Art and Representation

Eugenio La Rocca

in The Oxford Handbook of Roman Studies

Published in print June 2010 | ISBN: 9780199211524
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Classics and Ancient History

 Art and Representation

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  • Classical Studies
  • Classical Art and Architecture
  • Ancient Roman History


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In recent years, the question of what constitutes art has often been asked. The question arose quite naturally from the dismissal of the traditional concept of art as imitation of the real – a notion that, though variously inflected, has held sway up until the dawn of the twentieth century. In the ancient world, images were intended as a representation of the real, as ‘mimesis’, and they were perceived accordingly. By now it is common knowledge that the mimetic theory of art does not correspond to the actual practices of artists, even if they earnestly believed they were representing humans and objects as they really were. More than an actual imitation of the real, it was the artists' apprenticeship in the workshop of established sculptors and their acquisition of traditional techniques that determined how ancient artists worked. This article discusses art and representation, art as a means of communication and medium of expression, Roman art in the frame of ‘Lebenswelt’, Roman art and the Greek canon, the symbolic language of Roman art, and Roman art and stylistic dissonance.

Keywords: Roman art; representation; sculptors; mimesis; communication; medium of expression; Lebenswelt; Greek canon; stylistic dissonance; symbolic language

Article.  12589 words. 

Subjects: Classical Studies ; Classical Art and Architecture ; Ancient Roman History

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