Cedar Rapids Museum of Art
Sept. 19, 2003 – August 25, 2005
Terrarum dea gentiumque, Roma
Cui par est nihil et nihil secundum.
Goddess of continents and peoples, O Rome,
Whom nothing can equal and nothing approach.
--Martial, Epigrams XII 8, 1-2.
Jane Milosch, Curator of Collections and Exhibitions: The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (CRMA) is best known for its extensive collection of works by its two native sons: Regionalist artists Grant Wood and Marvin Cone. Art in Roman Life: Villa to Grave, however, presents its lesser-known but impressive collection of Roman sculptural busts, donated to the museum in 1996 by Cedar Rapids collectors Tom and Nan Riley. In order to create a broad art historical context in which to consider these works, the only antiquities in the collection, Villa to Grave presents a new installation of these twenty-one sculptures side by side with more than 200 Etruscan and Roman objects. Sculpture, architectural fragments, frescoes, coins, and decorative arts, borrowed from some of the best classical collections in the United States, set an exciting stage from which to consider the Riley collection, works which date from the first century B.C. to the third century A.D. [...]
Richard De Puma, F. Wendell Miller Distinguished Professor, University of Iowa, Senior Consulting Curator: In 1996, Tom and Nan Riley donated their collection of Roman sculpture to the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art. These works, mostly portraits of emperors and citizens, immediately appealed to museum visitors. They wanted to learn more about these people who lived almost 2,000 years ago.
One way to learn more about the people represented in the sculptures is to construct an environment showing how they would have been displayed in Roman times. This construction is not intended to be an accurate recreation of a specific building. Instead, it suggests the three major places where the Romans used portrait sculpture: the public gathering place, the private house, and the tomb. By including other Roman items, especially those found in a typical Roman house, we hope to contribute to the modern viewer’s understanding and appreciation of ancient life.