During the period of crisis in the Roman Republic when the Greek
influence on art became increasingly strong, Roman art began to emerge as
an entity in itself. In 146 B.C.E., a sculptural style came into being that
is generally known as Greco-Roman, a term which indicates that the two
styles cannot be readily separated from each other. Much of the original
art of this period was produced by Greek immigrant artists, but the growing
Roman fascination with individual traits of personality is most apparent in
their portrait sculpture, a field in which Romans artists made one of their
most original contributions to Western culture. But the idealism of Greek
art continued to captivate the Romans, for great numbers of Greek statues
stood in the Roman forums and in public and private buildings.
But even while under the spell of Greek art, the Roman portraitists
produced works that have no parallel in Greek art. The Roman desire for
literalness, together with the custom of keeping works of art in the Roman
house, influenced the sculptors to accentuate individual traits still
further. For example, The Head of a Roman is striking by virtue of its
character, seemingly alive and mask-like. The character in this piece is
the result of the artist’s painstaking rendition of every facial bulge and
fold, being a kind of super-realism. A quite different approach to the
portrait subject can be seen in the bust of Pompey the Great. In this
piece, it is likely that the artist was very concerned about creating a
likeness that would be far more than a mere facial record. The strong lines
of the broad forehead and the somewhat flat surfaces of the face are
softened by a curiously ambiguous expression. Both of these works also
express the sentiments and feelings of the general Roman citizen, for
although the Empire was experiencing difficult times in the early