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Posts tagged ‘Rome’

Caesar and the Snail: “Royal Purple” in Imperial Rome

The monthly ArtSmart Roundtable brings together some of the best art-focused travel blogs to post on a common theme.  This month we are discussing Color.  Check out all the stories below!

As the old saying goes – “Clothes make the man.”  Nowhere is this more true than in Ancient Rome.  They had a purple dye so rare and so valuable that wearing it was reserved for the elite.  Eventually only the Emperor was allowed to wear full garments of this color, known as Tyrian purple.  So where did this precious color come from?  A sea snail native to Lebanon.

Justinian in purple

Emperor Justinian I wears a purple robe while his chief advisers have a broad stripe of purple in their garments. The Byzantines inherited the connection between purple and power.  This mosaic is from Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna (Photo)

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Ancient Jewelry I’d Like to Own

It always amazes me to see historic jewelry in museums.  I’ve just assumed items so valuable and fragile would not have survived the centuries, but then there they are, neatly lined up in the display cases.  Once again proving that everything old is new again, there’s a lot of ancient jewelry that I’d wear today.  Here are some of personal favorites!

Egyptian bead jewelry

Gorgeous Egyptian necklace from the Oriental Institute in Chicago.  (Photo: Daydream Tourist)

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Bernini’s Rejected French Sculpture

st peters interior, Rome

Bernini created the interior marble facade, canopy and high altar of St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City (Photo: rachel_titiriga, flickr)

Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598 – 1680) should be familiar to visitors to Rome.  He essentially created the Baroque city that we see today producing sculptures, fountains, buildings and the majority of the interior of St. Peter’s Basilica.  Considering that he started creating accurate portrait busts at 14 and continued to work until he was 82, Bernini is deservedly known as a prolific genius.  But did you know that even his work was occasionally rejected? Read more

Painted Roman Statue

By traveling in Greece and Turkey, I’ve learned a lot more about Classical art and architecture.  I find myself describing the ancient sites I’ve  seen and usually slip something in about how “bright and colorful” it must have been.  That usually stops the conversation.  No one believes that ancient Greek and Roman statues were painted!  I myself am still trying to wrap my head around what that would have looked like.  But it’s true, and now I have my own photographic evidence that statues were colorful:

Painted ancient Roman general statue in Corinth

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Statue Conservation in Action at the MFA Boston

Roman Juno statue

Juno in her former home, a suburban Boston estate garden (Photo: MFA)

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is hosting an interesting conservation project.  An impressive Trajanic or Hadrianic Period (early second century A.D.) statue of Juno was moved into the George D. and Margo Behrakis Gallery of ancient art this week.  Given its massive size of 13ft and 13,000 lbs, conservator will be examining, cleaning and repairing the work in situ.  Recently donated to the Museum of Fine Arts, the statue has spent the last 100 years in an estate garden just outside of Boston.  The resulting wind, snow, freeze-thaw, biological and vandal damage has taken a toll on the piece.  The Museum is raising money to support the conservation.  You can learn more about this on-going project at the MFA’s website.

I’m particularly interested in the analysis of the head.  It is clear that it was reattached at one or more times in the piece’s history; however, it also seems that the head and body are not the same marble and may have been united at a later time.  Given that little historical information exists about the piece prior to the 17th century, curators and conservators will have to rely on scientific analysis to understand the past of this statue.

Juno's head was removed to protect it during transport (Photo: MFA, Boston)

Layers of plaster and glue illustrate past repairs to the neck of Juno. (Photo: MFA, Boston)

roman statue repair with iron pin

Close up of the iron pin holding the right arm in place. (Photo: MFA, Boston)

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