ROMAN COPIES OF GREEK ORIGINALS Essay

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The construct of the ‘Roman copy’ in art history has deeply rooted and extensive origins. Whilst this prejudiced was attached to Roman sculpture from an extremely early time in modern archaeology and art history, the construct viewed in a current context reveals issues with both its development and contribution to historical understanding and education. The construct is formed upon several main factors that have recently been called into question by revisionist historians. Firstly, the development of the construct by conservative historians during the 18th century, a context that valued artistic originality and authenticity, lead to it’s popularisation and circulation as a respected model. Secondly, the construct rests entirely on the…show more content…
The import of these historians in the cannot be understated, as expressed by Tanner, “The practice of classical art history … was largely modelled on German exemplars, giving rise to broadly similar styles of scholarship … through a process of competitive emulation.” Throughout Winckelmann’s influential work, Greek artistic superiority is clearly established, “The only way to become great, or, if this be possible, inimitable, is to imitate the Greeks.” Views towards both Greek and Roman art have since been influenced by this inherent and negative bias towards Roman sculpture, even allowing for the traditional art-historical taxonomy of Roman sculpture to include in it the category of ‘copies’. Through the writings of Moon, it is clear that the perception is still apparent, “our handbooks are littered with scholarly distaste at having to work from such inadequate and second-rate reproductions [as Roman sculpture]”.
In retrospect, many of the conclusions drawn by the contemporary historians on the matter of Greek artistic superiority have been either realised to be incorrect or simply based on contextual prejudice and bias by current revisionist historians. In his writings of the 18th century, J. J. Winckelmann argued strongly to establish the Classical Greek style as the formal standard for modern-day European art. This argument was based on the notion that all art subsequent to the period of Alexander the Great was merely a degraded form of

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