THE ETRUSCAN HOUSE
References to the house are common in the shape and decoration of
tombs belonging to leading Etruscan families. The Tomb of the
Reliefs (late fourth century bc) at Cerveteri is a rock-cut
underground chamber, with 13 niches for burials and more marked in
the floor, and a pair of supporting pillars. It belonged to the
aristocratic Matuna family, and is unique in being decorated with
realistically modelled and painted stuccos of armour and weapons;
household, prestige, and cult objects; and real and fantastic
creatures. Actual examples of many of these objects are known from
contemporary tombs and cult deposits. On the left pillar (right) are
a lituus (ceremonial horn), two staffs, a leather belt, a wine jug,
a wine cup with leaf decoration, a baton, an axe, a large knife,
coiled rope, a piece of folding furniture (possibly a crib), a bag,
a goose, and a beech-marten (probably a household pet). The main
burial niche (below) is carved to represent a kline (banquet couch).
Underneath are a low footstool and two figures from the underworld:
the three-headed dog, Cerberus and the Scylla, who is half man and
half seipent. A frieze of weapons and armour runs along the top of
the wall. The pilasters bear two busts (now faceless), possibly of
underworld deities, and objects
expressing the elite status of the family: the woman's fan. a staff,
and the wine cup and jug used in aristocratic banquets. The wood and
ivory chest is of the type used for household papers or linen, and
has two folded cloths on top.
Statue of Roman general as heroic nude,
Baths of Constantine, Rome.
Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome.
Rome - from Monarchy to Republic
In order to understand the art of a particular place, it is
necessary to look at the artistic output of its earliest period.
Rome seems to have begun life as a series of Iron Age villages of
huts on the Palatine Hill and elsewhere (ninth century bc). The
great Roman Empire had its roots in a society of warrior-farmers who
furnished their tombs with personal ornaments and weapons signifying
social role and rank. Where the Tiber island formed a convenient
river-crossing, an important port on the left bank grew up (beside
the later Forum Boarium, or cattle market). Out of the
cultural mixing of goods and ideas arriving in Rome over the
following centuries, an independent art style gradually emerged. A
familiarity with Greek art helped to determine choice, and from
early on Rome shared many aspects of artistic production with
Etruria and Campania. From the time of Tarquinius Priscus to that of
Tarquinius Superbus (616-509bc), Rome was ruled by an Etruscan
dynasty. Direct inspiration also came from the colonies of southern
Italy and Sicily.
The Roman Republic was created after the expulsion of the Tarquinian
dynasty in 509bc. At the outset, sculptors made statues in bronze,
such as the cult figure of the goddess Diana in Aricia. The
Capitoline Wolf (c.500-480bc) - which has long been
interpreted as the she-wolf who suckled Romulus, the mythical
founder of Rome, and his twin Remus - is similar in style and
quality to the great Etrusean bronzes like the Chimaera of Arezzo,
but may also have been produced in Rome. The twins were added in the
15th century ad. Aristocratic laws against excessive public spending
and private luxury led to a decline in artistic production. From
366bc, plebeians were eligible for the consulship. The peaceful
resolution of plebeian conflict with the patricians (339bc), in
fact, consolidated the domination of the wealthy, regardless of
family background. The economic influence of the eastern world, as
experienced during the period of Alexander the Great (334-323BC),
helped to expand the internal economy, and in Rome, as elsewhere,
art was commissioned as a sign of social status. Classicizing
(323-301bc) and Hellenistic Baroque styles characterized the revival
of architectural decoration and votive terracottas. Trade and war
brought fine artworks to Rome. The conquest of Syracuse (212bc),
when the Romans removed a number of pictures, statues, and
decorative objects from the city, brought about another
unforeseeable and definitive change in attitude towards Greek art
forms. Imports included masterpieces of art from various periods.
These were displayed in temples, porticos, and private homes,
regardless of their original provenance and purpose. They were all
brought together at the whim of the conquerors, as booty, expression
of aristocratic taste, and symbols of public benefaction. Distancing
works from their source in this way meant that their original
meanings could be manipulated at will and the chance to see them in
a new setting stimulated a fresh approach to figurative art. From
the subject matter and styles of another people came a new form of
artistic production. The images served to venerate both the
traditional gods and those taken over from the Mediterranean
pantheon. They portrayed private individuals as votives in
sanctuaries, and celebrated triumphant generals, to describe their
exploits and to commemorate the dead.
