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Video transcript

[Music] well there's the head and elbow I see a knee and a finger pointing up and a shin and a foot another foot we're looking at the remains of a colossal marble representation of the Emperor Constantine and this colossal sculpture was originally we think about 40 feet high so really big and it would have filled this extraordinary space at the end of the Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine this was a very large public space right here on the forum and at the end of it was a rounded area a niche and the sculpture was found there so we think it was meant for that space Michelangelo is the one who actually brought it up to the Capitoline hill which was the ancient government center Constantine is certainly Roman Emperor but he's the last pagan Roman Emperor and the person who really ushers in Christianity and all the changes that will take place in Italy and in the former Empire well and he moves the capital of the Empire to Constantinople the city of Constantine all the way in the east and so in a way begins the decline of the city of Rome that we see happen in the Middle Ages so maybe it's not so inappropriate that we see him in fragments in this city I find this portrait so interesting we think his body had a core of wood and mud brick and maybe was covered in gilded bronze we were not really sure but I find him so different looking than other images of Emperor's well you know this is a really interesting stylistic moment when we think about ancient Greece and ancient Rome I think most people just think of a high classical moment and all of its naturalism but we're talking about a long period of time in the Classical era and styles change there also if you think about the history of Roman emperors and their images you often see a combination of realism and I idealism so that the citizens of the Roman Empire could identify that particular Emperor so we know what Hadrian look like or Trajan looked like orvis page and looked like right there has to be enough specificity so you can say ah that's my Emperor exactly but at the same time they were idealized to greater or lesser extents and thereby recalled ancient Greek sculpture and by idealizing them they were made to seem divine or godlike but here Constantine doesn't look like either of those traditions to me well this was a moment of real transition it's not the issue between a kind of really high-pitched naturalism that can actually capture the characteristics of an individual's face and a kind of idealism this is actually a kind of abstraction of the human body there's something abstracted I think about the oval shapes of his eyes where we have a sense of them being reduced to geometric shapes the way that his eyebrows form these semi circles around the ovals of his eyes there's something that looks geometric about not only his face but his hair and maybe this is a sign of moving toward that symbolic way of representing that we see with the beginnings of Christianity I think it's impossible to untangle it from the rise of Christianity because of our subsequent knowledge of what will happen and I think we perhaps don't know enough about the subtle shifts in Roman style but my understanding is that there was also different kinds of representation for different strata of society and that one could recall the sort of imperial past one could recall the more intellectual pursuits of the Greeks through kind of naturalism but one might speak to the here and the now and the broader population through a greater degree of abstraction through figures that look to us as disproportionate maybe stocky and stiff in their movements without the lovely contrapposto that we in ancient Greek and Roman art so he seems to be looking beyond us and not really in the here and now and maybe in that way too there's some suggestion of the Christian and the heavenly well certainly of his divinity [Music]