century) realism appeared again, hair had more volume, they had beard and chiaroscuro effects were used. There are monumental portraits, with great variety: Thoracata, as emperor or victorious general (Augusto of Prima Porta), Togatae wearing as a civilian or with the classical toga; apotheosis, with a divinised image, almost naked and crowned with laurel; equestrian, riding a horse (Marco Aurelio).
During this period feminine portraits were common too, with especial attention given to hairstyles and a realistic depiction of women.

Depending on the dynasties we can find:
Augustan and Tiberian portrait tradition of classical and idealized features that carried a strong "family" resemblance. However, during the reign of the emperor Claudius (r. 41–54 A.D.), a shift in the political atmosphere favored a return to Republican standards and so also influenced artistic styles. Portraits of Claudius reflect his increasing age and strongly resemble veristic portraits of the Republic. This trend toward realism eventually led to the characteristic styles of the second imperial dynasty: the Flavians.
With the Flavians portraiture characterized by a return to a veristic representation that emphasized their military strengths. Portraits of Vespasian, the founder of the Flavian dynasty, similarly show him in an unidealized manner. During the Flavian era, sculptors also made remarkable advancements in technique that included a revolutionary use of the drill, and female portraiture of the period is renowned for its elaborate corkscrew hairstyles.

With Trajan the cycle continued with his portraits (r. 98–117 A.D.), who wanted to emphasize symbolic connections with Augustus and so adopted an ageless and somewhat idealized portrait type quite different from that of the Flavians. His successor Hadrian, however, went a step further and is noted as being the first emperor to adopt the Greek habit of wearing a beard. The textual interplay that was developed in the treatment of Flavian women's hairstyles was now more fully explored in male portraiture, and busts of the Hadrianic period are identified by a full head of curly hair as well as the presence of a beard.
The Antonines modeled their portraits after Hadrian, and emphasized (fictional) familial resemblances to him by having themselves portrayed as never-aging, bearded adults. Continued development in Roman portrait styles was spurred by the philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius and his son Commodus (r. 177–92 A.D.), whose portraits feature new levels of psychological expression that reflect changes not only in the emperors' physical state but their mental condition as well. These physical embodiments of personality and emotional expression later reach their fullest realization in the portraits of the Severan emperor Caracalla.
Caracalla is shown with a short, military beard and hairstyle that were stippled across the surface of the marble for a "buzz-cut" effect, also called "negative carving." He is also shown with an intense, almost insane facial expression, which evokes his strong military background and, according to some scholars, reflects his aggressive nature. This portrait type is credited as having a profound effect on imperial portraiture in the turbulent years to follow his reign, and many of the soldier-emperors of the third century sought to legitimize their rise to power by stylistically aligning themselves with Caracalla. As time went on, these stylized aspects became increasingly prominent, and soon a pronounced attention to geometry and emotional anxiety permeated imperial portrait sculptures, as evident in the bronze statue of Trebonianus Gallus. This increasing dependency on geometric symmetry and abstraction contributed to the highly distinctive portraiture utilized by the Tetrarchy.

Low Empire (mid 3rd century to 5th century)

During this period there was a reaction against classicism. Delicate volume disappeared, facial expression is intensified but simplicity is underlined, at once with hieratic gestures. All sense of proportion and taste for detail disappeared. Dehumanization, monumentality and schematization are the features of the period. The works appear to be archaic, aspect in which they linked to Bizantian models. The most important example is Constantine the Great.

Historical relief
It symbolised the aim of depicting Roman immortality. The last tradition of presenting the exploits of the warriors and the desire of depicting them in stone reached its last expression. It is propagandistic. It is present in several buildings, subordinated to architecture (columns, arches, and sarcophagus).
They used pictorial effects such as perspective to create effects of deepness. Characters are located in different plans and landscape elements are included. It developed mainly during the Empire. The most important examples are Ara Pacis made to honour Augusto and his family. Tito’s Arch it is definitely propagandistic; Traian Column with the whole surface covered as pursued by horror vacuii, deepness, perspective and landscape are present. Other field for relief sculpture were the sarcophagus, that could vary from simple medallions to full scenes associated with the buried character. Christians used a more simple model, with immortality symbols.

Roman Architecture

General Characteristics
In opposition to the Greek, Roman space is something interior, in which the person can be. Buildings are closed. Beauty and sumptuous are mixed with practical. In addition, architects are engineers and urbanites too. This can be seen in the importance given to cities as the economic and political centre. The function of the urbanism is triple: solve the problems of the development of the cities (water supply, sewer system, transport, squares, defence); the psychological effect of impressing the rest of the world and, finally, to ease the colonization of the territories they dominated.