At a time when a classicizing style was current in Greece
(323-301 bc) and Greek influence was uppermost, the
character of Etruscan art contrasted ever more strongly in
its content. The limestone sarcophagus of the Amazons at
Tarquinia (C.320.BC) has a finely painted scene of Greeks
fighting Amazons. The grimaces on the warriors' faces and
the shape of some of the helmets recall the south Italian
pottery by the Darius Painter. Like the murals of the Greek
porticos, the scenes are framed by pilasters and
architraves, but the architectural design is local. The
Amazons' victory over the Greeks is an Etruscan theme,
symbolizing hostility towards the Greek colonies in southern
Italy and Sicily. Non-Greek features are the nudity of one
of the combatants, the red footwear, and the decorative
collars on some of the horses. Etruscan autonomy is also
evident in the Amazonomachia painted on the sarcophagus of
the Priest, where the figure of a Lasa, an Etruscan death
companion, appears with the fallen warriors.
Detail from the sarcophagus of the Amazons,
Museo Archeologico, Florence.
Temple architecture in Italy developed differently from that
in the Greek world. The Roman architect Vitruvius, writing
at the time of Augustus, described what he called the Tuscan
temple type, and many of the features characteristic of
Etruscan temples also occur in their Roman counterparts.
There is a high podium (platform); the columns could be
widely spaced because the architraves were of wood; and the
pronaos (front porch) was as deep as the cella (enclosed
chamber). In the Temple of Capitoline Jupiter, the division
into three cellae repeated the Etruscan tradition, as did
the sculptures decorating the roof, which tradition holds
were executed by Vulca, a sculptor of the Etruscan city of
Veii. Begun by the kings, it was finished under the new
Republic (est. 509bc). In 494BC, artists from Sicily came to
work on the Temple of Ceres Liber and Libéra. The Temple of
Portunus shows how the Greek Ionic peripteros (with columns
on all sides) was adapted to Roman taste, emphasizing the
front: the columns of the pronaos continue along the cella
walls in the form of pseudoperipteros (half-columns)
attached to the wall.
Temple of Portunus,
first century bc.
The Capitoline Wolf,
Museo del Palazzo del Conservatori, Rome.
ARCHITECTURE AND LANDSCAPE
Marine fresco with cupids.
Archaeological Museum, Rhodes.
Macedonia had a significant influence on Roman wall-painting. One
house at Amphipolis has frescos of both the First and Second
Pompeiian styles of wall-painting. The pavilion of the tomb of Lyson
and Callicles at Lefkadia is a masterpiece of bold architectural
illusion. The Macedonian painter Heraclides, who moved to Athens
after the defeat of King Perseus at Pydna (168bc), was one of many
artists to introduce Hellenistic traditions to the Romanized Western
world. Iaias of Cysicum. who migrated from Pergamum when the kingdom
collapsed in 133bc, became a successful portrait painter. A marine
fresco with cupids survives in a house on Rhodes. The figures,
against a pale background, were first traced in grey outline, and
their forms then modelled with shadows and touches of light. This
technique was also used in the Landscapes of the Odyssey
fresco series in a house on the Esquiline in Rome, but with
reddish-brown outlines. The frescos were inspired by a cycle of
Rhodian panels, from a period when the island's sculptors were
reproducing bronze groups showing the adventures of Ulysses for
Roman commissions. In the painting, the hero and his crew appear as
tiny figures acting on the world's stage. In a metaphor of life, the
Odyssey is enacted amid perilous seas, towering rocks, and shadows
from the afterlife.
Landscapes of the Odyssey:
Ulysses in the Land of the Lestrygonians,
the Esquiline, Rome.
Biblioteca Vaticana, Vatican City.
The Tivoli General,
marble, by a Greek sculptor, Sanctuary of Hercules Victor at Tivoli.
Museo Nazlonale Romano, Rome.
