A pair of Italian leaves of the 16-17th century, a prospect of Rome, and the Baths of Constantine

A correspondent writes to tell us all about an item sold at Sothebys on 12 April 2016, in its sale of the “European Decorative Arts From Caramoor Center For Music And The Arts”.  Lot 168 (online here) is “A pair of Italian leaves with scenes of Venus in her chariot and a sacrifice. 16/17th century.”  The right hand leaf gives a panorama of Rome.

I’ve added a couple of bits of text to allow people to orient themselves.

Lot 168. A PAIR OF ITALIAN LEAVES WITH SCENES OF VENUS IN HER CHARIOT AND A SACRIFICE 16th/17th century. Sothebys, 12 April 2016. European Decorative Arts From Caramoor Center For Music And The Arts.

At the top of the picture is Old St Peter’s basilica.  The road leads down to the Castell Sant Angelo.  The Colosseum and Pantheon are clearly visible.  On the left are two triumphal arches, rather out of place, which I suspect are intended for the forum.

Other items will be familiar to those who read my post, Early 16th century maps of Rome and the Baths of Constantine.  The two horses rearing are the Dioscuri, who still stand on the Quirinal hill, although today they face the Quirinal palace, rather than the city.  The reclining figure behind it is the river god now in the Capitoline Museum, thought to have come from the Baths of Constantine.

To the left are two rotundas.  These are mysterious, but as my other post showed, seem to have been in the area of the Baths of Constantine.  To the left of them is a roofless building with a ruined vault at the end, which resembles some of the depictions of the Baths of Constantine in my post.

Every depiction is useful, so it is nice to have another!


Early 16th century maps of Rome and the Baths of Constantine

This is the last in our little series of posts of renaissance images of the Baths of Constantine in Rome.  The final group of witnesses are not strictly drawings at all.  They are views taken from maps of Rome produced in this period.[1]  The fashion was for aerial views, which means that monuments had to be depicted.  How accurate these are is another matter.  Nor are they always very easy to access online.

The first possible witness is from the 1493 Nuremberg chronicle, which includes a view of Rome.  I found a viewer for it here.  In the bottom left corner, there are some items of interest.

There are a set of statues in yellow, facing left.  These are plainly the horses of the Dioscuri, which stand today in the piazza outside the Quirinal Palace.  To their right is a reclining statue – possibly the Oceanus who was found in the same area.  To the left of these is an area of ruins or rock, and then two domed buildings.  The very well-researched Andrea Pollett website suggests that these rotundas were part of the Baths of Constantine.  But I do not know whether the area of ruins or rock is in fact intended to represent the edge of the Quirinal hill, in which case these are too far toward the Colosseum to be part of the Baths.

The same two rotundas appear in the map in Münster’s Cosmographia, again viewable at BLR Antique Maps:

This is a 1560 reprint – the original was 1544.  Here they are much closer to the horses.

Next we have the Duchetti map of 1572, also viewable at BLR Antique Maps, here.

The triangular temple fragment still stands, and the Disocuri, and some kind of structure “Ther. Constantini”.

Also interesting is the Mario Cartaro, Novissimae urbis Romae accuratissima descriptio, an etching of 1576, although I was unable to find this online.  This excerpt from it (from the Andrea Pollett site here) shows the opposite side of the wall in the Peruzzi drawing, as it ran along the street:

Below the “Thermae Constantina” is the raised triangle remains of the Temple of the Sun / Serapis of which I wrote elsewhere.  In the square to the left are perhaps the two statues of the Dioscuri.

But … here is the same view, from a different angle, in another map, Veduta di Roma, also by Mario Cartaro printed in 1579, only three years later (via info.roma.it here):

The statues in the Quirinale piazza face a brand new building.  The Baths of Constantine label appears to point to the structure below them, facing the church of S. Silvester.

Next in 1577 is the La pianta di Roma of Du Pérac-Lafréry.  I know my knowledge of this to this Italian site.

There is a rotunda, a collapsed mass of rubble against it, and above the lettering “Ther. Constan” there is a wall with an exedra.  The Dioscuri stand in the Piazza del Quirinale, here called “Monte Cavallo”, the hill of the horsemen.  The triangular temple is at the top, marked “Templum Solis”, temple of the sun.

