Roman Portraiture Uses and Developments Between 31 and 217 AD

Published 20 Feb 2017

Introductory Paragraph

The roots of Roman Portraiture hold the history of Etruria, an early city of Rome, north of its borders. The Etruscans were immigrants from the Asia Minor that went to Italy on the meltdown of Bronze Age. When they arrived in Italy, Etruscans saw themselves as the ruling class and vehemently exploited the riches of the country. Since their arrival, the influence of Etruscan style became apparent, as to the way a sculpture smiles and the so-called “quiet serenity” it portrays. Moreover, the quality of these portraits remains Etruscan in nature because of their high influence on Roman art. The initiative mark for Etruscan trademark was the fact that Etruria exported its vases to Romans and Greeks; hence, the taste became Etruscan. Piloting the emergence of Roman art was Marcus Aurelius. His definitive taste and desire for arts were more of Greek influence, as he used this influence for his political charisma (, 2002).

Thesis Statement

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Roman portraiture influenced the masses political through the impression it elaborates while mimicking the characteristic of artful definitions made by each Emperor from Antoninus to Aurelius.

I. Introduction

A. History of Roman Portraiture: The roots of Roman Portraiture hold the history of Etruria, an early city of Rome, north of its borders.
B. Thesis Statement

II. Antoninus: Timeline Art

Biography as Emperor: Antoninus Pius, the Emperor before Aurelius, held a long period of peace upon his reign.
Emergence of Art in his Era: His artful contributions to Roman portraiture were merely significant, yet, catches the eyes of its beholder.
War as Influence of Art: War is one influence he uses when solidifying ideologies on art pieces.

III. Emergence of Roman Portraiture

Marcus Aurelius: His passion for arts combined with his perspective of Greek art, triggered the Roman embezzlement on artistry.
Trajan’s Column: Signifying the leader Trajan, Trajan’s columns forming a band exemplifies the wars against Daci through a continuous narration.
Iconographic Portraiture: Eastern influences had added the iconographic essence on Roman portraiture.

IV. Uses of Portraits

A. Honorific Portraits: The beginning of Roman portraiture has occurred in honorary statues of significant royalty.
Funerary Altars: Most royal families have funerary altars implying of their power and influence before their death.
Royal Family History: Romans believed ancestral importance to their being, which implies of their future status in the society.
Imperial Portraits: In order to have political influence, most politicians of their time used portraits to introduce themselves to the public.

V. Styles

Etruscan Influence: After Roman invasion of Etruria, most of its sculptors still remained in the Etruria, which in turn influenced the Roman portraiture.
Greek Influence: Clearly, the evidence of Roman education in the arts happened during their conquests of Greek cities.

VI. Materials and Methods

Terracotta: First materials used in making sculptures are terracotta.
Bronze: When Greeks dominated the ancient world, bronze became the material for making artistic crafts.

Marble: Marble was used during the reign of Augustus replacing bronze.

VII. Summary

VIII. Conclusion

XI. Bibliography

  • The Antonine Dynasty (138-193). 3 February 2008. <>.
  • Trentinella, Rosemarie. “Roman Portrait Sculpture”. In Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (October 2003).
  • Richard Brilliant, Visual Narratives: Storytelling in Etruscan and Roman Art (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984).
  • Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity, from Marcus Aurelius to Muhammad (London, England: Thames and Hudson, 1971).
  • Glenys Davies, “Roman Sculpture,” in The Oxford Companion to Classical Civilization. Ed. Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth (Oxford, England; New York: Oxford University Press, 1998): 651–653.
  • Niels Hannestad, Roman Art and Imperial Policy (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 1986).
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