In his book Prolegomena to the Study of Roman Art, art historian Otto Brendel discusses the difficulties in studying and classifying Roman art due to the characteristic artistic changes throughout the period of the Roman Empire and the ambiguity of the term Roman. As he terms it,"[in Roman art,] we are confronted with a main branch of ancient art, of long tradition and extraordinary productivity, yet surprisingly deficient in those exclusive, constant and definite stylistic traits," (Brendel 113). Brendel cites aesthetic evaluation, historical development, and technological difficulty as the main characteristic problems of Roman art; the limited documented evidence of development and a lack of many facts and adequate critical tools to accurately analyze the works today (Brendel 111-112). Part of this can be explained by the expansionist, hegemonic cultural power of Rome and its longevity led to a range of styles and approaches to artistic representation. Unlike the unity or logical artistic development of Egypt or Greece, Roman art is ""an art of quite uneven tendencies, uncertain in origin, oscillating between a 'neo-classic ' acceptance of Greek standards and an often crude 'popular ' realism, and eventually issuing in the seemingly 'anti-classic, ' formal rigidity of the late Roman style" (Brendel 111, 113).
The Tellus relief is an example of the " 'neo-classic ' acceptance of Greek standards" (Brendel 113). It is an element of the Ara Pacis, a commutative monument commissioned in 13 BC by Emperor Augustus, that celebrates the unification of Rome after Julius Caesar 's assassination, and the might of Augustus ' family. The central figure is a seate...
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...by the 3rd and 4th centuries.
However, some of this transition from Classical to Medieval and eventual blending of the styles can be attributed to the size of the Roman Empire and the number of cultures it absorbed. Kitzinger, similarly to Brendel, asserts that works produced by the border regions of the Roman Empire are less representational of the Classical style than those produced in Rome, even though both are currently classified as Roman. He writes, "In many of these border regions we therefore find an art which is Classical in origin and general concept but not in spirit… In various ways…the border regions of the Roman world cultivated deliberate stylisation in opposition to the naturalism of Classical art" (Kitzinger 72). This could account for some of the stylistic differences seen throughout Roman art and shifts from the realism of Classical art.
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