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Title: Biodiversity and phytoiconology of Roman archaeology and influences on Renaissance : meanings for our natural and cultural heritage
Other Titles: Biodiversità e iconologia vegetale nella archeologia romana e l’influenza sul Rinascimento : l’importanza per nostro patrimonio naturale e culturale
Authors: Kumbaric, Alma
metadata.dc.contributor.advisor: Giulia, Caneva
Keywords: plant iconography
biodiversity and art
roman iconography
nature representation
Issue Date: 26-Feb-2013
Publisher: Università degli studi Roma Tre
Abstract: Naturalistic iconography of ancient sculptures and paintings of the Roman period has been little investigated, despite the impressive richness of botanical diversity displayed in it. As a matter of fact, beginning with our early observations, novel information concerning the use of natural elements in Hellenistic-Alexandrine and Roman decorations has become available. The general aim of this Doctorate Thesis is to give a contribution to the knowledge on phytoiconology of the monuments of the Roman period (I cent. BC-III CE), including the paintings, sculptures and the architectural decorations. I also wish deepen aspects of the biological origins of the symbolism of the represented plants, and contribute in the interpretation of the influence and connection between the ancient Roman culture and the Renaissance. The aim of the first step of study was to define qualitative and quantitative aspects of botanical elements used in archaeological structures, and to define eventual critical taxa cited in the literature. I built up a database containing the botanical information of about 420 different art works and 3.000 related photos. The data were set up using both the information contained in the literature and the new one acquired over the research process (Kumbaric A., Caneva G. Updated floristic biodiversity of Roman iconography. Submitted). The frequencies of species and the represented morphological elements were also calculated. The database confirms the high richness of botanical elements and their high recurrence in the ancient Roman decorations. 202 taxa of plants (78 families, 159 genera and 168 species) were identified to date. The main characteristics of the identified floristic elements and their degree of rarity are reported. Acanthus mollis, Vitis vinifera, Phoenix dactylifera, Punica granatum, Ficus carica, Laurus nobilis, and Hedera helix resulted as the most commonly represented species, due to their strong association with mythological and religious symbolic meaning. The developed database contains 97 (47, 8%) new or very recently identified species, representing almost half of the information currently available in literature; a large portion of species represented in the artworks (70, 0%) seems to occur with very low frequency. This confirms the awareness of ancient men of the surrounding living creatures, and it suggests that botanical filing of ancient monuments deserves to be further deepened. The aspect of plant symbolism and origins of plant symbols has been deepened (Caneva G., Kumbaric A. 2010: Plants in the ancient artistic representations as a tool of communication and a cultural message. Proceedings of 4th International Congress on “Science and Technology for the Safeguard of Cultural Heritage in the Mediterranean Basin”. Cairo, Egypt 6th-8th December 2009 (Ferrari A. ed.), Vol. I). Particular attention was given to the Orchidaceae family (Kumbaric A., Savo V., Caneva G. 2012: Orchids in the Roman culture and iconography: Evidence for the first representations in antiquity, Journal of Cultural Heritage, In the case of orchids, the particular morphology of their hypogean organs made this group of plants an object of a series of mythological episodes, beliefs and popular uses. New findings demonstrate the presence of orchids on Roman monuments changing the common belief that these plants first appeared in art much more recently. In the Roman-Hellenistic culture, their representation seems to refer to a symbolism of fertility, but their rarity in medieval art representations could probably be explained by the willing to eliminate pagan elements, which were linked to aphrodisiac power and luxury. We also demonstrate for the first time, that Roman ancients were aware of even small-scale natural phenomena and used details to express ideas through symbolism (Caneva G., Savo V., Kumbaric A.: The great message of small details: Nature in the Roman archaeology. Sumbitted). We provide examples showing the careful selection and representation of even small details carried out (e.g., aquiline-fern pastorals, orchid’s gynostemium), together with the observation of phenological phases of plants (e.g., Acanthus in its seasonal regrowth, the Arum withering of feminine flowers). The final aim of the thesis aimed to give new data on the relation among Classicism and Renaissance. The great inspiration of the ancient culture during the Renaissance (born in the XIV century in Italy and spread throughout Europe) is well known, but the naturalistic aspects of the so-called “decorations” are not well studied. This period is characterized by the flourishing of artistic and scientific activities, new translations of classical philosophers, the rise of humanism, new methods of scientific inquiry, and the extraordinary discoveries associated with the Age of Exploration. In the naturalistic meanings, it means a return to nature with inspiration from the real world rather than mere scholasticism, based on endless copying from the past. Plant representations in this art style are characterized by a high level of realism, and as such are a very important source for gathering naturalistic information. In the book Raphael and the image of the nature (Caneva G., Carpaneto G.M., (eds.) 2011: Raffaello e l’immagine della natura, Cinisello Balsamo, Silvana Editoriale, Milano) precisely in its Chapter 4, Caneva G., Kumbaric A.: The inventory of plant biodiversity is analysed the plant biodiversity present at the Raphael’s Lodge in Vatican, decorated by Raphael, Giovanni da Udine and their pupils in the period between 1514-1519. Interesting from many points of view, primarily for their great artistic value, the paintings show a great value and are interesting from a naturalistic point of view as well. An aspect particularly interesting for this Thesis are the plant representations in the paintings in the Lodges, which were created in a style strongly inspired by the Roman epoch. In fact, the architecture and the decorations show a great admiration for and inspiration by the classic epoch, especially by the just recently discovered Nero's Domus Aurea. This is particularly evident in the reproductions of the so-called Roman grotesques with fantasy creatures composed of animal and plant elements in order to express the idea of a process of metamorphosis and the transformation continues between the nature's elements. Always imitating the antique art, other forms characteristic for the classical period, such as spirals and branches, are also represented. The importance of the Vatican Lodges also lies in the fact that because of its importance, beauty and grandeur it was a point of reference and inspiration for numerous artists of that and subsequent eras. The observed plant biodiversity is rich and it is very interesting that among about a hundred plant species identified, the presence of the American species has also been noted (Cucurbita maxima, C. moschata, C. pepo and Zea mays). All were reproduced several times and sometimes in different phenological stages, a fact that testifies not only that these plants were present, but also cultivated in Rome after only twenty years after the discovery of America.
Access Rights: info:eu-repo/semantics/openAccess
Appears in Collections:Dipartimento di Scienze
T - Tesi di dottorato

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