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date: 15 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter analyzes some of the historical ways sculpture was conceptualized, critiqued, and evaluated in the Roman world. How did Roman viewers go about making sense of statues? What sorts of social, cultural, and intellectual frameworks were at play? And in what ways were these ideas like and unlike our own modern ideologies? The chapter concentrates on three broadly defined (albeit interconnecting) evaluative modes, each one structured around a particular Latin author: first, Cicero’s critique of appropriate sculptural subjects for particular contexts of display; second, Pliny the Elder’s emphasis on history and agency in the final five books of his Natural History; and third, rhetorical traditions of art criticism enshrined in Quintilian’s Education of an Orator. By comparing literary evidence with surviving assemblages of sculpture, the chapter posits a close correlation between the critical frames of Roman writers and those evidenced through surviving archaeological materials.

Keywords: aesthetics, critique and evaluation, Latin literary sources, Cicero, Pliny the Elder, Quintilian, collections of sculpture, artists, rhetoric

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