A fascinating shift toward more nuanced interpretations of Roman art that look at different kinds of social knowledge and local contexts
In recent decades, the study of Roman art has shifted focus dramatically from issues of connoisseurship, typology, and chronology to analyses of objects within their contemporary contexts and local environments. Scholars challenge the notion, formerly taken for granted, that extant historical texts—the writings of Vitruvius, for example—can directly inform the study of architectural remains. Roman-era statues, paintings, and mosaics are no longer dismissed as perfunctory replicas of lost Greek or Hellenistic originals; they are worthy of study in their own right. Further, the scope of what constitutes Roman art has expanded to include the vast spectrum of objects used in civic, religious, funerary, and domestic contexts and from communities across the Roman Empire.
The work gathered in Roman Artists, Patrons, and Public Consumption displays the breadth and depth of scholarship in the field made possible by these fundamental changes. The first five essays approach individual objects and artistic tropes, as well as their cultural contexts and functions, from fresh and dynamic angles. The latter essays focus on case studies in Pompeii, demonstrating how close visual analysis firmly rooted in local and temporal contexts not only strengthens understanding of ancient interactions with monuments but also sparks a reconsideration of long-held assumptions reinforced by earlier scholarship.
These rigorous essays reflect and honor the groundbreaking scholarship of Elaine K. Gazda. In addition to volume editors Brenda Longfellow and Ellen E. Perry, contributors include Bettina Bergmann, Elise Friedland, Barbara Kellum, Diana Y. Ng, Jessica Powers, Melanie Grunow Sobocinski, Lea M. Stirling, Molly Swetnam-Burland, Elizabeth Wolfram Thill, and Jennifer Trimble.
Brenda Longfellow is Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Iowa. Ellen E. Perry is Professor of Classics and Professor of Classical Archaeology and Sculpture at the College of the Holy Cross.
“This collection constitutes a great addition to current scholarship that reevaluates the search for the lost original and emphasizes the interaction of works of art with a variety of ancient viewers.”
—John Clarke, University of Texas at Austin