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The Art of the Italian Peninsula
and Roman Empire
Adaptation and Change
Growth of the Roman Empire
Timeline for the Italian Peninsula and Roman Empires
800 BCE
700 BCE
600 BCE
500 BCE
400 BCE
300 BCE
200 BCE
100 BCE
100 CE
200 CE
The Etruscans c. 750-90 BCE
Colonial Greeks
Seven Kings of Rome
The Roman Republic 509-27 BCE
Roman Empire
27 BCE –390
For the Metropolitan Museum Interactive Timeline click here
Italy Before the Romans
The Art of the Etruscans
Somewhere between 900 and 800 BCE,
the Italian peninsula was settled by a
mysterious peoples called the Etruscans.
Archaeologists suspect that they came
from the eastern Mediteranean, possibly
Asia Minor. We know that when they
came to Italy, they brought civilization
and urbanisation with them.
Studying Etruscan Art
In studying Etruscan art, we must remember that much of their
works did not survive to the present day.. As a result, we have a
skewed perception of Etruscan art; most of the art that survives
today is funerary art.
From excavations at Murlo, Roselle and other city sites, it is
apparent that art was a normal part of Etruscan life. In Murlo, a
seventh century Etruscan villa has been unearthed, revealing large
painted terracotta panels adorning the entrances. Necropolis art in
the form of polychrome reliefs and frescoes hint that the Etruscans
used colour to great advantage even from the earliest times.
Although painted tombs are among the most famous, it should be
remembered that these represent a minority, and that only the
aristocratic families could afford such luxuries as tomb frescoes.
Etruscan Grave Art
Fibula with
Orientalizing lions
from the RegoliniGalassi Tomb,
Cerveteri, ca. 650640 BCE (P. 232 Gardner’s)
Fibula with Orientalizing
Model of a typical Etruscan temple
A typical Etruscan temple
A typical Etruscan temple
Similar to a Greek temple, it served as an ornate home for cult images.
Made of mud-brick, not stone, only partially reflecting Greek tradition. The
columns resemble Greek Doric style, but were made of wood, unfluted, with no
bases or pediment statuary.
A narrow staircase led to a podium supported by columns (creating one main
side, unlike Greek temples); three cellas for Zeus, Hera, and Athena.
Narrative sculpture, made of terracotta not stone, was displayed along the top of
the roof.
Apulu (Apollo)
Apulu (Apollo),
from the roof of the
Portonaccio Temple,
Veii, c. 510–500 BCE.
Painted terracotta
(hard baked clay
that is
approximately 180
cm high.
Apulu (Apollo),
from the roof of the
Temple, Veii,
Painted terracotta,
detail showing
stylized hair
The Necropolis ( a large
cemetery) at Cerveteri
Cerveteri, an important trading centre situated near Rome was one of the
most important Etruscan cities. Gold jewelry and vases of particularly
fine workmanship were made here.
The Necropolis at Cerveteri
Today, Cerveteri is known
for its monumental
necropolis, one of the
largest from the ancient
world. It is famous for the
number and wealth of the
tumulus tombs discovered
The Banditaccia, with its
painted and decorated
tombs, represents one of the
most important
archeological areas in Italy.
Tomb of the Reliefs, Cerveteri
Interior of
the Tomb of
the Reliefs,
Sarcophagus at Cerveteri,
Sarcophagus from Cerveteri
couple, c. 520
BCE. Painted
compare to
Tomb of the Leopards (detail)
Tomba caccia e pesca, Tarquinia
Tomba caccia e pesca, (detail)
Detail of fresco in the Tomb of Hunting and Fishing, Tarquinia, c. 530–520 BCE.
The Capitoline Wolf c. 500-480 BCE
Capitoline Wolf, Etruscan, c. 500–480 BCE. Bronze,
approx. 80 cm high. Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome.
The Chimera of Arezzo
Chimera of Arezzo, first half of fourth century
BCE. Bronze, approx. 80 cm high.
Ficoroni Cista
Novios Plautios, Ficoroni
Cista, from Palestrina, late
fourth century BCE. Bronze,
approx. 80 cm. high.
Used for women’s combs,
brushes, etc, such cistae were
commonly given as gifts to
both the living and the dead.
Novios Plautios was an
Etruscan artist living in Rome.
Porta Marzia
Porta Marzia,
Etruscan city
gate, Perugia,
century BCE.