The solution given by urbanism is rational, quick and clear. They adopted the squared plan, with two axis that cut each other perpendicularly (cardum and decumanus) in which integration appears the foro or place where public buildings are concentrated. Its origin is the military camp and the hypodamic plan designed by the Greeks.

Romans used the semicircular arch and the vault to cover the spaces. This solution did not eliminate the lintel. In some cases they put the lintel over the arch, creating effects of great dynamism. The vault system is varied: rib, barrel, semi-spherical, quarter sphere, and others. It is especially important the use of the dome.

Romans assimilated Greek forms: they adopted the three orders even when in a more ornamental than functional way. Frequently they combined them in a superposition glued to the wall with decorative value. In addition, they created two new orders: the Tuscan that is similar to the Doric but without lines in the shaft, and the composite, that combines Ionic and Corinthian in the capital.

Materials are ashlar with different combinations, brick and mortar or concrete, a poor and cheep material formed by mixing different stones and sand. It was called Opus cementitium. This material allowed them to built colossal and strong constructions that were decorated with paintings, mosaics or by covering them with marble.

Religious architecture
: the temple. Religiosity was based on a complex mythology in which they combined their own goods with those of the countries they dominated. Besides, they practised a domestic religion, with familiar gods (manes and lares) to which they offered their respect. The model of temple follows the Greek plan with some differences: there is only a portico with columns in the façade where there is the only entrance to the temple. It tends to be pseudo perypteral, this is, columns are linked to the walls around the building. It has the triple Etruscan cella, completely closed by blind spaces between columns. The stairs around the temple are substituted by a high podium that is elongated in the façade with the stairs. Examples are Fortuna Viril and Maison Carrée.

They were also other kind of temples, with circular plan, similar to the Greek tholos, as Vesta’s Temple, but the main of these construction is Agripa’s Pantheon, devoted to all the gods.

Civilian architecture: Roman genius had its maximum expression in public buildings: basilicas, baths, theatres, amphitheatres, triumph arches. They tended to be located around the forum.
The basilica was an administrative and commercial building. It was a meeting space. The model was inherited from Greece. It has rectangular plan and consists of a central nave (with windows in the upper part to illuminate the interior) and two smaller at both sides, lower and narrower, separated by columns. The wall of the end is semicircular, creating an apse. The cover was barrel vault. Example: Majencio’s Basilica.

Baths are buildings created for hygiene and spare time. They are monumental with great variety of services: libraries, massage rooms, and the three main rooms: frigidarium for cold water, tepidarium for warm water and caldarium for hot water. Besides they were changing rooms called apodyterium. There are concrete buildings, covered in marble, of great proportions. They were covered with semi-spherical and ribbed vaults. Example: Caracalla’s Baths.

Entertainment buildings.

Theatre. It is similar to the Greek but the essential difference is that it was not carved on a hill, but artificially built, with the grades standing on a vault system. The orchestra was reduced to a semicircle because of the more reduced importance of the choir in Roman plays. The scene consisted of three lintelled bodies with rich decoration of columns and sculptures. Example: Merida, Marcelo.

Amphitheatre was a building created by the Romans. It is the result of the fusion of two theatres. It was designed for gladiators’ combats and spectacles with wild animals. It usually had circular or elliptical plan, surrounded by grades to ease the vision from any point. Below the sand there was a complex net of corridors with cages and different rooms for the service. The most important is the Coliseum.

Circus was designed for horse and carts races and also for athletic competitions. It is an adaptation of the Greek stadium. Its plan is long and it has a central element or spine, that divides the sand longitudinally. It was surrounded by grades. Example: Maximus.
Commemorative buildings: triumphal arches and columns. They were used to remember some exploit of their emperors or generals. They were located in the forum, in the crossings or in any other important place. They had propagandistic function.

Triumphal Arches. They have the shape of a city door but isolated from the rest of the wall. It can have one, two, three or more. Sometimes they can have squaren plan with four façades. They combine arch and lintel with a lot of decorative elements such as Corinthian columns and relives narrating the adventures of the person to whom they are devoted. A majority of them were built in stone or marble. Examples: Tito, Septimio Severo, Constantino.

Commemorative columns were of Roman invention and their finality is the same of that of the triumphal arches. Their shaft is covered with historical relieves distributed helicoidally. At the top they have the sculpture of the emperor honoured in them. Examples: Trajano, Marco Aurelio.

