Monday, November 7, 2011

Roman art compared to early christian art Discussion 9

When you look at the Roman empire the people appear to have a proud air about them because if you look at the statues such as "Caracalla on pg.204 " the expression in face shows pride and years of experience. There is a rigidness about the face as well because of the stern expression that is shown in the eyes and closed lips. The face has a few wrinkles and there are bags under the eyes that could indicate a lack of sleep. The eyes appear to be sunken in. The face shows an expression of exhaustion and sternness. This man appears to be in his early fifties or sixties because of some of the wrinkles. There seems to be a slight distinction of a beard on the chin. There is a sense of realism and naturalism in the face because judging by the way the physical features are carved the face looks like a real person unlike other portraits where the figure has exaggerated features such as big eyes such as shown in the bust of Constantine where the eyes appear to be bulging out. The bust of "Caracalla" symbolizes power and political propaganda because the attitudes that the Roman rulers had about tracing their ancestors because they want to show people that they where born into power. One could imagine that a bust similar to this one was probably paraded around by some official that claimed that he belongs in his position because his ancestor was a great leader. The blemishes and flaws where something to not be ashamed of but to be proud of because it showed that one has had many experiences and has gained wisdom by those life changing events. As was pointed out in the lecture the upper class of Roman where very interested in tracing their history.

The early christian art on the other hand portray the ideal person. This is shown in the example of "The Good Shepherd"in chapter 7 on pg. 225. The man looks youthful in appearances without wrinkles or blemishes. He is strong because he is carrying a sheep on his back and holding onto the animals hooves with one hand while the other hand is holding onto a tree branch. Even though he is strong this person after he lifted the sheep on his back had to gain his balance by holding onto the branch. This gentleman appears to be in his late teens or early twenties and has an air of confidence about him because of his expression. He is looking at the sheep and his expression seems to tell the views that he is reassuring the animal.  The figure has a naturalistic appearance because his facial features and his position make him look like a real person. Just by looking at this statue the viewer can imagine the figure moving about with the sheep on his back. This statue's symbolism shows how Christ finds his followers after they have wandered off like lost sheep. One of the reasons why this statue shows youthfulness is because people of that time did like to see the ideal person because they themselves what to think about life and youth. They don't want to think about growing old because that means wrinkles, blemishes and finally death. Secondly this statue is portraying Christ and he was perfect. No other human that has lived is perfect like Christ was because he is the son of God.

The Romans had different opinions about youth and old age. Some viewed old age as being a bad thing because you lose your abilities and your physical beauty at this point. On the other hand the Roman leaders took pride in portraying their ancestors in their old age because aging meant gaining wisdom. Along with that growing old meant reaching maturity and that comes with different experiences.This was shown in the example of "Caracalla" because he had the appearance of old age and experience. Youth was the ideal thing because it is indicated in their art that is how they want to remain. They wanted to be strong and healthy. Those characteristics are seen in "The Good Shepard". The figure shows both strength and physically fit whereas the other shows a person that is aging. The other difference is that on statue represents political propaganda while the other draws from a religious theme. The Romans as one can see in their art they are striving to be the best however they have a vain desire to remain strong and youthful until their death.


  1. When you said the good shepherd statue figure had to grab on to a tree branch for support I feel that gives a more realistic and humanistic view of the figure not an idealistic one. I thought that the idealistic view of humans would be that they did not need any support from anyone or anything else. I could definitely be on the wrong page with this one but I felt if it was truly the idealistic view then the individual would not be steadying himself. But that is also a matter of what you decide to look at because the youthfulness and all the things you mentioned leads us to the idealistic view.

  2. I think your point is really interesting. You pointed out there is the different opinions about youth and old age, which you can see form the statue “Caracalla” and “The Good Shepard.”
    I have different thought about the youth and old age which is I think Early Christian Art and Roman Art has the same style such as statues has youthful faces and if you look back into Greek Art, they have similar Contrapposto and some of the statues’ composition similar to Polykleitos.