Art and the Roman Viewer: The Transformation of Art from the Pagan World to Christianity (Cambridge Studies in New Art History and Criticism)

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9780521599528: Art and the Roman Viewer: The Transformation of Art from the Pagan World to Christianity (Cambridge Studies in New Art History and Criticism)

Art and the Roman Viewer presents a fresh analysis of a major intellectual problem in the history of art: why did the arts of Late Antiquity move away from classical naturalism towards spiritual abstraction? Arguing from a close examination of ancient art images and texts, Jas Elsner shows how an understanding of Roman viewing practices greatly deepens our insight into this fundamental transformation. The sophisticated arts of the early empire, such as Pompeian painting, sculpted reliefs and silverware, entertain the potential for irony, parody, and deconstruction. By contrast, the symbolic arts of the Christian empire, notably the mosaics of Ravenna, eschew irony, while complexity remains, indeed intensifies, as multiple meanings compete to enrich a fundamentally sacred truth. By addressing the subtleties inherent in ancient viewing, this study embarks on a quest to enrich our understanding of an era of profound artistic change.

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Book Description:

This book presents a fresh analysis of a major intellectual problem in the history of art: why did the arts of Late Antiquity move away from classical naturalism towards spiritual abstraction? By addressing the subtleties inherent in ancient viewing, this study enriches our understanding of an era of profound artistic change.

Review:

'The book crackles with energy ...' R. L. Gordon, The Times Literary Supplement

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