Clearly we have few or no drawings (or none that I know of) in the sense that we might intend them, sketched on a piece of paper. However in order to gain an idea of “the state of the art” we should consider the background offered by the heavy trade in “painted” pottery between the Etruscan and Greek colonies which thrived when Rome was still young.
Observing pottery we can see how the Italic peoples that came to form Roman civilization had reached a rudimentary geometric and decorative style (lines and spots). Commerce and trade brought these people into direct contact with the Greek colonies of southern Italy and hence into contact with their art. Etruscan cities such as Veii a few miles north of Rome and Vulci literally brimmed with pottery of Greek influence and provenance. Entire workshops were set up around central Italy creating painted pottery in the Greek style and in many cases the local production came to surpass the imported.
The importance of this is the fact that through pottery we can see how drawing was already well developed by the time Rome came to be a significant player in the (art) world. A good example of the level of skill achieved in general (by the Greeks and then brought to Etruria) is the evolution from black figure vases to red figure vases. The red figure vases (red being the ground colour) allowed the painter to freely apply highly expressive (black) lines with great versatility rather than having to scrape out red lines (from the underlying clay) which tended to result in a more awkward and less evocative pictorial effect. The drawing skill and results were of great effect and have been picked up and reapplied by great modern artists such as Picasso.
Such was the level of artistic skill available to the Romans. We can also see a few drawings, more like painted drawings, in the catacombs. Time and means were scarce of course and we are talking of an entirely different age (4th century AD) and different purpose (burial and religion). The drawings tend towards description of particular events such as martyrdom and the emphasis is placed less on technique and more on the emotional effect of colour and symbolism.
Art in ancient Rome: | Art in Ancient Rome – Introduction | The decadence of classical art | Foreign influence | The Greek revolution | Ancient Roman Paintings | Painting Styles | Drawing | Ancient Roman Mosaics | ancient roman jewelry | Sculpture | roman statues | Architecture | Literature and Theatre |Ancient Rome Literature | poems about Rome | roman music | roman pottery |