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  Romanesque sculpture and architecture have features derived from Roman antiquity. The style flourished especially in those regions where the influence of Roman art and culture had been particularly strong, such as Provence, Sicily and central Italy. Also, the great size and longevity of the Roman Empire meant that the Romanesque found favour from Spain to Britain and from Germany to the Holy Land.

In architecture, the characteristics of the style are the use of rounded barrel vaults, with large expanses of wall pierced by slit windows, and often a wall decoration which imitates the classical Orders, and acanthus friezes and inhabited scrolls. In large-scale sculpture (which itself revived after the millennium largely due to the influence of antique examples) the figures take on an antique elegance after the dumpy, earlier medieval mannequins (cf. the figures of the Arch of Constantine). They frequently have faces and hair modelled after classical figures, and flowing classical dress also reappears.

As is so frequently the case, the readoption of antique styles in the Romanesque is not just a valueless, stylistic exercise. In most instances a conscious desire to tap into the prestige of the antique can be assumed, though rarely proven, along with an awareness of the value and power of traditional forms. PD MG JM

Further reading Meyer Shapiro, Romanesque Art.



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