Scholia Reviews ns 9 (2000) 12.

Anne Haward, Art and the Romans. Classical World Series. London: Bristol Classical Press, 1999. Pp. ix + 99, incl. 40 black-and-white plates and 3 figure drawings. ISBN 1-85399-558-4. UK£8.95.

William J. Dominik
University of Natal, Durban

Roman art is the art not only of Rome but of the whole Roman world. Art and the Romans aims to examine the art created by and for the Romans and consider what they wanted from it. In the process of drawing on visual images and literary sources from different parts of the Roman world up to the time of Constantine, Anne Haward introduces her readers to a number of ancient sources and important issues in Roman art. In addition to providing this artistic and literary context, Haward explains how art for the Romans was different from the practice of modern art. The student new to Roman art will learn, for instance, that not only was it generally commissioned and could not be made known to the public with the modern techniques of printing and photography, but also that it involved a much closer relationship between artist and patron and a more direct influence by the patron upon the artist than is involved in modern art.

Art and the Romans contains seven chapters averaging thirteen pages in length. Each chapter really serves as a general introduction to a specific genre of Roman art. The emphasis in each chapter is on what each genre reveals about the Romans and what they expected of it. After a brief preface outlining its pedagogical purpose (p. ix), Haward opens with a chapter on portraiture (pp. 1-15). In this chapter she considers what can be told about Romans from their portraits on statues, busts and paintings. In her second and longest chapter, Haward discusses statuary and relief sculpture (pp. 15-38). One of the most interesting sections of the entire book is her discussion of the place and development of the copy of an original statue in Roman art; the discussion of relief sculpture focuses on the Ara Pacis, arches, columns and sarcophagi. The third chapter on painting first outlines the four main styles, then focuses on some individual paintings to highlight and distinguish between the major characteristics of each style (pp. 39-53).

Another stimulating discussion occurs in the fourth chapter on the different types of mosaics (pp. 54- 66), where Haward asks whether we should consider mosaics art or craft and leans toward the former, although I think the answer is more obvious than she suggests. The subsequent chapters focus on the luxury arts, with silver and bronze the focus of chapter 5 (pp. 67-75) and the decorative arts the subject of chapter 6 (pp. 75-86). In the latter chapter Haward not only discusses the usual topics of jewelry, glassware and ceramics but in yet another interesting discussion also analyses the design of gardens. A brief concluding chapter highlighting the formal variety, symbolism, anonymity, originality, verism and fantasy of Roman art rounds out her discussion (pp. 87-89).

Consistent with the pedagogical aims of Art and the Romans, there are at the back suggestions of recommended sites to view the art discussed (pp. 90f.), questions on the various genres of Roman art intended to promote further analysis (pp. 92f.), and lists of general and specialised books to encourage further exploration of the topics covered (pp. 94- 96). In addition to the black-and-white plates and figure drawings, there are a number of source passages from ancient writers presented in translation only. There is a helpful glossary (pp. 97-98) for the student unfamiliar with the terminology of Roman art and an index (p. 99).

Is it possible for an introductory text to be written that specifically examines what constitutes, characterises and distinguishes Roman art, including such issues as the bias against it, its anonymity and immense quantity, and the issue of the numerous copies of original works? A text that not only outlines the major genres of Roman art but also emphasises intellectual achievements such as the complexities of concrete architecture and narrative relief? Haward commendably explores some of these critical topics through her discussion of the copy (pp. 17-24) and consideration of whether the making of a mosaic constitutes Roman art or craft (pp. 64- 66).

