Art and Society in Roman Britain – Jennifer Laing

Art and Society in Roman Britain
Jennifer Laing
Alan Sutton Publishing, 1998
188 pages

I was pleasantly surprised by this book. The author took what could have been really dry material and made it absolutely captivating!

She describes how the Roman occupation of Britain affected the artwork of the region, from the height of the Roman Empire to its decline. Not much is discussed of pre-Roman art except how its influences survived the Romans, but the blending is still there.

Laing shows how the Roman and Celtic styles were uniquely combined according to area and type of artwork. Some, such as mosaics and murals, are almost purely Roman, while items like brooches and other metalwork retain a strong Celtic undertone. Once the Roman grip loosened somewhat, we get to read about how the recession of the Romans and the combination of Celtic and Anglo-Saxon tribal styles affect the local artwork. It also shows how some of what is often stereotyped as purely Celtic is, in actuality, hybridized.

The text is wonderfully easy to read, yet very evocative of the items that are being described. The text is beautifully illustrated with photos and drawings.

This would be an excellent choice for anyone interested in how art reflects societal changes, or Roman or Celtic art and culture.

Five pawprints out of five.

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