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Roman Art 

The Romans  like the Greeks loved beauty and art. Upper income people had every wall of their home decorated with beautiful murals. Romans favored nature scenes with birds in flight, fish, dogs and exotic animals. Mythological scenes and  philosophers in contemplation were also popular. Soc, According to noted historian, Hendrik van Loon "The Romans, like their Carthaginian rivals, were too busy administering other people and making money to have much love for “useless and unprofitable” adventures of the spirit. They conquered the world and built roads and bridges but they borrowed their art wholesale from the Greeks. They invented certain practical forms of architecture which answered the demands of their day and age. But their statues and their histories and their mosaics and their poems were mere Latin imitations of Greek originals. Without that vague and hard-to- define something which the world calls “personality,” there can be no art and the Roman world distrusted that particular sort of personality. The Empire needed efficient soldiers and tradesmen. The business of writing poetry or making pictures was left to foreigners."

Roman Statues were nearly all painted rather garish colors.  Artists generally followed a specific color pallet. Ingenuity and originality was discouraged especially when it came to painting gods and goddesses. The punishment was often death for painters that went off the beaten track when it came to applying paint to deities.  According to historian, John C. Van Dyke, "During the first five centuries Rome was between the influences of Etruria and Greece. The first paintings in Rome of which there is record were done in the Temple of Ceres by the Greek artists of Lower Italy, Gorgasos and Damophilos (fl. 493 B.C.). They were doubtless somewhat like the vase paintings—profile work, without light, shade, or perspective. At the time and after Alexander Greek influence held sway. Fabius Pictor (fl. about 300 B.C.) is one of the celebrated names in historical painting, and later on Pacuvius, Metrodorus, and Serapion are mentioned. In the last century of the Republic, Sopolis, Dionysius, and Antiochus Gabinius excelled in portraiture. Ancient painting really ends for us with the destruction of Pompeii (79 A.D.), though after that there were interesting portraits produced, especially those found in the Fayoum (Egypt)"

Roman Painting Techniques and Formula

Roman painters used crushed insects, red iron ore,and madder root to create beautiful  deep reds used for the backgrounds of interior frescoes. Red was favorite color because it symbolized passion and wealth.  Like the Greeks, Roman painters created their masterpieces using homemade pigments. Pigments were made according to ancient recipes. Artists used many different ingredients to achieve the desired colors, including burnt apple seeds, pulverized semiprecious stones such as lapis lazuli, charcoal,  animal and human bones, naturally occurring earth pigments such celadonite and chlorite, pomegranate juice and ground up ibulio beetles. Each artist mixing up his own a batch to use as needed.

Egg tempera is a radiant, semi-translucent paint that dries almost immediately.  The process of setting up the paint was time consuming and technical. The artist used 1  egg, 1 tsp. raw olive oil, a few drops if vinegar added to ground pigment.  The process to make just one color took about 30 minutes. Brushes were made from squirrel hair, hogs bristle and cat whiskers.

Toxic pigments

Many of the pigments were extremely toxic causing the person mixing them to have oozing sores that never healed, patches of baldness, fingernails that fell off and in a few short years a painful ugly death. Old slaves were usually employed to grind up the pigments and mix up the binders.

Roman Marble

Historian, Hugh Macmillan explains "Quarries of crystalline marbles, admirably adapted for the purposes of the sculptor and architect, were opened in the range of the Apennines overlooking the beautiful Bay of Spezia, in the vicinity of Carrara, Massa, and Seravezza, and largely worked in the time of Augustus. This emperor could boast that he had found Rome of brick, and left it of marble. The marbles of each new territory annexed to the Empire were brought at enormous expense into the Imperial City. A quay, to which reference has already been made, was constructed at the broadest part of the Tiber, where the vessels that transported marbles from Africa, and from the most distant parts of Eastern Europe and Western Asia, landed their cargoes. Here numerous blocks of marble were lately found, one of which was identified as that sent to Nero from a quarry in Carinthia; and another, a column of even more colossal dimensions, weighing about thirty-four tons of valuable African marble.

More extensively employed in Greek and Roman statuary and architecture was the Marmor Pentelicum, or Marmo Greco fino of the modern Italians. The quarries which yielded inexhaustible materials for the public buildings and statues of Greece, and for the great monuments of Rome, were situated on the slopes of Mount Pentelicus, near Athens; and after having been closed for ages, have recently been reopened for the restoration of some of the buildings in the Greek capital. The marble is dazzlingly white and fine-grained, but it sometimes contains little pieces of quartz or flint, which give some trouble to the workmen.

For statuary purposes Lunar marble was extensively used in ancient Rome. It formed the material out of which the sculptor produced some of the noblest creations of his genius. Of these the Apollo Belvedere in the Vatican collection is one of the most remarkable. The evidence of its own material, as already mentioned, has dispelled the old idea that it is one of the masterpieces of the Greek school; and Canova's conjecture, based upon some peculiarities of its drapery, is in all likelihood true, viz. that it was a copy of a bronze original, made, probably at the order of Nero, for one of the baths of the imperial villa at Antium, in whose ruins it was found in the fifteenth century. From the time of the Romans, the white marble of the Montes Lunenses has been used for decorative purposes in many of the churches and public buildings of Italy. "






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