In general Roman architecure is traditional in that it uses post and lentil
constuction. What made it innovative was the combined use of concrete
and the arch. Facades were often limestone, brick, and concrete with marble
facing. Sculpted reliefs are common features on the triumphal arches and
served to reinforce public proclaimations of power. Barrel vaults are
typical with travertine, wood, or concrete piers. Roman architects emphasied
both the exterior and interior decor which
was usually finished in bronze and/ or marble. Roman architecture was
primarily secular in nature although there were ceratinly temples. They
also used architeture (triumphal arches) for propaganda purposes.
The Flavian amphitheatre
or colosseum covered approximately six acres and reached a height of 150
feet. There were 3 orders superimposed (Doric, Ionic, Corinthian) with
the emporer, vestal virgins, and favored senators occupying the first
level, the aristocrats and wealthy middleclass the second, and the poor,
slaves, and women the third. The velarium fabric canopy provided relief
from sun. The facility seated 50,000 and by virtue of its barrel vaults
and 80 arched entryways could be emptied in minutes. Today, sports arenas
are modelled on the Roman colosseum style.
Primarily served either a governmental purpose as propaganda (triumphal
arch, forum) or a secular function (arenas, baths, aqueducts, colosseum).
The Roman forum was, like the Greek agora, the center of public life and
the locus of Senate and Imperial proclamations The forum was also the
place where the laws were read, issues debated, and a central area for
ostentacious display of grief and gratitude. The forum was instituted
in the early Republican era, but by the time of Augustus for health reasons
no carts were allowed in the Roman Forum, necessitating the establishment
of specialty marketplaces (like the Forum Boarium, or cattle market).
Originally, the visitor approached the Pantheon through a courtyard precinct,
where the main altar was located. Only the classical portico with huge
(40 feet high) unfluted columns of black and red Egyptian granite could
be seen. The interior height of the Pantheon ceiling is an incredible
142' compared to the height of the dome of St. Peter's (139') or the nave
of Chartres Cathedral (140'). The Pantheon was a completely free-standing
building, and the first hemispherically domed structure. Its concrete
drum, rests on a 15' foundation rising from a point beginning one-half
the actual height of diameter of the building. The 24' thick walls circumscribes
a complete sphere within its volume. 20' at base, the base tapers in stages
on the outside as it rises to the oculus which is 30 feet in diameter.
bronze rosettes of the coffered interior, the bronze sheets which clad
the exterior of the dome, and the bronze beams of the portico were stripped
in the seventeenth century at the command of the Barberini pope, Urban
VIII. This pillaged material went into the Baldacchino structure ( 97')
of Bernini which stands over the high altar and tomb of St. Peter's.
by Titus, Trajan, and Constantine became synonomous with public statements
of power and became the visual vocabulary of power adopted by Queen Victoria
in London and Napoleon in Paris.
Materials were varied with sculptors using marble, granite, bronze, and
terra cotta. Most popular were busts. Reliefs and freestanding scuptures
were used to decorate both public and private spaces. The style of Roman
sculpture was focused on realism, individualism,
personality, and in some cases, heroic idealism (Augustus Ceasar). Unlike
the Greek style Roman sculpture features everyday men and women, who are
clothed and far more realistic and psychologically revealing than idealistic.
Sculpture provided personal enjoyment, paid homage to family members (
paterfamilias), and reinforced state propaganda. Reliefs on the triumphal
arches and Trajan's Column celebrate but do not glamorize warfare.
Sculptures offer a realistic view of Roman leaders and the wealthy.
They reinforced and popularized Roman artistic conventions.
PAINTING AND MOSAICS:
(Mosaics) Roman mosaics were constructed of small pieces of stone (rarely
glass) and embedded into wet cement surfaces. There is, as in Roman painting,
a preference for secular rather than religious subject matter (hunting
scenes, gladiator contests). In general, the mosaics were installed on
the floor and made of smooth earth colored stones. The workmanship varies
from primitive to sophisticated renderings that typically show perspective
(Painting) Roman painting
is fresco style and designed to give viewers the impression that they
are looking into distant spaces (empirical perspective). Chiaroscuro (shading)
is also employed to add to the sense of illusion. Genre art featuring
still life was popular as were landscapes.
Roman mosaics and paitings were decorative in purpose and generally secular
in content. They served to reference the concrete everyday events and
give testimony to the pleasures of food, hunting, and idylic landscapes
which celebrated a life of innocence and simplicity.
The themes portrayed were to reappear frequently in the arts of the West
especially during times of rising urbanization. The mosaic style becomes
reinterprted by the Christian artists and remains the primary decorative
and instructive feature of Byzantine churches.