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The Art of the Roman Empire: 100-450 AD

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The passage from Imperial Rome to the era of late antiquity, when the Roman Empire underwent a religious conversion to Christianity, saw some of the most significant and innovative developments in Western culture. This stimulating book investigates the role of the visual arts, the great diversity of paintings, statues, luxury arts, and masonry, as both reflections and agents of those changes.

Jas' Elsner's ground-breaking account discusses both Roman and early Christian art in relation to such issues as power, death, society, acculturation, and religion. By examining questions of reception, viewing, and the culture of spectacle alongside the more traditional art-historical themes of imperial patronage and stylistic change, he presents a fresh and challenging interpretation of an extraordinarily rich cultural crucible in which many fundamental developments of later European art had their origins.

This second edition includes a new discussion of the Eurasian context of Roman art, an updated bibliography, and new, full colour illustrations.

Author: Elsner Jas
Pages: 336
ISBN: 9780198768630
Cover: Paperback
Edition Number: 2
Release Year: 2018


1: Introduction

Part I - Images and Power

2: A Visual Culture

3: Art and Imperial Power

Part II - Images and Society

4: Art and Social Life

5: Centre and Periphery

6: Art and Death

Part III - Images and Transformation

7: Art and the Past: Antiquarian Eclecticism

8: Art and Religion

9: The Eurasian Context


10: Art and Culture: Cost, Value, and the Discourse of Art

Afterword: Some Futures of Christian Art


List of Illustrations

Bibliographic Essay



Jas Elsner is Professor of Late Antique Art at the University of Oxford, Humfrey Payne Senior Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and Visiting Professor of Art and Religion at the University of Chicago. In 2009 he was elected a foreign honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and since 2013 has been Principal Investigator in the Empires of Faith Project. He is married with four children and lives in Oxford.

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