And that’s our lot.  For by 1625 the Quirinal Hill looks quite different, in this plate by Giovanni Maggi:

The horsemen still stand on “Monte Cavallo”, now also Monte Quirinale.  The triangular temple is still there, although not for long, and the church of S. Silvester is down the hill.  But opposite stands the new “Palazzo Papale”, the papal palace (today the Presidential Palace), and next to it a massive new “Palazzo de Bentivogli” occupies the whole space where the Baths of Constantine once stood.  They are gone.

  1. [1]There is a mass of these online here, reproductions from a 1962 volume, A.P. Frutaz: Le piante di Roma.

Lanciani on the Baths of Constantine and some references

In this series of posts on the now-lost Baths of Constantine in Rome, I’ve posted renaissance drawings of what then remained.  The list of these I took from Platner & Ashby’s Topographical Dictionary of Rome (1929), 525-6, which I accessed via the excellent Lacus Curtius site here.  This states:

 Enough of the structure was standing at the beginning of the sixteenth century to permit of plans and drawings by the architects of that period, and these are the chief sources of our knowledge of the building (see especially Serlio, Architettura III.92; Palladio, Le Terme, pl. XIV; Dupérac, Vestigii, pl. 32; LS III.196‑197; Ant. van den Wyngaerde, BC 1895, pls. VI‑XIIIHJ 439, n131). The remains were almost entirely destroyed in 1605‑1621, when the Palazzo Rospigliosi was built, but some traces were found a century later (BC 895, 88; HJ 440, n133), and since 1870 (NS 1876, 55, 99; 1877, 204, 267; 1878, 233, 340).

We are fortunate that so many of these are online.  “BC” is the “Bulletino Comunale”, older volumes of which can be accessed online.  Via the key to the page, I find that “HJ” is H. Jordan, Topographie der Stadt Rom in Altertum. Vol. I, Part 3 (by Ch. Hülsen). Berlin 1906; and “LS” is R. Lanciani, Storia degli Scavi di Roma. vols. I-IV. Rome 1902‑12.  Volume 3 can be found at Archive.org here, and pages 195-6 contain no illustrations but a useful list of those who made them, and other sources.  In particular:

Hanno studiato gli avanzi delle terme Fra Giocondo, B. Peruzzi, du Perac e seguaci, Wingaerde, Palladio, Grimaldi, e Alò Giovannoli. La scheda Uffizi 1535 del Giocondo, contiene molti particolari di basi fregi e cornici sopracariche d’intagli. …

Most of these we have looked at, but I might see what can be accessed from the rest.

Lanciani actually made some diggings in the area of the Baths of Constantine, so his opinions about the site deserve respect.  He included it in his plan of ancient Rome, the Forma Urbis Romanae, which can be accessed via here.  Here’s an excerpt:

Black is ancient, red is renaissance, green is modern.  Brown I think may be reconstruction?  The debt to the plan of Palladio is obvious.  I don’t intend to delve deeper into Lanciani’s work on the site, but I will post the photograph of the boxer found in his excavations and preserved in his papers at Stanford.  A larger image is available around the web.

I wonder where exactly this is?

Lanciani himself is now a long time ago, and archaeology has moved on since those days.  Surely there are more up-to-date sources?

The text of the old RealEncyclopädie article is actually online here, which gives a few references to articles.

I was also able to find a number of modern sources which I have not been able to consult from home.  I’d like to give a list, purely in case someone later comes along.  Via here and here I get these:

  • S. Vilucchi, “Le Terme di Costantino sul Quirinale e gli edifici privati di età precedente”, Bull. Comm. 91 (1986), 350-355.
  • I. Nielsen, Thermae et balnea.  The architecture and cultural history of Roman public baths, Aarhus (1990) vol. 1, fig. 62 C13.
  • S. Vilucci, “Thermae Constantinianae”, in: E. M. Steinby (ed), Lexicon Topographicum Urbis Romae (=LTUR), (1999), vol. 5, p.49-51; fig. 30-32 ad 89.  This is the modern replacement for Platner & Ashby, I gather; naturally it is out of print.
  • A. Carandini, Atlas of Ancient Rome, Princeton (revised ed. 2017).  This must contain a really modern overview, and is naturally impossibly expensive.

