Category Archives: Sculpture

Trajan’s Column {The Story of Art}

Trajan's column (detail). Rome, Italy. A.D. 114.

“Another new task which the Romans set the artists revived a custom which we know from the ancient Orient. They, too, wanted to proclaim their victories and to tell the stories of their campaigns. Trajan, for instance, erected a huge column to show a whole picture chronicle of his war and victories in Dacia (the modern Romania). There we see the Roman legionaries embarking, encamping and fighting. All the skill and achievements of centuries of Greek art were used in these feats of war reporting. But the importance which Romans attached to accurate rendering of all details, and to a clear narrative which would impress the feats of the campaign on the stay-at-homes, rather changed the character of art. The main aim was no longer that of harmony, beauty or dramatic expression. The Romans were a matter-of-fact people…”

Ernst H. Gombrich, “Chapter 5: World Conquerors,” The Story of Art, 15th edition

Laocoön and His Sons {The Story of Art}

Laocoön and His Sons. 25 B.C.

“The fact is probably that by this time, the period of Hellenism, art had largely lost its old connection with magic and religion. Artists became interested in the problems of their craft for its own sake, and the problem of how to represent such a dramatic contest [of Lacoön and the snakes] with all its movement, its expression and its tension, was just the type of task which would test an artist’s mettle.”

Ernst H. Gombrich, “Chapter 4: The Realm of Beauty,” The Story of Art, 15th edition

Tombstone of Hegeso {The Story of Art}

Grave of Hegeso. Athens, Greece. 420 B.C

“Every Greek work from that great period [from 7th to 5th century B.C.] shows… wisdom and skill in the distribution of figures, but what the Greeks of the time valued even more was something else: the newfound freedom to represent the human body in any position or movement could be used to reflect the inner life of the figures represented. We hear from one of his disciples that this is what the great philosopher Socrates, who had himself been trained as a sculptor, urged artists to do. They should represent the ‘workings of the soul’ by accurately observing the way ‘feelings affected the body in action.’”

Ernst H. Gombrich, “Chapter 3: The Great Awakening,” The Story of Art, 15th edition