Funerary architecture:

Tombs. There were two funerary practises in Rome: inhumation and incineration. In the last case it was common to dig galleries and in the walls there were spaces for putting the urns. In the case of important families or citizens they had especial buildings in form of temples, towers, pyramids or circles. Example: Adrian’s Mausoleum.

Public works: bridges, aqueducts, reservoirs, and paved roads. There are military and commercial works, necessary for the dominium of the empire. There were an instrument for romanization and an example of their genius.

Domestic architecture:

The house. Popular house had different typologies. The buildings of the cities had several floors and they were called insulae. Rich families had domus in the city or villae in the countryside. These two types were quite similar in room distribution, with a courtyard or atrium; around it there were the rooms or cubiculi and the dinning room or tablinium. At the end there was normally a garden. With the time it was modified, the courtyard was surrounded by columns and it was open at the top and it had a central pond for containing the rain. Apart from these in some cases there were palaces that were conceit as real cities to serve the emperor.

miércoles, 28 de mayo de 2008

Greek Sculpture

General characteristics
The roots of this sculpture are oriental and present a clear Egyptian influence. But, with the time, Greek developed their own sculpture, based on the depiction of human body. Their worry was the depiction of beauty, expression, movement and volume.
The chronology signals and evolution with three periods: Archaic until 5th century BC, Classical, 5th and 4th centuries BC and Hellenistic from the end of 4th century BC to the Roman conquer in 1st century BC.

The ideals appear in the depiction of human body as the reincarnation of physical beauty and spiritual equilibrium. Beauty comes from the measure and proportion and from this evolved the idea of canon. Naked human body becomes the thematic axis of Greek sculpture.
Artists look for the expression, understood as the exteriorization of the feelings. In this spiritual and physical dimension mix together. But it is an idealised expression where quietness and serenity, added to perfect equilibrium, are the basis of that physical and spiritual beauty. Only during the Hellenism real feelings appear with less idealization.
Greek artists tend to depict movement. They began by adapting the images to the architectonical frame to create single images or groups in which different characters are related in a dynamic way. Movement reinforced expressive values.
Artists were worried about volume depiction. They quickly abandoned the Egyptian look at the front to conceit the sculpture to be seen from any point of view. Thanks to this flat depictions were left apart but for the walls and pediments.
Materials used are: limestone during the archaic period, and bronze. During the classicism white marble was preferred. Many Greek works we have knowledge of reach to our times through Roman copies in marble of bronze originals.

Archaic period (7th- 6th BC)
The most representative creations are the Kuros (young athletes naked) and the Kore (dressed woman, probably priest). There is a certain unity of style. In general, images are rigid, looking at the front. The kuroi are monumental, with the arms glued to the body in symmetric compositions. Hair is disposed in a geometric way, eyes are almond-shaped, articulations are rigid and they try to smile. They tried to depict with naturalism the anatomy even when they tend to geometry. Worried about life, artists followed an evolution towards naturalism.
Korai were votive sculptures made of terracotta or stone that were left in tombs as a sacrifice. They are of small size (at least compared to the Kuroi) and their body is quite a flat piece of marble, a bit smaller at the belly and with a bit of volume in the breast. The character of block is more evident than in the kuroi. They are not expressive and there is a tendency towards ecstatic idealization. Their hair is rigid, following the Egyptian stile, with different levels. They were the traditional peplum, with very few folders and pretty symmetric. Their aspect is rigid, mainly in the case of those wearing the Dorian peplum, while the Ionic is more asymmetric and dynamic, with abundant folders. Geometry is a mark of identity.

Transition to the Classicism. The way towards perfection.
Sculpture received its impulse from the relief. Around 500 BC the pediments of Egina and Olympia were done. They are samples of composed sculptures, where the images are accommodated to the architectonical frame. They are an example of the evolution towards naturalist forms, with moderate depiction of feelings. Images adopt natural attitudes, but they still being rigid, clashing with the first notes of movement. This major flexibility is completed with a bigger thematic variety.
Apart from the pediments mentioned, other good examples of this period are the Ludovisi throne, where the clothes permit the visualization of the feminine body, and the bronze of the Delphi’s Cart Rider, an ecstatic image with very expressive face, eyes that appear to be natural and polychrome in order to offer a more naturalistic image.

