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Art
August 19, 2016 | Rome | Italy
Why Would Romans Think All Sculptures Now Look Unfinished?

What would an ancient Roman say about architecture and sculptures of today? Probably something along those lines... "They say all change is good. Of course I do appreciate when a civilization develops and I think the world should be going forward. Back in my times, I gladly welcomed aqueducts to our region and I’ve taken a liking to town baths, as well as to the new social system – finally I had a chance for social advancement. I also understand cultural changes and technological advances. But what is happening in Italy nowadays, with the presumed successors of ancient Rome, is beyond outrageous!

Ever since the Romans moved to Catholicism, they stopped respecting the traditions. Just look at this grand temple, St. Peter’s Basilica. Not only did they build it on the remains of the Circus of our Nero, but also stripped the rest of Rome from marble and other valuable materials. Just look closely at the buildings in the city from my times. It’s easy to spot holes in façades. This is where beautiful sculptures and marble decoractions used to be mounted.

In turn, the sculptures which survived are nothing like the ones I remember from my youth. Those were painted with valuable dyes, and these? They are discolored and lackluster… The painted sculptures are not only prettier, but also more valuable! Dyes used to cost a pretty penny. I should know, for I was one of the first members of the dyers’ guild, Collegium tinctorum, founded by the great king Numa Pompilius. Among many other, we kept the secrets on how to produce indigo blue, the color favored by the prostitutes. It was made out of leafs of Indigofera tinctoria plant. We were also producing Tyrian purple, which used to be obtained from the slime of murex snails, the ones with beautiful shells. Because of its price, purple was loved by the senators. Other dyes we used to make included red substances made out of henna and clay, yellow from lead and arsenic and other valuable pigments which we used to bind with urine.

Now hardly any of the remaining sculptures from my ancient times remained coloured with valuable layers. But regardless of that, the shameless merchants and museum-keepers sell those deficient works of art for nice sums and then display them. Well, as Vespasian used to say, pecunia non olet (money doesn't stink)." I understand the rage of the ancient Roman, but the truth is that the paint, in contrast to marble or granite, gets distroyed with time and that's why it didn't survive until our times. What we now see as the ultimate beauty of ancient sculptures, with their snow-white colours and marble, in the ancient Rome times would be considered as a flub. 

Today, classic Roman and Greek sculptures are dispersed around museums all over the world. I would love to help you see the most remarkable examples of these pieces of art in Italy, Greece, France, the UK and Germany.

Ready to go there? Contact me

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