What's Roman Art Done for Us Lately? Viz City Goes to France

Jun 27, 2018

The carved marble feet speak to how very specific the marble sculptures represent individual people who lived 2000 years ago.
Credit Sandy Brown Jensen

This is Sandy Brown Jensen, and you’re listening to Viz City, KLCC’s Arts Review Program. This summer I’m reporting to you from Europe. Right now, I’m in Provence in the South of France asking myself, “What have the Roman’s done for us lately?”

In addition to education, wine, and roads, today I’m looking at their 2000 year old art. I’m standing in a museum that documents the ruins of a Roman household. I am looking at the imprint of a child’s foot in clay. Nothing could tell me more tenderly that these people were just like us.

An infant's footprint in clay speaks so tenderly of how much more like us they were than not.
Credit Sandy Brown Jensen

A marble sculpture of a woman holding her child maybe cut of cold, white marble, but so much human warmth is conveyed by the way the child is held in the crook of her arm and the downcast glance ot the mother into the child’s eyes.

I have had a stereotype of Roman art as being gods and emperors striking victorious poses, and these big men are here, too. To humanize them and to overcome my stereotypes, I look at one man’s feet.

Mother and Child
Credit Sandy Brown Jensen

The sculptor has carved this person’s very specific, bigger-than-life-sized feet—the second toe longer then the others, nails and knuckles but not perfect—these were that guy’s feet.

Elsewhere, nothing remains of a once whole human sculpture but a hand holding a peach, the jolly face of an old woman, and my favorite fragment of a Roman White Rabbit, huge ears but no watch.

This 2000 year old White Rabbit engraved on a clay surface could be headed for Wonderland.
Credit Sandy Brown Jensen

If you are an artist, or if you look at art this summer, remember along with me that art weaves lost worlds together in beauty and humanity. Some day, we’ll be 2000 years in the past, and what of such great beauty will we have left behind?

Viz City is co-produced by Terry Way and Sandy Brown Jensen.