Sunday, April 4, 2010

My Theory On Roman Verism.

The Romans had great respect and adoration for classical Greek art. The Greeks had mastered the idealistic classic, god-like, perfection. The Romans adopted many of the Etruscan and Greek styles and techniques into their works as well. However, the Roman Republic was changing and along with this change brought change to the art. Enter the concept of Verism. The Roman civilization was the first monotheistic culture recognizing just one god. Men were no longer represented as having reached a godly status. They were no longer represented as ideal, eternally youthful, and perfect. As the Roman Empire conquered more and more territories it became a melting pot of different peoples, races, religions, traditions and languages much like the United States today. Thus, bringing about an increasingly complex class system. It also brought about the need to represent the levels of power and authority almost like a marketing or public relations plan to educate the masses in a visual form. The Roman Republic respected the wisdom, knowledge, and heredity of their ancestors. Especially those patricians with direct lineage to the most powerful leaders of Rome and wealthy landowners. With this governance and class system came the idea to document one's place in history through portraiture. The wealthy and powerful families were the first to make use of their wealth by commissioning artists to create images that reflected their realistic age and wisdom. One way I like to think of it is to consider the lines on the face as a road map of a journey through the life of the individual. It had been a custom that evolved from the aristocratic patricians, like many victorious generals, who had figures of their ancestors in their homes and at funerals. Portraits were a way to make their mark on history. Since the wealthy controlled the commissioned artists work, instead of one government control; they had more freedom to influence these images. Artists too, had more freedom to vary from the "standard" and use more of their creativity and individual talents. So works of art reflected the realistic image of a specific individual at a specific point in their life. Many times heredity and family lineage passed on certain facial features which became representative of the continuation of power from generation to generation. I also believe that the Romans wanted to create something that was uniquely Roman instead of merely adopting the art of the previous dominate power. Thus, the artists of the time were given more artistic control. With this control came the artistic need to be different and utilize their artistic creativity. This is why I believe Romans embraced verism.

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