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Model of The Arch of Constantine, Rome


Height: 18.7cm
Width: 26cm
Depth: 6cm

Museum number: MR29

Curatorial note

The Arch of Constantine is one of the most well-known monuments in Rome and was raised by the Senate in 315 AD (it was dedicated on 25 July 315 AD). It commemorates Emperor Constantine the Great's victory at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, on 28 October 312 AD, over his rival, the tyrant Maxentius, who had ruled Rome since 306 AD. The Arch stands between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill in Rome, on the spot that was in ancient times the start of the Via Triumphalis.

The Arch incorporates sculptural decoration taken from earlier Imperial monuments, including eight large marble medallion reliefs or tondi dating from the Hadrianic period which are inset on the south and north sides, in pairs.They appear to have come from one earlier monument, perhaps in honour of Hadrian given their common theme of Hadrian hunting and sacrifcing to the Gods. They are all of the same Luna marble and of identical dimensions (about 2.40 metres diameter). The reuse of earlier, classicizing sculpture juxtaposed with later, stylised sculptural decorations dating to the period of Constantine was commented upon by many authors, starting with the Renaissance art historian Giorgio Vasari. The Arch was said to mark the change from Classical art to that of the medieval period.

The roundels include a pair depicting Sol and Luna (Sun and Moon or Dawn/Morning and Sunset/Evening), versions of which (based on full-size casts but remodelled to complete missing elements) can be seen in the Lobby to the Breakfast Room and in the Basement East passage at 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Smaller variants of this pair in plaster and terracotta can also be found in the Dome, Museum Corridor, South Drawing Room and Model Room Recess at the Museum. Another large reused roundel on the Arch shows the Emperor Hadrian and his courtiers setting out for a hunting trip - Soane owned two large plaster versions of that roundel also (in the Dome Area and Hall). In his day it was thought to depict Trajan setting out on a hunting trip. Today the Emperor is identified as Hadrian.

Exhibition history

John Soane Architect: Master of Space and Light, Royal Academy of Arts, London, 11 September - 3 December 1999; Centro Palladio, Vicenza, April - August 2000; Hôtel de Rohan, Paris, January - April 2001; Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal, 16 May - 3 September 2001; Real Academia des Bellas Artes, Madrid, October - December 2001

Associated objects

M1424, Inspired this work
SC6, Inspired this work

If you have any further information about this object, please contact us: worksofart@soane.org.uk