The building of the Palazzo Rospigliosi at the end of the 16th century did not destroy every remnant of this monstrous structure, and I gather that some material at foundation level may still be seen in the palazzo, if you have the right connections.[1]  More was visible before the construction of the Via Nazionale around 1900, as part of the process of transforming sleepy old papal Rome into a modern capital city.  The following engraving of “the remains of the baths of Constantine” was made by Luigi Rossini in 1817, on copper.[2]

Avanzi delle terme di Costantino su Quirinale – Luigi Rossini – 1817

I don’t know where this might be situated, however.

  1. [1]See the Trecani article linked above, which seems to rely on the LTUR article.
  2. [2]Image and information from the Galleria Trincia, here.

Serlio’s 1540 plan of the Baths of Constantine

The next item in our little series on the now-vanished Baths of Constantine in Rome is a plan, drawn by Sebastiano Serlio in the third volume of his Architettura and printed in 1540.  A hard-to-use copy is here, with the illustration on p.92 (“spread 49”).   The 1544 reprint is at the Digital Library in Heidelberg, and again on p.92.  Here is a reduced version:

The text at the top merely gives measurements for the rooms where the letters appear, but nothing about what the rooms are.  I wonder if the drawing was made by an assistant, with measurements?  It doesn’t sound as if Serlio has ever seen it.

This plan seems to differ a lot from the others.  I suspect that the problem is that all of them are largely guesswork, and that little was to be seen above-ground, even in 1540, without digging.

The text also calls this the “Baths of Titus”.  I include this drawing because it is listed as a plan of the Baths of Constantine in Platner and Ashby’s Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (1929),  (online at Lacus Curtius here) as “Serlio, Architettura III.92″ with the curious footnote, “Ed. 1550; in those of 1544 and 1562 the reference is III.88. In all these the thermae are wrongly ascribed to Titus.”  But in fact the illustration in the 1544 is III.92 also.

Serlio was apparently the first renaissance architect to realise that a manual of architecture in the vernacular with copious illustrations might form the basis of a successful professional career.  Previous architects had issued tomes in Latin with no pictures and directed mainly at litterateurs.  Volume 3 of his book was devoted to Roman antiquities, which is why the plan is here.


What on earth is Palladio’s “Le terme dei Romani”?

When I started this little series on the Baths of Constantine, one of my references (from Wikipedia) was “Palladio, Le Terme, pl.XIV”.  A quick search revealed that this was Le terme dei Romani disegnate da Andrea Palladio e ripubblicate con la giunta di alcune osservazioni da Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi giusta l’esemplare del lord co. di Burlingthon impresso in Londra l’anno 1732, Vicenza: Francesco Modena, 1785; or a reprint thereof.

The 1785 edition can be viewed online here, but not downloaded.  This example is a double volume, first in Italian and then in French, with the plates at the end.  A version scanned by the Getty – the plates were done badly – may be found at Archive.org here.  Some useful notes on the volume are at the Soane Collection here.

But Palladio lived in the 16th century.  One web page suggested that his plan of the baths should be dated “after 1570”.  He certainly wasn’t publishing material in 1785.  So what on earth was this volume?  Was it really Palladio’s material?

To add confusion, this volume is also sometimes listed as “volume 5” of Le fabbriche e i designi di Andrea Palladio, as for instance in this 1843 edition at Archive.org here.

So what do we have here?

 Palladio based himself in the Venice area, so he did not live in Rome.  Instead he made visits at various points in his career to sketch monuments.  He produced ground plans, and also reconstructed elevations and sections.  The latter are not archaeologically accurate.  The buildings were in ruins, and his reconstructions are just that.  The plans vary.  While many are based on Palladio’s own survey of the remains, at least some are based on previous drawings, earlier sources that Palladio studied and copied in the studio.[1]

Palladio himself worked in three stages.  Firstly he sketched the building freehand on the site, with measurements.  Secondly the field sketch was transcribed back in the studio to produce a clean copy.  Finally this preparatory drawing was translated into a reconstructed plan of the complex.  Alterations could take place at each stage, as Palladio studied what he had.  Not all of these stages are preserved.  The freehand sketch of the Baths of Constantine has not survived, for instance.