GREEK SCULPTORS AND ROMAN CLIENTS
The Roman generals who led the armies of conquest in the eastern
Mediterranean from 200 to 60bc were quick to adopt the Greek art of
sculpture, especially individual portraiture. Many commissioned
statues of themselves in bronze and marble from the best Greek
sculptors of the day, shipping the results back to be displayed in
Rome. In style and technique, the Roman portraits closely resemble
those of contemporary Hellenistic kings, with powerfully modelled
features of heroic cast, but they do not wear royal diadems and
often sport the short beard of the campaigning soldier. In time, by
force or of their own accord, many Greek artists moved to Rome,
importing the marble from their homelands. Throughout the later
Roman Empire, Greece and the Greek East continued to supply much of
the marble and most of the craftsmen employed in the West.
In about 50bc. major new marble quarries were opened in Italy (Carrara),
which greatly increased supplies. However, the last two centuries bc
saw many statues made from several smaller blocks joined together,
in lieu of a single block sufficiently large to carve a work in one
piece. For example, the statue of a general found at Tivoli, dating
from about 70bc, was constructed from at least seven separate
pieces. His face is highly individual in the Roman manner, while the
body is an ideal type taken from the earlier Greek repertoire,
semi-draped in a military cloak to suit Roman tastes.
Roman general with beard, bronze, by an Asiatic artist, from the Punta del
Serrone off the Brindisi coast. Museo Archeologico Provinciale F. Ribezzo,
Roman general, marble, Apollonla. Archaeological Museum, Tirane, Albania.
Roman general, marble, Rome. Glyptothek, Munich.
The great Greek-Italian sculptor Pasiteles, born in southern
Italy, grew up during the civil wars - an age when military
commanders were noted for their revolutionary ideas.
Cosmopolitan and adventurous, he wrote a five-volume book on
"the famous works throughout the world", which in terms of
history and criticism was as significant a landmark for its
age as Winckelmann's History of Ancient Art was for the 18th
century. For the first time, the Greek works of art in Rome
were listed with locations and descriptions. This was an
immense museum, which contemporary and later artists could
use freely for reference and imitation, expanding on the
past in their choice of models, the novel ways in which they
were combined, and technical virtuosity. It was the
theoretical equivalent of the Roman schoiar Varro:s approach
to language. Attic purity was the sign of an excessively
bigoted code of ethics, whereas Asiatic licence reflected
moral laxity. The path indicated by Pasiteles
exemplified the balanced outlook of the Roman citizen. Varro
adopted the same principle in the encyclopaedic
classification that would later serve to revive learning and
custom under Caesar and Augustus. Pasiteles became a Roman
citizen in 89bc and made a significant contribution to a
nation just emerging from civil war. The example he gave the
city was not derived from Athens or the East but from
Italy's Greek colonies, which for centuries had nourished
Roman culture A technical innovator, he perpetuated the
figurative art of the Greek world in his sculpture and
metalwork, and founded a school that in its copies of
classical masterpieces formed a new chapter in the history
of Italian and European art.
The Late Republic
After the second Macedonian war (200-197isc), more importance was
given to the notion of otium (private leisure) as opposed to
negotium (public service). Greater interest was shown in
beautiful objects for everyday use and in wall paintings for home
decoration, exemplifying the taste for refinement and luxury,
against which Cato the Censor (Marcus Porcius Cato. died 149bc) had
raged in vain. During the period of the Late Republic (100-31bc),
complete Roman control of the Mediterranean stimulated a flourishing
trade in luxury merchandise. Whether at work in their lands of
origin or as immigrants to the city of Rome, artists from Attica,
Asia, and Rhodes turned out faithful marble copies of the famous
bronzes of classical (Neo-Attic) or Baroque (Neo-Hellenistic) art.
To satisfy the growing fashion for furnishings, they produced
statues in smaller forms such as berms (bust-bearing pillars
with four sides) and a wide range of decorative objects, which
included large stone vases. Private collections often reflected the
interests of the owner and among the prized contents of villas were
busts of philosophers, orators, military leaders, and athletes.
The galleries of famous Greeks were counterparts to the family
portraits found in traditional Roman houses. Pride of place went to
the maiores, the ancestors who represented the highest moral
virtues and guaranteed continuity, meriting emulation and
personifying (like the philosophers) the wisdom of the past.
Ancestors explained names and gave meaning to the cults and
activities of the family.
