Roman art: Painting


Roman painting, like sculpture, was strongly influenced by the art of Greece. Unfortunately, much of the painting has perished. What remains suggests that the art was conceived principally as one of interior decoration. Aside from encaustic portraits chiefly of Alexandrian origin, the largest single group of Roman paintings is from Pompeii, although parallel work exists elsewhere. The Incrustation, or Architectonic Plastic, style extended to c.80 b.c.; it was characterized by flat areas of color broken by full-scale painted pilasters in apparent imitation of marble slabs.

The Architectural style that followed lasted 70 years; it was largely influenced by stage design and employed painted columns, arches, entablatures, and pediments to frame landscapes and figure compositions, destroying the architectonic quality of the wall. Many famous paintings, such as the Aldobrandini Wedding and Odyssey Landscapes (Vatican), are believed to be Roman copies of Greek originals. By 10 b.c. the Architectural style yielded to the Ornate style, where the semblance of architectural construction became subordinate to decoration, and the paintings within the borders became prominent. Most surviving Pompeiian paintings date from the Intricate style period, which commenced about a.d. 50 and continued until the destruction of the city in a.d. 79 by the eruption of Vesuvius. Large areas of flat color enclose diminutive, graceful, and delicate scenes executed in brilliant color.

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