The sketches, plans, elevations and sections of the Roman baths were something that Palladio worked on throughout his career, with the intention of publishing.  But he never did.  A four volume set of works on architecture did appear, the I Quattro Libri dell’Achitettura (Venice, 1570).  These were translated into English and French, and did much to help those who wanted to build in the classical style.  Interestingly he had little influence in Germany; a translation into German only completed two volumes before being abandoned.[2]

Meanwhile unpublished material by Palladio still circulated.  In 1613 architect-to-be Inigo Jones visited Italy for several months, carrying with him a 1601 reprint of Palladio’s book.  During the tour, he acquired a large number of drawings by Palladio.  Some he acquired from Palladio’s pupil, Vincenzo Scammozzi, others from Palladio’s surviving son Silla.   These passed through a series of hands until they were purchased by Richard Boyle, 3rd Earl of Burlington in 1721 as part of a purchase of drawings and books for which he paid £170.

But Burlington had already gone to Venice himself in 1719, when he acquired a group of drawings by Palladio from someone.  These came, directly or otherwise, from Barnardo Trevisan, who owned the Villa Barbaro at Maser, believed to be the place where Palladio died.

Burlington then pasted these into seventeen albums.  When he died in 1753 they passed by marriage into the family of the Dukes of Devonshire.  In 1892 the 8th Duke lent them to the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), and in 1894 converted that to a gift in trust.  Curiously the deed specified that, if the RIBA ceased to exist within 25 years of the death of the last surviving great-grandchild of Queen Victoria, then the drawings should revert to the Devonshire family.  The last descendant, born in 1916, turned out to be Count Carl Johan Bernadotte, Count of Wisborg, who died in 2012.

A few drawings were overlooked and still remain at Chatsworth.  Another drawing from the Inigo Jones set, which Burlington accidentally did not purchase, has been in the library of Westminster Abbey since 1939.  The Burlington volume are held by the RIBA, who number the drawings using a Roman number for the volume and an Arabic number for the drawing within that volume.  I was unable to find a list of the drawings with their numbers, however.[3]

Burlington did more than just collect the drawings.  He published them.  The volume bears the title, Fabbriche antiche, disegnate da Andrea Palladio Vicentino; e date in luce da Riccardo Conte’ di Burlington (London, 1730), with an Italian preface by his lordship.  An excellent scanned copy can be downloaded in PDF from the ETH-Bibliotek in Switzerland here.[4]  The Baths of Constantine are on p.41-42 of the PDF.

The volume bears the date 1730, but it is unclear when it actually appeared, or how many copies were produced.  The Soane Collection suggest that it was privately printed in 1735 and copies from a print run of 20-100 copies were given as gifts by Lord Burlington.[5]

What the volume did NOT contain were any notes by Palladio, any explanation of the items, any key to the letters that Palladio had placed on the drawings.  These seem to be lost.

The next stage of the creation of Le Terme was taken by a Scottish adventurer and occasional charlatan named Charles Cameron.  In 1772 he self-published a handsome volume entitled The baths of the Romans explained and illustrated. With the restorations of Palladio corrected and improved. To which is prefixed, an introductory preface, pointing out the nature of the work. And a dissertation upon the state of the arts during the different periods of the Roman empire.  This may be found at Archive.org here. This reprinted only 25 of the plates of Lord Burlington’s volume, as well as much other material, and added text in English and French, giving a key for Palladio’s annotations.[6]  The volume was not a commercial success, but it did establish Cameron’s reputation as an architect – he had been refused admittance to the Architects Club in London because of his dodgy financial dealings -, and he ended up building perfectly good, if cold, Palladian buildings in the colder Russian climate for Catherine the Great.

During the same period, between 1776-1783, an Italian neo-Palladian named Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi – he took the last name as a condition of a legacy left by Palladio’s pupil of that name – was issuing a “rationalised” version of Palladio in four volumes.[7]  It was he who created the “fifth volume”, our book Le Terme, in 1785.  He seems to have used Burlington’s book for the plates – the elevations are printed the same way round.  He refers a lot to “Signor Chameron”, gives the French title of his book, and Bertotti Scammozi’s key to the plan of the Baths of Constantine is a translation of Cameron’s.

