Roman statues adorn the public centers, museums, and galleries of the capital city of Italy, and give visitors insight into days gone by when the Roman Empire was commanding a massive and growing empire. Ancient Roman statues owe much in the way of artistic and practical inspiration to the Greeks, who they relied upon and borrowed from heavily when it came to sculpture and other mediums within the arts. This does not detract from the art itself. In fact, it can be said that the Greeks before the Romans borrowed decidedly from the Egyptians, so the lineage continues.
There are a wide selection of famous statues in Rome including that of St. Peter in the Basilica that honors his name and personage. The bronze statue of a seated St. Peter in St. Peter's Basilica is so popular and contains so much sentimental and religious value to adherents of the Catholic faith, that the bronze toes on the statue have worn down over the centuries from people making a practice of touching them. Another of the most formidable and impressive statues is that of Constantine in the Palazzo dei Conservatori. The size and scope alone will impress you and it is housed in one of Rome's finest buildings. Bernini is perhaps the most omnipresent sculptor in Rome and his artwork can be found in basilicas, public fountains, and more all around Rome (many of his pieces also get a lot of attention in Dan Brown books).
What needs to be noted before taking a look at some of the most impressive Roman Emperor statues and the unbelievable statues of Roman gods is that Rome did in fact put their own spin on portrait sculpture. Whereas the Greeks would sculpt the individual in their perfected or idealized form, the Romans focused on bringing a greater degree of realism into the mix, often painting even the most undesirable features of a person in the spirit of producing as close a replica as humanly possible. So, as you dive further into the history of Roman statues and portraiture, especially if you are planning a trip to Rome, you will be equipped with a better understanding of the genuine contributions that Romans made to the world of art at the time. It is thought that the realistic portrayal of peoples’ faces in ancient Roman statues must have taken its roots when wealthy aristocrats had terra-cotta busts of their ancestors made when they died.
Rome conquered Greece around the year 146 BC and it is then when we begin to see a greater flurry of artistic development. Wealthy aristocrats would commission artists to develop Roman statues in the style of the Greek works that were brought back to Rome. Roman Emperor statues became common after Julius Caesar was appointed “Imperator” (where the modern word “emperor” comes from) by the Roman Senate in the year 44 BC. These were no ordinary Roman statues, but rather some of the most beautiful sculpting done at the time. And yet, it is quite interesting to note that, even with the high volume of Ancient Roman statues and the number of Roman Emperor statues that have been maintained over the centuries, few of the artists’ names have been recorded. This sheds even more light on the role that art played within the greater context of Roman society in which status and wealth was of great import. Roman statues were often commissioned to essentially show off one’s status in society and bring recognition to their family. Even in the case of some of the most impressive of all the Roman Emperor statues, we do not know exactly who did the work.
If you are planning a trip to Rome, you will have plenty of opportunities to see the wide array of Roman sculptures, sarcophagi, reliefs, and architecture, all of which will amaze you, given the fact that much of the rest of the world at the time was still living in relative darkness.