Monday, March 23, 2009

Verism in Roman art

Unlike the Greeks, the Romans used verism in their art rather than idealism. Most Greek sculptures portrayed men with perfect bodies and faces, while Roman sculpture, although developed from Greek techniques, portrayed men as themselves or as their real image. Verism, usually portraits or sculptures of older men, included wrinkles, warts, creases, and other features or imperfections that would be left out in Greek art. These imperfections were used to show the individual as he or she was and to produce an image of individuality in Roman culture. The imperfections, especially wrinkles and creases, were signs of old age and old age was a sign that the individual was wise. While Rome was still a Republic, usually only the elders could hold power. Our book states that these republican veristic portraits celebrated their higher status in society. Not all veristic Roman sculptures and portraits were created to portray individuality or higher status, but some were created to serve as family heirlooms that portrayed distinctive features that should show up in the family lineage. Much of the Romans’ art, not just sculpture, seems so realistic that it can create the illusion of being real. For instance, (pg. 183, fig.7-21) in our book, the Ixion Room (Triclinium P) of the House of Vettii, has several images that create illusions. Two bigger portraits that look as if they were hung on the wall are separated by a window with a girl peeking out. The artist showed images behind the girl to make an illusion that the window was real. Also, along the top border, rests small balconies with statues or sculptures standing on the edge. The artist again just created an illusion to make it look like these paintings were balconies and sculptures, when actually the wall itself is all flat. Roman paintings are not the only roman art subject to these illusions. The sculptures are also so realistic, that when in a museum and passing by a sculpture of this type, people often gets urges to reach out and touch it because it looks too close to real.

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