Cover image for Roman art
Roman art
D'Ambra, Eve, 1956-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Cambridge ; New York, NY : Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
176 pages : illustrations (some color), maps ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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N5760 .D435 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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In this refreshing reappraisal of the art and architecture of ancient Rome, Eve D'Ambra focuses on the personal, social and cultural identity of its subjects. The acquisition of art, whether the purchase of copies of Greek statuary, the construction of a sumptuous villa or the commissioning of a portrait head, played a crucial role in Roman society in which displays of wealth and culture were necessary to gain and maintain power. The question of identity is key to understanding the nature of the Roman empire, which seemed infinitely expandable at its peak, welcomed foreigners to become Romans, freed slaves to citizen status and allowed social mobility within a strictly hierarchical social order. D'Ambra discusses patronage on different social levels, from that of the emperor and his court to those of shopkeepers and of artisans, in diverse regions of the empire and in distinct ethnic groups. She compares the imagery of the state and of military victory with the humblest funerary reliefs. Many provincial artworks were based on imperial models, but others were created in resistance to prevailing imperial standards. D'Ambra draws on a range of sculpture, wall paintings, decorative arts, coins and architecture, from Italy to the edges of the empire, evoking the traditionalism and the adaptability of Roman art. She also looks ahead to the art and architecture of the fourth century AD, which despite the emergence of Christianity as the dominant religion continued to be influenced by Roman styles and themes. Eve D'Ambra is Associate Professor in the Department of Art at Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York. She has taught and published widely in the field of Roman art and society.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

While most books on ancient mosaics concern themselves mainly with the "how-to" of a specific monument, Ling offers a broad and accessible overview. The evolution of ancient mosaics began in the Greek late Classical period with floors decorated with pebble mosaics and culminated in the lush wall and vault mosaics of Christian Rome. Ling follows the progress of mosaics across the span of the Greco-Roman world, from Britain to Egypt and Spain to Syria, carefully examining stylistic development, techniques, materials, and influences. In addition, he places the mosaics carefully in the context of the world for which and in which they were created. Because of the durable material used, many mosaics are still available for viewing, and Ling has selected a generous sampling for detailed illustration. A solid work by a respected author, this is recommended for both academic and public libraries. D'Ambra goes beyond basic stylistic analyses to use Roman art in the study of Roman identity. In each monument, sculpture, garden, or painting, he finds clues about the patron or subject of the work. Well-known monuments and those less well known provide clues to their subjects' position in Rome and to their personal lives within their families. Symbolizing both culture and power, art was important in all levels of Roman society, and D'Ambra looks at art patronage from the emperor to the middle class in all areas of the empire, in Italy and abroad. Recommended for both academic and larger public library art collections.¬ĎMary Morgan Smith, Northland P.L., Pittsburgh (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

D'Ambra takes her place among the members of the new generation of Roman art historians who emphasize social distinctions and regional variations in the production and consumption of artworks in an all-inclusive Empire. The older preoccupation with artworks commissioned by and intended to serve the interests of the Roman elite has been displaced by a more ecumenical conception of the diversity of patronage and audience in the Roman world, evident in artworks made for private use and often representative of the ordinary experiences of life. In this well-written book, the role of women and the display of their images, marginal topics in the traditional histories, are prominent, responsive equally to the rectification of prior neglect and to current feminist concerns. The dimension of personal experience--displayed in portraits and funeral monuments, or lived out in domestic and urban spaces--figures largely in this book, so devoted to the exploration of the multifaceted social order. Still, D'Ambra does not ignore the overarching presence of the Empire as an institution promulgating its own principles in magnificent works of public art and architecture. Numerous nonstandard illustrations inform the book, often marred by discrepancies of scale, and there is an almost total lack of contemporary texts. General readers; undergraduates. R. Brilliant; Columbia University

Table of Contents

Part I Empire and its Myths
1 Foundations
2 Reactions to dominant cultures
3 From republic to empire
Part II The Social Order
4 Identity and status
5 Elites
6 Urban working classes
7 Women and the family
8 Outsiders and insiders
Part III The City and Urban Space
9 The city as civilization
10 Civic spectacle
11 Ruler and subjects
Part IV Portraiture and Commemoration
12 High and low
13 Modesty and adornment
14 Heroic modes
15 Preserving memory
Part V Houses and Painted Interiors
16 Duty and domesticity
17 Gardens
18 Painted perspectives
Part IV The Limits of Empire
19 Town and country
20 Power and privilege
21 Gods and cults