Cover image for Imperial Rome and Christian triumph : the art of the Roman Empire AD 100-450
Imperial Rome and Christian triumph : the art of the Roman Empire AD 100-450
Elsner, Jaś.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xvi, 297 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
N5760 .E484 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Western culture saw some of the most significant and innovative developments take place during the passage from antiquity to the middle ages. This stimulating new book investigates the role of the visual arts as both reflections and agents of those changes. It tackles two inter-related periodsof internal transformation within the Roman Empire: the phenomenon known as the 'Second Sophistic' (c. ad 100300)two centuries of self-conscious and enthusiastic hellenism, and the era of late antiquity (c. ad 250450) when the empire underwent a religious conversion to Christianity. Vases, murals, statues, and masonry are explored in relation to such issues as power, death, society, acculturation, and religion. By examining questions of reception, viewing, and the culture of spectacle alongside the more traditional art-historical themes of imperial patronage and stylisticchange, Jas Elsner presents a fresh and challenging account of an extraordinarily rich cultural crucible in which many fundamental developments of later European art had their origins. 'a highly individual work . . . wonderful visual and comparative analysis . . . I can think of no other general book on Roman art that deals so elegantly and informatively with the theme of visuality and visual desire.' Professor Natalie Boymel Kampen, Barnard College, New York 'exciting and original . . . a vibrant impression of creative energy and innovation held in constant tension by the persistence of more traditional motifs and techniques. Elsner constantly surprises and intrigues the reader by approaching familiar material in new ways.' Professor Averil Cameron,Keble College, Oxford

Author Notes

J. R. Elsner, Lecturer in the History of Art, Courtauld Institute, London.

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

Traditionally, art books follow a chronological sequence that tracks developing styles in a particular period of art. When influences are mentioned, it is usually in the context of which artist influenced which. Yet just as art does not exist in a vacuum, neither does the artist, and the artist's relationship to his customer's needs and the changing demands of the marketplace are central. Osborne (ancient history, Oxford) breaks with tradition to study simultaneously the art of ancient Greece and the world in which it was produced. Artists working in the Greek city-states were inspired by trade goods from throughout the Mediterranean as well as by their rich literary tradition. Osborne discusses the development of art forms and art's role in defining humankind's relationship with itself, others, nature, and the gods. Roman art is usually thought of as beginning during the early republic and continuing through the third century A.D. to the reign of Constantine, the first Christian emperor. Elsner, a lecturer at the Courtauld Institute, takes a slightly different tack, combining the art of the late Roman Empire with that of the early Christian period. Rather than merely cataloging artifacts, Elsner, like Osborne, studies "how art both reflected and contributed to the social construction." These two entries in the "Oxford History of Art" series are, as usual, good, solid introductions to their topics. With a reasonable price, compact format, good maps and time lines, and uniformly clear illustrations, they will be standard texts for their subjects. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.‘Mary Morgan Smith, Northland P. L., Pittsburgh (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Introduction
Part 1 Images and Power
Chapter 2 A Visual Culture
Chapter 3 Art and Imperial Power
Part II Images and Society
Chapter 4 Art and Social Life
Chapter 5 Centre and Periphery
Chapter 6 Art and Death
Part III Images and Transformation
Chapter 7 Art and the Past: Antiquarian Eclecticism
Chapter 8 Art and Religion
Chapter 9 Art and Culture: Cost, Value, and the Discourse of Art Afterword: Some Futures of Christian Art
List of Illustrations