Classical plenitude. (5th -4th BC).
It is the golden age of Greek art, with the prototypes of classical beauty. It is Pericle’s century, a period of economic and political expansion. The ideal of beauty does not have just a physical dimension but a deep spiritual dimension too. Proportion and equilibrium are the basis for the Athenians citizenship that reaches a zenith with the triumph of the democracy.
Miron: He was the author of the Discobolous in which he expressed his interest in the depiction of human characters in movement. The composition is ambitious and multiplies points of view. Anatomic study is correct, with well worked muscles but the expression of the head does not belong to the moment of maximum effort depicted.
Polyclitus (theorist of human anatomy). His main worries were body proportions and the influence of the masses in the attitudes. In his work he theorised about the canon or rule. For him beauty stands in the harmony of the body. His work Doriforus, presents an idealised anatomy and the canon is 1/7, this is, the head is the seventh part of the body. Geometry influences in the depiction of some parts of the body, using perfect segments. The face is divided into three parts: forehead, nose and mouth. Everything is measured. The head is a perfect sphere to which hair is adapted. It is a depiction of perfection and rationality. Composition is asymmetric, with contraposto or a foot advance to demonstrate physical and spiritual equilibrium. This dynamism allowed the multiplication of points of view. Other work is Diadumenos.
Phidias (Creator of the prototypes that depict the ideal of classical beauty, the sculptor of Gods). His work is linked to Pericles and Athens. He directed the works of the Parthenon and the decoration of its walls, its metopes, triglyphs and the sculpture of Athenea Parthenos. He was reputed by the serene beauty of the faces, the flexibility and transparency of the clothes and the combination of equilibrium and life. His images are grandiose, with exquisite proportions. The relieves of the Parthenon are his best work due to the wise composition and the beauty and grandiosity of the attitudes. The technique of the wet clothes allowed him to depict the anatomy of the characters and accentuates the effect of the light on the surfaces.

Late Classicism (mid 4th century BC).
After the plenitude of the classicism there is a trend towards baroque sculptural forms, stylising the canons and losing the tighten orthodoxy of the complete equilibrium, harmony and proportion. This phenomenon is parallel to the historical moment of Greek history. The crisis of the democracy and the Peloponnesus Wars announced the dramatic expression that sculpture shows during this period. Realism can be seen in the proliferation of portrait. There is an intention of expressing human feelings. Religious subjects are treated as daily depictions, with more scepticism. Although classical idealism continues, sculptors tend to look for new forms or prototypes of ideal beauty. The main artists of the period are Praxitele, Scopas and Lyssipos.

Lyssipos with his work Apoxiomeno created a new canon of male beauty, longer and slimmer than Polyclitus. The head is now 1/8 of the body, with longer legs and less volume of the head. The subject is also different because it is not the triumphant athlete neither the moment of maximum tension, but the moment after the competition, nothing heroic, when the athlete is cleaning himself. It created a new spatial dimension at elongating the arms. It does not look at the front and the sculpture can be seen from any point of view.

Skopas represents the crisis of Phidias serenity. His images move with violence. The main are the Menade and Mausolo.

Praxitele in his works created human characters full of grace and without the majesty and seriousness of former periods. His images have the impression of being dreamers. The artist uses praxitelic bend to make the images indolent, with a body that curves. In the faces he used the sfumato, polishing the marble, especially around the eyes. These good transmit melancholic states of the soul, full of nostalgic feelings. Main works: Hermes of Olympia, Venus of Arles.

Hellenism (4th-1st BC)
It is a period of great chronological and geographical wideness where Greek tradition influenced the culture of other territories that were part of Alexandre’s empire. Classical tradition and oriental influences are mixed to create and express, through the art, a new conception of the life. They continue with the technical knowledge of classicism to which they add a deep realism. Disequilibrium is preferred to serene attitudes, drama to relaxed faces, and ugliness to classical beauty. Baroque work dominate, full of intense movement and tension.
Subjects are not the traditional (Gods, athletes, heroes). Artists look for inspiration in the life around themselves. The treatment is realistic and with deep psychology in the portrait, direct and sincere, without idealization. It is an attempt to individualise the portrayed person. Love Goddess is an important character of inspiration, but she appears in a great variety of attitudes. Daily characters and gestures are frequent. Old people, ugliness, imperfection, childhood, subjects before considered not important enough to be depicted now are the centre of sculpture. Relief reaches to depict the perspective of the backgrounds to create the illusion of deep sceneries. The unity of style of the former period is lost and there are several schools in Pergamun, Rhode, and Alexandria.
Rhode: Colossus, Samotracia’s Victory, Laoconte and his sons, Farnesio Bull.
Pergamun: Gale dying, Gigantomaquie.
Alexandria: The Nile.