Roman painting


Roman art was a type of artistic expression that had its beginnings closely linked with Etruscan art and with the art that developed throughout the Greek colonies of Magna Graecia , of whom it is considered to be the direct heir. It was an art that incorporated different types of  elements from the most heterogeneous cultures that spanned the Mediterranean and that were under Roman rule, and that enjoyed a harmony that always characterized them. From this type of art, Roman painting was born.


What is Roman painting?

Roman painting was an artistic expression that was based mainly on Greek culture , but full of landscapes , originality , concrete ideas, strong lines , depth and frescoes that were placed mainly on its walls.


What did it consist of

Roman painting consisted of paintings based on Greek Culture and some other important artistic factors . Generally the Romans made great decorations in their rooms and for this they used wall paintings , full of great color and movement . It consisted of paintings of individual figures that depended on the talent of the artists and also on the demands of the client. It was a painting that consisted of large works of landscapes and sculptures .


Characteristics of Roman painting

The main characteristics that could be observed in Roman painting were the following:

  • It had marked derivations from the Byzantine mosaic and the Mozarabic miniature .
  • They were very original paintings with their own style.
  • They were characterized by the silhouetted figures and hieraticism.
  • They were paintings that showed a specific idea regarding human figures.
  • The silhouettes that were made of portraits used fairly thick lines and were black or red .
  • The colors that were used were flat and were not used to make mixtures .
  • In general, the figures did not have movements , they were represented hieratic .
  • They had practically no depth or perspective .
  • Many of the figures they represented in the paintings were grouped .
  • They were unnatural paintings and loaded with mysticism .
  • They also showed inappropriate anatomies . 


The origins of Roman painting are located directly in Greek painting , from which the Romans copied several works. The first manifestations then had Etruscan and Greek origin , which in turn, had an important influence on the cultural and artistic aspects of the region. The painting is believed to have originated in 323 BC in the period known as Hellenistic during the Roman Republic .


There were several styles of Roman painting, among which were:

  • Inlay Styles : in this style an attempt was made to imitate the marbles of the Hellenistic era . It referred to a colorful style , the walls were divided into three and in them there was a base painted imitating granite , the middle zone imitating marble and the finish , which was enhanced in stucco .
  • Architectural Style : it began with the emperor Cesar and was very similar to an architecture, which sought depth and perspective . In this type of puncture things looked bigger, more real and natural .
  • Mixed and Ornamental Style : it arose in the time of Augustus, and it was a mixed style , a mixture of the architectural style and the inlay style. It wasn’t that real, but rather it was looking for fantasy . Full of light ornamental elements and fantastic buildings , vegetal elements , small animals, some mythological scenes and with intense colors.
  • Illusionist or scenographic style: it was a style with architectural , mixed and ornamental elements , it was a bit confusing and it was full of mythological , historical scenes and decorations. On some occasions they represented natural characters , architectures and a better realism.

Themes of Roman painting

They had various themes or genres of painting that they represented on walls and in wall paintings. Among their themes, we can cite history and mythology , they made murals with landscapes , caricatures , portraits , paintings that reflected customs , architectural imitations and fantastic combinations of natural objects. One of its main themes was the portraits painted on panel, which were placed on the mummies.

Representatives and their works

Among the main representatives and their works we mention the following:

  • Pietro Cavallini: painter with a fresco style similar to the Byzantine. His technique highlighted colors and thus established figures and space.
  • Arelio: he specialized in painting goddesses and decorated an entire temple in Rome, although his works were later eliminated.
  • Cornelio Pino: He painted many temples under the command of Emperor Vespasian .
  • Cayo Fabio Píctor: painter from Rome who decorated the temple of Salus. 

Important works

Among the most recognized works of Roman painting we cite:

  • Final Judgment (Fresco)
  • Virgin coronation (Fresh)
  • Fresh from spring
  • The Crucifixion (Fresco)
  • The poetess
  • Saint Matthew
  • The temptation

Importance of Roman painting

Roman painting is important because it is through it that it was possible to know in part, the way in which they lived , their styles and their society . Many of the techniques that were developed at the time are still maintained and are an important part of today’s art.

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