And there we have it.  Bertotti’s 1785 book is where we started, with its curious title, and its curious contents.  The plates are indeed from Palladio; the text is guesswork two centuries later.

There is one further question that I came across, while reading, which I will mention here.  How accurate are Palladio’s drawings?

The study by La Follette that I have footnoted already states that his measurements are very accurate.  But there is an interesting article at the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art which discussed ways in which Palladio’s drawings fell short.  Calder Loth, “Can we Trust Palladio? Antoine Desgodetz Details Palladio’s Inaccuracies”, here, details the way in which a subsequent architect, Antoine Desgodetz, demonstrated that not all of Palladio’s drawings of column capitals were exact – in some cases he gave a standard form while the monument itself deviated from the norm.  Loth suggests that perhaps the use of assistants is to blame, and ends up by recommending the use of Desgodetz instead.   I did come across an article somewhere which recounts that similar criticism was levelled at Desgodetz by those who came after!  But I think we can leave that question to others.

  1. [1]For this and much else I am indebted to Laetitia La Follette, “A contribution of Andrea Palladio to the study of Roman thermae”, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 52 (1993), 189-198.  JSTOR.
  2. [2]Many more details of editions and translations  and adaptations may be found in Deborah Howard, “Four centuries of literature on Palladio”, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 39 (1980), 224-241.
  3. [3]These details I owe to the fascinating preface, “Provenance of the Palladio drawings in the British Architectural Library of the Royal Institute of British Architects” in Charles Hind & Irena Murray (ed.), Palladio and His Legacy: A Transatlantic Journey, an English translation from the Italian (2010), ISBN 978-88-317-0652.  Parts online here.
  4. [4]I only came across this copy while writing this very article.  The scanned copy accessible to me earlier, which has a letter at the front, is at the Hathi site here.  Sadly that scan comes from the Getty and once again the plates have been done badly.
  5. [5]See notes to the Soane Collection copy of the 1730 volume here.
  6. [6]See the Soane collection’s notes on its copy of Cameron here.
  7. [7]See Howard, “Four centuries”, 231.

Palladio and the Baths of Constantine

The next item in our little series on the now-vanished Baths of Constantine in Rome is by none other than Palladio.  Andrea Palladio was a 16th century Italian architecture who became very famous for his 4-volume handbook on how to do Roman architecture.  This contained illustrations of many standing monuments, giving a plan, elevation and notes.  He also left unpublished drawings of the Roman baths, and one of these is of the Baths of Constantine, perhaps made around 1570.

The publication history of this is complex, and I will defer it to a separate blog post.  So these I give from an 1810 reprint of a 1785 volume: Andrea Palladio & Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi [Editor], Le terme dei Romani: disegnate da Andrea Palladio e ripubblicate con l’aggiunta di alcune osservazioni da Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi giusta l’esemplare del Lord Conte di Burlingthon impresso in Londra l’anno 1732, Vicenza, 1810.  This is available online at the Digital Library at Heidelberg here.  The plates (“tavola”) are at the end.  The text in the book is NOT by Palladio, but by the unfortunate Bertotti (who added himself the surname of Scammozi, taken from one of the Palladio’s pupils).

Plate 14 is the plan of the baths (from here).

Plate 15 is the elevation, a reconstruction (from here):

The notes and the measurements are original.  The unit of measurement is probably something called the Vicentian foot, which is about two metres, I believe.  Note that the section at the bottom of the elevation is the other way round to the plan – the big hall is at the right in the plan, the pool and arches to the left.

Scammozi did add a key, much of it his own guesswork or referring to an earlier volume by the Scottish adventurer, Charles Cameron, who published in London in 1772 his The baths of the Romans explained and illustrated. With the restorations of Palladio corrected and improved.  This can be downloaded from Archive.org here.  On p.64 (p.79 of the PDF) may be found Cameron’s comments on the Baths of Constantine, followed by his key to the plan.  The plan is on p.245-6 of the PDF, the elevation (printed backwards) is p.249-50 of the PDF.  Here is his key:

