Visitors to Oklahoma City have the unique opportunity to view Roman Art from the Louvre, through October 12, 2008. The Oklahoma City Museum of Art is the final North American venue for the exhibition, so large it occupies the Museum’s ground floor special exhibition gallery and the eight second floor galleries, featuring 184 works, some weighing more than 6,000 pounds.
An unprecedented exhibition of ancient masterworks, drawn from the Louvre’s unparalleled collection, it provides a rare and historic opportunity for Oklahoma audiences to view these magnificent works, many of which have not been seen by the public in decades and most of which have never traveled to the United States. Many of the objects in the exhibition have recently been restored, bringing to light their original beauty and strength of expression.
The exhibition features masterworks that highlight the diversity of artistic production that characterizes Roman art. These exceptional pieces date from the early first century B.C. to the 6th century A.D. The Louvre, thanks to Napoleon’s megalomaniac interest in the glories of Ancient Rome, has one of the finest collections of Roman art outside of Italy. The exhibition of sculpture, jewelry, mosaics, and frescos are scrupulously arranged in a thematic manner that certainly is visually and aesthetically pleasing as well as historically informative.
The exhibition examines the manifestations of Roman public and private life through an exploration of several themes, including religion, urbanism, war, imperial expansion, funerary practices, intellectual life, and family. Roman Art from the Louvre shows the full range of Roman artistry and taste, juxtaposing “official” art with more modest, private works.
Roman Art from the Louvre traces the genealogy of the four main Roman dynasties including the Julio-Claudians, the Antonines, the Severans, and the family of Constantine, through an examination of works made between the first century B.C. and the early fourth century A.D. These works illustrate the evolution of aesthetics, as well as the changing social influences under the Roman emperors, who exerted both secular and religious powers.
The diverse artistic influences from the various far-flung regions of the empire are presented in the first section, “Introduction to Rome and Its Empire.” Among the items shown are contemporary renderings of ancient Roman cities, monuments, and landscapes– among them, the Forum of Trajan and the villa Hadriana—by J. C. Golvin, a draftsman and archaeologist noted for his stunning recreations of ancient sites.
Featuring portraits of the emperors Augustus, Marcus Aurelius, Septimus Severus, and Maxentius, the large section titled “The Emperor and His Surroundings” focuses on the evolution of taste, aesthetics, and society under the Roman emperors. The ways in which the political and economic powers of the emperors influenced art production across four dynasties are evident in artworks ranging from life-sized marble statues and portrait busts to small bronze figurines. The exhibition also examines the concept of civitas, or citizenship, and its ramifications, and includes a section devoted to non-citizens of Rome: foreigners, freedmen and slaves. A rich grouping of stelae, friezes, and lamps depicting these heroic figures will be a component of this section as will a varied selection of ceramics and mosaics, included to illustrate production techniques and also to represent the working conditions of servants, peasants, slaves, harvesters, craftsmen, and tradesmen.
The portrait busts of anonymous men, women, and children featured in “The Roman Citizen” reveal the styles and fashions popular during the Roman Empire. Clothing, hairstyles, jewelry and other accessories, perfume bottles, and cosmetics are examined within the greater context of the role of women in the Roman Empire. Other topics addressed include the art of Roman portraiture; the Boscoreale treasure; and Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli and the Maritime Theater.
“Religion and Death” is the final section of the exhibition. Encompassing official religion, private cults, and magic and the cult of mystery, religion had a complex and important role in imperial Rome.
The importance to the Roman people of being remembered after death and reminded of the dead is illustrated through a selection of extraordinary monuments with inscriptions, names, and images of the dead. Among the many highlights of the exhibition are busts of prominent Roman leaders including Augustus, Marcus Aurelius, and Agrippa; statues of Isis, Venus, Minerva, and Bacchus; early depictions of theatrical scenes,portraits of actors, and theatrical masks; military diplomas and army medallions; sarcophagi, urns, and related ritual objects; military diplomas and army medallions; imperial rings, necklaces and earrings; household objects; and relief sculptures depicting scenes from Tivoli.
Roman Art from the Louvre is accompanied by a fully illustrated 280-page exhibition catalogue, featuring major essays and individual catalogue entries. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.; Thursday and Friday until 9:00 p.m., Sundays Noon to 5:00 p.m. The Roof Terrace is open Thursdays & Fridays, 5pm-10:30pm for Cocktails on the Skyline!Closed on Mondays. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students and children five and under are free. For more information, call 405-236-3100 or visit www.okcmoa.com.