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