EmpireStyle - Shane Traister Classics 17B Augustan art Was...

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Shane Traister Classics 17B Augustan art: Was it really an empire style? Once he was declared Augustus of Rome, Octavius established a portrait style that differentiated him from Roman leaders before him. A particular set of characteristics emerged from this style, and was passed down through his lineage all the way through Nero, the last of the Julio-Claudian Emperors. The portraiture of Augustus was different than the portraiture of Roman elite before him. The “Verism” that the Roman Senators before Augustus employed was a style that focused on true representation of the figure. Often, they would be portrayed with the elderly, wise faces they really had, with wrinkles and scars. In contrast though, Augustus used a classicizing Greek style of portraiture, with soft features and a peaceful demeanor. If we contrast certain pieces of art from the old Roman republic with portraits from the Julio- Claudian Dynasty, we can see more clearly, what the difference is between republican senators, and Augustan emperors. First, we should take a look at one of Augustus’ portraits, as his are the first of their kind. In Bust of Augustus wearing the corona civica (Kleiner, 67) we see his youthful appearance in contrast to old portraits of Republicans, like Head of an old man (Kleiner, 53). In the old man’s portrait from Osimo, we see a very realistic and true representation of his face. He has an old, wrinkled, heavily worn face. By contrast, Augustus’ face has smooth lines and features, and a very soft look to it. The old man looks battle worn if one takes a look at the ear, and he is balding. Augustus, on the other hand, has a full head of hair, and perfectly proportioned features. This is similar to ancient Greek figures which were beautiful, idealistic masterpieces. Other statues from the two, rather distinct eras, can be compared as well. If we look at
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Aullus Metellus (“Arringatore”) (Kleiner, 55) and compare it to Augustus as Imperator (Kleiner, 68) we can see many similarities in the pose, but very different representations. Augustus and Metellus were both victorious army commanders, and had both won the respect of the Roman people. Metellus, however, was portrayed in a toga, standard apparel for a Roman Senator, whereas Augustus, in the same position, was portrayed in full War time apparel. There seems to be no metaphorical imagery accompanying Metllus, whereas Augustus’ statue is full of it. Augustus is portrayed with a figure of cupid, representative of Augustus’ descent from Venus. His armor is also full of imagery, representative of a divine help in wartime. Though the pose was modeled on Aullus Metellus’, the figure was modeled after a Greek statue, Doryphoros .
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