Haward also suggests other promising avenues of intellectual exploration, notably in her discussion of garden design (pp. 84-86). This topic, which is more suited to the genre of architecture, could lead to a fruitful examination of the ways in which gardens reveal the Roman penchant for interiority, aestheticism, social functionality, and the organic structuring of space. When discussing sculpture, furthermore, there is room for a discussion of such defining characteristics as its architectural function, psychological realism, intellectual dimension, historical allusiveness, social consciousness and emblematic significance. This may seem to be too ambitious a concept for a volume that would purport to meet the need of an introductory teaching text, especially for a secondary school audience, but such a text would help to place Roman art on an equal footing with that of the Greek in the classroom. By touching upon some of the aforementioned topics, Haward has planted the seeds of such an introductory text and shown that its conception is realisable.

How does Haward's slim volume compare with other introductory texts on Roman art? Donald Strong's Roman Art is devoted almost solely to sculpture and Martin Henig's A Handbook of Roman Art focuses mainly on the luxury arts.[[1]] But in my view Roman art embraces not just sculpture, painting and the decorative arts but also architecture. Until Nancy and Andrew Ramage's wide- ranging The Cambridge Illustrated History of Roman Art, Mortimer Wheeler's somewhat dated Roman Art and Architecture was the only introductory text to feature a reasonably balanced discussion of the various genres of Roman art, including architecture.[[2]] Haward's slim volume of 99 pages and 43 illustrations cannot really be compared with these other introductory Roman art texts, especially not with the Ramages' volume (304 pages and 373 plates and figures).[[3]] Furthermore, Bristol Classical Press' cover blurb suggests that Haward's generic approach is unique, but this is not really the case. It is true that Strong and the Ramages do outline Roman art in their introductory texts by using the historical approach, which involves taking the reader chronologically through the various stages, periods and genres of Roman art, but Wheeler and Henig do explore the subject generically by tracing the development and evolution of painting, sculpture and the luxury arts.

For what type of reader is Art and the Romans most suitable? Does it best serve as an introductory text for any particular group of students? First, it is apparent that Haward is laboring under the constraints of the Classical World Series, in which her book is published, since other volumes in the series are short and simply, if professionally, produced. The Classical World Series promotes itself as a concise yet informative introduction to the culture and achievement of Greece and Rome. This series dictates the form of Haward's book. Only so much can be said, illustrated and achieved in a text containing about one hundred pages and a few dozen illustrations. This means, for instance, that there is insufficient space for Haward to discuss a genre such as coins. Secondly, while the Classical World Series purports to be designed for students and teachers from secondary school to university, Art and the Romans probably will be of most service to secondary school students, for whom the depth of analysis seems best suited, although it could be used as a class text for first-year university students as their first introduction to Roman art, perhaps as one of a number of books on a general reading list for a classical civilisation course.

Throughout Art and the Romans there is a consistent quality in the descriptions of individual genres and objects that makes it worthwhile reading as a basic introduction to Roman art. Haward's expression is generally clear and concise, but there are some awkward sentences of the sort typified by the opening sentence in the first paragraph on page 3. Some supplementation of the text will inevitably be required, but the main artefacts are covered at least in their basic form. For a secondary or first- year university classical civilisation course featuring a Roman art component, Haward's text may most profitably be used in conjunction with Martin Thorpe's Roman Architecture, another title in the Classical World Series.[[4]] But for a more detailed and comprehensive introduction, the only real up-to-date, lucid, basic, broad and relatively inexpensive introductory text that communicates the beauty, grandeur, exquisiteness and meaning of Roman art, including architecture, remains Nancy and Andrew Ramage's The Cambridge Illustrated History of Roman Art.


[[1]] D. Strong, Roman Art (New York 1976; repr. 1988); M. Henig, A Handbook of Roman Art (Ithaca 1983).

[[2]] N. Ramage and A. Ramage, The Cambridge Illustrated History of Roman Art (Cambridge 1991); M. Wheeler, Roman Art and Architecture (New York 1964).

[[3]] Compare Henig [1] 288 pages and 246 illustrations; Strong [1] 197 pages and 265 illustrations; and Wheeler [2] 150 pages and 215 illustrations.

[[4]] M. Thorpe, Roman Architecture (London 1995).