A. The Theatre.
B. A large circular building, which contained the baths for the wrestlers.
C. The Apodyterium.
D. Exedrae for the Philosophers.
EEE. The Tepidarium, Caldarium, and Laconicum : invariably placed in all the Thermae to the south west, according to the direction of Vitruvius.
F. The Frigidarium. It appears from Fabricius, that the buildings in this quarter were very lofty, as well as the furnaces, to which there was an ascent of one hundred steps.  “Aedificia quaedam Quadrata, auaedam rotunda altissimis fornicibus extant, quoroum unum per centum fere gradus ascendimus”.
G. The Xystus, with the margins I I round it.
HH. Atrium, and piscina [swimming pool].
KK. Porticos, for those to deposit their clothes who bathed in the piscina.
LL. Vacant area for admitting light to the different apartments.
MM. Conisterium and Elethoseum.
NN. Rooms where the spectators could see those who exercised in the Xystus without being incommoded. These rooms likewise served for libraries.
OO. &c. Rooms for the use of the wrestlers.
PP. Rooms for those who had the care of the baths.
QQ. Cold Baths for those who did not choose to exercise in the Xystus.
RR. Rooms for the candidates to withdraw in, who exercised in the open air.

Bertoti repeats the key of Cameron, but prefixes it with some comments on the plan of the baths which, unlike Cameron, he has examined.  He comments that he can’t understand the use of the arches around a semi-circular area at one end, with the label HH in it.[1]  He frankly confesses that he could make no sense of the measurements on the elevation.[2]

This is all very detailed, and naturally has been used by subsequent model makers.  The elevations must be largely reconstruction, even though they have measurements on them.

But how reliable is all of this?  How much is the imagination of Palladio, or borrowed from other baths?  I do not know.

I notice that the floor plan differs quite a bit from that of Bufalini, posted here.  Bufalini shows no semi-circular piscina, nor any blank space in which it could be.

These sorts of questions I will have to leave to the specialists.  For specialists there are!  There are articles devoted to elucidating all sorts of questions around each drawing by Palladio, it seems.[3]  But this is a rabbit hole that is outside the scope of this post.

In my next post, I will discuss exactly what we are looking at here.  These drawings have a history of their own!

  1. [1]Trovo una Piazza, semicircolare cinta da Archi dei quali non so comprendere l’uso: questi Archi sono alti una larghezza e poco meno di due terzi, ed il pieno trammezzo eccedo la metà del loro lume.
  2. [2]Non potei determinare le proporzioni delle altre parti, perchè alcune sono segnate con numeri ; in altre è necessario adoprare la scala de’piedi, la quale rare volte corrisponde ai numeri medesimi; difetto da me riscontrato in tutti i Disegni di queste Terme.
  3. [3]See for instance Laetitia La Follette, “A contribution of Andrea Palladio to the study of Roman thermae”, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 52 (1993), 189-198.  JSTOR.

The Baths of Constantine in the panorama of Antonio van Wyngaerde ca. 1560

In 1894 the famous Italian archaeologist R. Lanciani found a long-forgotten 2-metre long drawing of a panorama of Rome, in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, in the Sutherland collection of some 20,000 artworks of all sorts.  He published it in facsimile the following year, in the Bullettino della Commissione Archeologica Comunale de Roma, vol. 23 (1895), as a foldout between pages 80-81, followed by his own article on the subject on pp.81-109.  A high-resolution scan of the image can be found at the wonderful Heidelberg Digital Library, here, where the whole volume is online.  (Lanciani’s text begins on the next page here.)

The panorama is 360 degrees.  It includes a view of the ruins of the Baths of Constantine, and beyond this the prominent fragment of the “Temple of the Sun”, looking towards the Castel Sant’Angelo and the Vatican to the south-west.  It is of course far too large to appear here, but here is a greatly reduced excerpt.

It is a frustrating image in a way.  At the bottom we see the “Avanzi …. delle terme Constantine” on both sides – ruins of the baths of Constantine – but it’s hard to know what is what.  A rotunda is clearly seen in the middle, looking half buried.  To the right are various walls and exedra.

I can’t determine what is supposed to be seen on the left, where the same “Avanzi…” message appears, but plainly the author thought that he was showing something.

Still it is good to have it.


