31 December 2009

Republican Bust Sculpture (Not That Kind!)

I've been known to be rather emphatic—if not outright hostile and fascistic—about my opinions concerning art. Previously, I have taken up the cause of Classical and Hellenistic Greek naturalistic idealism and have dismissed Roman sculpture as mostly derivative of earlier Greek sculpture.

However, I believe I screwed the pooch on this one. Roman bust sculpture from the Republican period is a fresh addition to sculpture during this period in the Mediterranean.

Here are a few choice examples of Classical and Hellenistic Greek sculpture:

The forms are life-like but idealized.

The Hellenistic period idealized not only musculature and facial structure, but just about everything else too. I'm thinking "Nike of Samothrace," here.

Everything about Nike is BIG! The gestures, the movement, the negative space.

Now consider the humble busts of Republican Rome:

The veristic naturalism of the bust is bold and unapologetic. In some ways, Hellenistic sculpture was attempting to be realer-than-real and Republican sculpture is answering that idea with a question: perhaps the confrontation between our expectations about the Hellenistic "real" (that it will be presented as an ideal) and our experience of the Republican "real" (that it is not ideal and (therefore?) realer than real for real because of all those tiny imperfections and wrinkles and that cruel look in the eye that we don't want to see)?


Anonymous said...


dws said...

非常感谢。 不幸的是我不懂中文,所以我不能阅读您的博客。 (我用谷歌翻译现在。)