The family tree represented an archive of likenesses whereby the
legitimacy of descendants could be confirmed. In the symbolic sense,
the resemblance to Alexander the Great claimed by Pompey (106-48bc)
could be backed up by a precedent, in this case the longstanding
exercise of military powers. In due course, waxen masks based on the
facial features of ancestors were carried in processions through the
streets and into the Forum.
The Greek historian Polybius wrote:
"When an illustrious member of the family dies, he is carried to his
funeral by men who resemble him in stature and general appearance.
If the deceased was a consul or praetor, they wear a toga edged with
purple, if he was a censor, they wear an all-purple toga, and if he
was a triumphator, they wear a gold-bordered toga. They proceed in
chariots, preceded by fasciae, axes, and whatever other
insignia may be appropriate for magistrates, according to the status
that the deceased enjoyed in life among his fellow citizens."
Esquiline Venus, Lamiani, Rome.
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome.
In the first century bc, the aristocracy in Rome began to develop
into luxury garden-villas what had previously been horti
(vegetable plots) in the hills around the city. Dining pavilions,
bath houses, and private theatres of exotic architectural design,
richly ornamented with paintings, mosaics, and coloured stones, were
set in landscaped parks of colonnaded garden-courts, artificial
lakes, and fountains. The buildings were filled with niches and
other specially made settings for bronze and marble statuary of
great variety. The collections included older Greek works, antiques
of the fifth to third centuries bc brought to Rome as war booty or
later purchased on the Mediterranean art market. Some complemented
the genuine antiques with close replicas made by famous Greek
artists. Most, however, were new productions by contemporary
sculptors adapting Late Hellenistic traditions to an increasingly
discriminating Roman clientele. This statue of a maidenly Venus,
goddess of fertility, beauty, and love, was found on one of the
horti on the Esquiline hill, where it may have adorned a bath
house. The goddess is shown in preparation for a bath. Beside her is
a tall vase standing on a cosmetic box, over which she has draped a
towel. The cobra snake entwined around the vase and the roses on the
box are attributes associated with the Egyptian goddess Isis, whom
Romans identified with Venus. Carved in translucent white marble
from the Greek island of Paros, the brilliance of which is
emphasized by the high polish on the flesh, the statue echoes
figures of Venus' Greek equivalent Aphrodite. However, the sweet
expression, small breasts, and slightly boyish figure are ver)' much
to Roman taste.
Portrait head of Pompey, Licinii Tomb, Rome.
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen.
After the Social War (89bc). current political events in Rome were
reflected in its portraiture. Replicas exist of the statue that the
general and statesman Pompey installed at the height of his power in
the room where the Senate met. The sculptor carefully modelled his
forelocks in a manner reminiscent of the styles of Alexander and
Aemilius Paulus, and reproduced his caring expression. The work
reflected Pompey's dual nature — aristocrat and demagogue. The plump
cheeks, soft lines around the mouth, short-sighted eyes, and raised
eyebrows that wrinkle the forehead: all are captured in an
expression that suggests both the reserve of the high-ranking
diplomat and the charisma of a man who was the idol of the people.
(Compared with the harsh Sulla, in whose service he had begun his
career, the affable young Pompey had completely won over the
ordinary citizens.) This image of Pompey was the enigmatic witness
to tiie killing of his great rival, Julius Caesar (44bc). The
dictator was stabbed to death at the foot of the statue, which had
been re-erected after the inconstant populace had pulled it down.
Pompey himself had been stabbed to death in 4Sbc, having fled to
Egypt after being defeated in battle bv Pharsalus.
ALEXANDRIAN MASTER "NILE LANDSCAPE"
This mosaic is from the floor of the apse of a public hall, facing
the forum of Praeneste (now Palestrina), and pre-dates the
setting-up of the colony by Sulla in 82bc. The structure, with its
wall decorations, was built at the same time as the Temple of
Fortune during a period of prosperity for Praeneste brought about by
the opening of the free port of Delos (166bc) and the increased
presence of Italian merchants in the Aegean. The mosaic was laid
with a slight depression in the centre and may have been covered
with a thin veil of water, which would have brought out the vivid
colouring. It is a unique example of such detailed representation:
the scene includes a wide range of rocks and minerals, plants and
animals, and depicts activities from the daily life of the people
who lived on the plain and in the marshes of Alexandria.
Museo Nazionale Archeologico, Palestrina, Italy.