Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mark Bradley, Colour and Marble in Early Imperial Rome

2006. The Cambridge Classical Journal: Proceedings of the Cambridge Philological Society. Vol. 52, 1-22.

Marble made its debut in Rome from Greece; the first marble temple in Rome (Jupitor Stator) was built in 146 of Greek marble. In the 1st century BC white marble deposits at Luni (later known as Carrara marble) became popular, and Caesar, Augustus and the Julio-Claudians used this to decorate much of Rome.

Exotic, colored marbles from around the empire later became more popular and prestigious, and were valued not only for their appearance but for their cultural, social, and geographical associations. Pliny and Seneca were suspicious of the luxury and snobbery they embodied, as well as the false appearances they presented, e.g. in laminated wall applications.

Colored marbles were also used in sculpture for many effects, usually because their colors approximated the things / persons being represented, although their geographic and cultural origins were also meaningful for viewers (e.g. a sculpted lion made of yellow Numidian marble was appropriate not only because of its color but because Numidia had lots of lions [p. 12-13]).

Bradley also assumes that color terms used of marble are "material" in his accustomed way, translating purpureus as 'sea-purple', viride as 'verdant', flavus as 'blond' etc.

Much talk of cultural "discourses" throughout, though the term goes undefined.

PDF on file.

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