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The Etruscan artists, like the architects, took Greek artistic techniques and used them to create a unique style of their own. The 7th century BC saw ceramics decorated with geometric and oriental motifs with lions and sphinxes, but by the end of the century there was a growing interest in the human figure. Terracotta and stone sculpture and bronze figurines, whether executed by Etruscans or Romans (it becomes increasingly difficult to tell if certain pieces were done by one group or the other as Roman domination if the Etruscans grew), often followed Greek styles, from the rather stiff figures of the archaic period (6th century BC) to the almost idealised naturalism of the classical period (5th  and 4th centuries). Finally, a more naturalistic and even expressive realism surfaced in the Hellenistic period (from 323 BC to 31 BC).

The Etruscans were famous for metalwork, such as the bronze Lupa Capitolina (She-Wolf) in the Capitoline Museums in Rome. Such large sculptures are rare. Most of the surviving pieces are smaller figurines or jewellery with intricate filigree work. Rome's Museo Nazionale Etrusco di Villa Giulia and Museo Gregoriano Etrusco (part of the Vatican Museums) and Florence's Museo Archeologico have the richest collections of Eturscan art. The height of creativity and skill that the Eturscan artists reached is demonstrate at Villa Giulia by the beautifully sculpted Sarcofato degli Sposi (Sarcophagus of the Married Couple) from a tomb at Cerveteri.

THE ROMANS

In terms of style, the Romans invented little; their great achievement was to perfect exisitng construction techniques to create aqueducts and arches on a grandiose scale, the likes of which had never been seen before.

From the 1st century BC they used a quick-curing, strong concrete for vaults, arches and domes to roof vast areas such as the Pantheon in Rome. Dry stone masonry was used to for some temples, aqueducts and for the supporting vaults of theatres and amphitheatres, such as the Coliseum in Rome and the amphitheatres in Verona, Lucca and Capua.

Marble was used from the 2nd century BC until the 2nd century AD. As Rome's power grew, new buildings were needed to reflect the city's status in the Mediterranean world and the Romans started building forums, public baths, colonnaded streets and theatres, and complexes for both commercial and political activities.

From the days of the Republic onwards, sculpture was used above all as a propaganda device - a means of communicating the greatness either of the state or its individual masters. More than any other art form it provides a compelling historical record.

The first Roman sculptures were actually made by Greek artists brought to Rome or were copies of      imported classical Greek works. An exception was portrait sculpture, which was derived from the Etruscans. The Romans often had statues made of themselves in the guise of Greek gods or heroes. The most interesting Roman sculpture is that of the 1st and 2nd centuries AD; it commemorated the history of Rome and its citizens or was made for specific architectural settings such as the villa Adriana at Tivoli.

Emperor Augustus was the first to exploit the possibilities of sculpture as a propaganda tool. One of the most important works if Roman sculpture is the Ara Pacis (13 BC) in Rome, made to celebrate Augustus' victories in Spain and Gaul and the peace that he had established in the Empire. The carved reliefs of scenes from Augustus's reign, exemplified by clarity and classical restraint, mark the point at which Roman sculpture gained its own identity.

Later commemorative works include Colonna di Traiano (Trajan's Column,) erected in the early 2nd century AD to celebrate Emperor Trajan's military achievements in the Dacian campaigns, and the Colonna Antonina (AD 180-196), built to commemorate Marcus Aurelius' victories over the Germans and Sarmatians between AD 169 and 176. Both are in Rome.

In the 3rd and 4th centuries, little public sculpture was done, although a notable exception was the 4th-century statue of Emperor Constantine, a 10m-high colossus that stood at his basilica in the Roman Forum. Pieces of it (the head, a hand and  a foot) are in Rome's Capitoline Museums.

The Romans used paintings and mosaics, both legacies from the Greeks, to decorate houses and palaces from at least the 1st century BC.

 

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