A 1621 reconstruction of the Baths of Constantine in Rome by Lauro Giacomo

By 1621 there must have been little left of the Baths of Constantine, but there was a market for a drawing, as the existence of this item by Lauro Giacomo shows.  Here’s a small image from Europeana:

A proper-sized image can be found at the Savannah College of Art and Design, here.  This allows us to read the text, which is, however, of no real interest.  But the title is more useful – “Thermae Constantini Imperatoris (Ad Templum S. Silvestri in Monte Quirinali)”.  The baths are described as near the church of S. Silvestro on the Quirinal Hill.

By coincidence I managed to find that church on Google Maps, and so I updated yesterday’s post about the Bufalini Map.  It’s good to see that this correction appears to be in line with this 1621 image.


Bufalini’s plan of the Baths of Constantine

In 1541 Leonardo Bufalini drew a map of the whole city of Rome, the Pianta di Roma, with emphasis on the surviving ancient monuments.  This was printed in 1551.  Bufalini was early enough that his map shows much that has since been lost.

Among them is a map of the Baths of Constantine, standing on the ridge of the Quirinal hill, between two valleys on either side, with the Via Quirinalis leading off to the north-east, just as it does today, and the piazza where the Quirinal palace was to be built clearly visible next door.

A 1911 reproduction, with study, can be found at Heidelberg here.  The map is printed on individual pages, which makes it hard to use.  An enterprising gentleman has created a website here with all the pages put together, although for some reason he wants to stop people copying bits of it.

I’ve taken a small bit, and rotated it so that it aligns what must be north-south, using the roads that run off, in parallel, to the north-east, just as the modern map does today.  My apologies for the crudity – I am not great at image manipulation.  But here it is.

I would imagine that a good part of the gridwork shown on the plan of the “Thermae Constantiniae” is in fact foundations for gardens, because the slope underneath had to be built up.  The two circular structures on either side of the “gardens” were free-standing at this time, and appear as rotundas in other illustrations.

And here is the modern layout, via Google Maps, with what I imagine must be the location of the baths:

The key connection point is the (somewhat smaller) Quirinal plaza and the via Quirinale going off to the top right.

The modern Via della Dataria that leads down to the Trevi fountain is clearly shown on Bufalini’s map, to the left of the lettering “Vinear. Card. Ferrrariae”.  The Via Quirinale is shown.  A parallel “via Viminalis” is probably the Via Nazionale – a modern sounding name! – not labelled in the above screen-grab.

Surely there must be a monograph on the Baths of Constantine?

Update: I have since located the church of S. Silvestro al Quirinale, which the Bufalini map shows as facing the entrance to the baths, and to the left somewhat.  Here it is: so we need to slightly redraw the rectangle.  Looking again at the Bufalini map, I see that the “Via del Corneliis” drifts left, relative to the Via del Quirinale, just as the modern road does at the piazza, and the Baths are lined up with that, not the Via del Quirinale.  So let’s shift the plan a bit, and allow for the church.

Note how the road going east from the church of San Silvestro al Quirinale – today called the Via Mazzarino – also appears on the Bufalini map.

Update (16/12/20): I have come across an article discussing the Bufalini map.  It seems that he was prone to embellishment.  His version of the Baths of Caracalla, which are extant, is apparently intentionally inaccurate.  For details see Jessica Maier, “Leonardo Bufalini and the first printed map of Rome”, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome 56/57 (2011/2012), pp. 243-270 (JSTOR).


The Baths of Constantine in Rome

Today I came across this interesting drawing from Du Perac, Vestigi dell’Antichita di Roma, 1621, plate 32 (online at Heidelberg here).

Duperac, Baths of Constantine

The text beneath reads:

Vestigij delle Terme di Constantino nel monte quirinale dalla parte che guarda verso Libecchio (= sud-ovest) qualli per esser molto ruinati non vi si vede adornamenti ma solo grandissime muraglie et stantie masimamente nel giardino del Ill.mo Car.le de Vercello et da poi che io designai questa parte vi si sono fabricate case et granarij di modo che al di doggi non si puol piu vedere per esser occupata di dette fabriche.

Nothing remains of it today.  I gather that the baths stood on the slope of the Quirinal Hill, a little below the modern presidential palace.  Because of the slope, Constantine’s architects had to support it with a platform, built on top of 3-4th century houses which they demolished.  These houses in turn stood on top of still earlier houses.

I believe that other early drawings exist.  It might be fun to locate them.