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This blog is a behind the scenes look at the Roman Baths in Bath. We hope you enjoy reading our stories about life surrounding the Roman Baths.

Friday, 12 August 2016

Tuesday Times Tables: Art and Design in Roman Britain

Choosing the theme of ‘Art and Design in Roman Britain’ was easy for my handling table, due to the wealth of art within the collections in the Roman Baths. I focused on pottery, glass, wall painting, mosaics and jewellery as they were perfect examples of art in Britain, and within Bath as all my objects were local finds. Having only ever studied Roman art within Rome and the surrounding empire, it was a challenge learning new things about art within Roman Britain, especially the cultural overlapping with the Celtic tribes within Britain at the time of the Roman conquest.

Overlap between the Celtic and Roman styles was mainly seen within the jewellery on my handling table. The brooches and bracelets were perfect examples of a Celtic influence, due to the swirling designs which are identifiable as Celtic. I had beautiful twisted bronze and copper bracelets, with a tiny child’s bracelet which was a personal favourite. I also had a number of replica brooches, pins and torcs on display as examples of how varied and colourful Roman jewellery was and how the styles had changed.

Child's Copper Alloy Bracelet

Mosaics are always important examples of art within the Roman world, let alone in Roman Britain where fewer have survived. I used tesserae (the square stones in a mosaic) as an example of the scale on which each tiny tessera was placed, and was amazed how durable they are considering their age. Accompanying my tesserae was a piece of mosaic from Weymouth House School in Bath, found in 1897.  The mosaic was popular with those who had never seen or had contact with a Roman mosaic before.

Mosaic piece from Weymouth House School

Using Samian pottery as examples was perfect due to its vibrant ochre colouring and beautiful designs of birds, and a sun among other motifs on the sherds of the pottery, I also had a replica Samian bowl with a Barbotine design around the top to show how Samian ware might have looked when complete.

Samian Bowl Sherd

The most popular and impressive item was a small bronze eagle, which was an ornamental fitting for an object. I was amazed how well preserved the eagle was with the perfect incision of feathers on the wings outstretched, and on the face of the beak. Although small it made a big impact on my handling table due its beauty, and for its symbolism of the Ancient Roman world and its presence which is still here today.

Roman Bronze Eagle Figurine

Roman Society Intern

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