Note the
of Greek and
Sarcophagus of Lars Pulena
Sarcophagus of Lars Pulena, from Tarquinia, early
second century BCE. Tufa, approx. 2 metres long.
Sarcophagus of Lars Pulena
Sarcophagus of Lars Pulena, detail, showing
Etruscan writing.
Etruscan Sarcophagus
In late Etruscan sarcophagi, the matrimonial
couple is no longer shown and the air of
festive banqueting is gone.
Aule Metele
The portrait of Aule Metele as
a magistrate raising his arm to
address an assembly is a
supremely self-confident
This late Etruscan statue
proves that they continued to
be experts in bronze casting
long after the Roman came to
dominate the Italian peninsula.
Most likely produced in the
early first century BCE when
Rome gained complete
domination of the Etruscan
region and conferred Roman
citizenship upon all the
inhabitants of Italy.
From Seven Hills to Three Continents
The Art of Ancient Rome
ARCHITECTURE of the Repulic
Temple of Fortuna Virillis
This temple combines
both Etruscan and
Greek design elements.
Like Greek temples, it
has a porch (pronaos)
with free-standing
columns. Slender
engaged Ionic columns
are found on the sides
and back -a style called
Temple of Fortuna Virillis, 248
Etruscan influences: set on a high podium, the
Temple of Fortuna Virillis has stairs only on
Temple of Fortuna Virillis
In plan, it is like
Etruscan temples, with
a clear front and rear
Temple of Vesta or the Sibyl
One of a number of temples
on the ancient acropolis at
Tivoli, it was built c. 60
The peristyle of eighteen
fluted Corinthian columns
was of travertine..
The design and workmanship
are show a knowledge of
ancient Greek round temples
such as the THOLOS at
Temple of Vesta or the Sibyl
Corinthian columns on the Temple of Vesta.
Sanctuary of Fortuna Primgenia
Erected on a foundation of poured concrete, the Sanctuary of
Fortuna Primigenia (120 - 80 BCE) is a massive temple complex
located at Palestrina just outside Rome. Built on the site of an
earlier oracle, the compound spread over seven terraced levels the whole hillside was reworked as Roman builders never turned
away from the opportunity to do massive earthwork in order to
create a major architectural statement.
Sanctuary of Fortuna Primgenia
Sanctuary of Fortuna Primgenia
Roman patrician, 250
Villa of the mysteries,
Second style fresco, Boscoreale
Second style, Villa of Livia, 258
Boscoreale Room , Met Museum
Vettii House, all 4 styles, 262
Double Portrait from Pompeii,
Double portrait.
"Terentius Neo"
(studiosus or attorney
and wife). Roman
fresco, 1st century CE.
Pompeii. Naples,
National Museum.
Augustus of Primaporta,265
Statue of the first Emperor,
Augustus, named after the
town of Primaporta where it
was found. Born Gaius
Octavius, Augustus changed his
name upon becoming Emperor.
Great nephew of Julius Caesar,
Octavian defeated Anthony and
Cleopatra, taking control of the
Empire and ending the civil
wars which followed the
assassination of Julius Caesar.
Augustus of Primaporta
The Emperor stands with his
arm extended as if addressing
his troops, carrying his staff of
office in his left hand. His
breastplate depicts the return of
the Roman standard from a
successful military campaign.
The head was a mass produced
stereotype, common throughout
the Empire, so Augustus would
be easily recognized by the
Ara Pacis Augustae.267
The Ara Pacis, “Altar of Peace,” was erected by Augustus between 13 and
9 BCE to commemorate his triumphal return to Rome following the end of
civil war and the establishment of firm Roman rule in Spain and France.
Ara Pacis Augustae
Detail: The Procession of the Family
Ara Pacis Augustae
Panels on the east and west
ends depict carefully selected
mythological subjects. There is
a procession (like the Parthenon
frieze) of the imperial family
and important dignitaries
paying homage to Augustus.
The sculptors of the Ara Pacis
depicted actual individuals.
They represented spatial depth
by carving closer elements in
high relief and those farther
back in lower relief.
Ara Pacis Augustae
Detail: Tellus, the earth-mother goddess.
Colosseum interior,271
Arch of Titus, 273
Arch of Titus (detail)
Roman soldiers carrying home spoils of the destruction
of the Second Temple, Jerusalem, 70 CE.
Trajan’s column, 276
Pantheon, 279
Pantheon exterior, 279
Pantheon interior
Marcus Aurelius, 286