Another drawing of the Septizonium

Uploaded on Easter Sunday to was an interesting volume, with the description: “Salzburg, Universitätsbibliothek, M III 40, MONUMENTA ANTIQUA ROMANA — Lombardei, 4. Viertel 15. Jh.”  I.e. 4th quarter of the 15th century, 1475-1500.  It contains sketches of a number of the monuments of ancient Rome then standing, and notes about these, which seem to be in Italian.  I wish I could read these.

Via this site, I learn that this book is Giovan Maria Falconetto, Monumenta Antiqua Romana.  HMML say here that it is possibly by Giovanni Maria Falconetto.  There’s a Wikipedia article about him, but I was unable to find any information about the manuscript.

This page (f.21r) was particularly interesting:

For this is surely the ruins of the Septizonium, the monumental facade erected by Septimius Severus at the end of the Via Appia as a main entrance to the Palatine complex.  The notes on the right of the drawing look like measurements!

Wonderful to see!


Giuliano da Sangallo’s “book of designs”, and the Septizonium

I was looking through the Vatican manuscript Barberini lat. 4424, the “book of designs” by Giulano da Sangallo (d.1516), and I found what seems like an old favourite – a drawing of the Septizonium, the now vanished facade that once stood at the end of the Via Appia to hide the Palatine.  The drawing is on folio 30r of the manuscript (looking at the numbering top right) but inscrutably this is given as f.32r by the online viewer.

I’ve downloaded it, and here it is.  (How one curses the obtrusive watermark, on so faint an item!)

But then I found something even better.

The destruction of the Septizonium (or Septizodium) took place in 1588-9.  The building was unsafe, and Pope Sixtus V wanted the materials for building.  A contemporary account of all this exists in the Vatican.

What I found was an article discussing all this, and giving even more contemporary drawings than I had known.  There is, for instance, a set of plans for all three levels of the remaining fragment, with measurements!

The article is Christine Pappelau, “The Dismantling of the Septizonium – a Rational, Utilitarian and Economic Process?”, in:  S. Altekamp &c (eds), Perspektiven der Spolienforschung 2. Zentren und Konjunkturen der Spoliierung, 2017, 357-379.  It can be downloaded from here.

It is a wonderful article, and shows the difference between the professional scholar and the intermittent searches of amateurs like myself!

But I shall still collect pictures of the Septizonium anyway!


More pictures of the Septizonium

My attention was drawn to a couple more pictures of the Septizonium this week.  First, drawing in B. Gamucci ‘Libri Quattro dell’ antichita della citta di Roma’ 1569:

B. Gamucci 'Libri Quattro dell' antichita della citta di Roma' 1569
B. Gamucci ‘Libri Quattro dell’ antichita della citta di Roma’ 1569

Next, a redrawing by Dutchman Matthijs Bril, via the Louvre:

original BRIL Matthijs le Jeune flamande Fonds des dessins et miniatures
original BRIL Matthijs le Jeune flamande Fonds des dessins et miniatures

Interesting for showing the area beyond the monument.


More images of then-surviving Roman monuments from “Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae” by A. Lafrery (1593)

Following my post yesterday, Ste Trombetti has found that the prints by Lafrerie / Lafrery are to be located in the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae (1593).  Happily this is online in high resolution, and downloadable in PDF form, at the UB in Heidelberg here (and the page shows all the pix in thumbnail too – a very well organised site).

This means that, for the first time, we can get some decent resolution images of some of the monuments.  Some of these we have seen before, in squinny little images defaced with bumptious watermarks, but here we have the full size images.  (Click on the pictures below to get these).

First up on tafel 116 is the Seven Churches of Rome and the Old St Peter’s (1575).  This is stylised, and the surroundings of each church are incorrect; but the depiction of the basilica itself is spot-on!



Note the steps, the atrium behind it – interesting that Raphael omits the section with three arches leading into it, as being a later addition – then the  nave, with the hulk of the new basilica at the far end, and on the left the Vatican rotunda, the 3rd century tomb being used as the chapel of S. Andreas.  To the right of the church, as today, is the papal palace.

Also included by Lafrery is the picture of Old St. Peter’s (1581-86) by Claudio Duchetti & Ambrogio Brambilla, tafel 115:

lafrery_000g_Tafel_115_old_s_petersNote the pope in the Loggia, blessing the sea of people!

Next on plate 27 is the now vanished Septizonium, drawn by C. Duchetti & A. Brambilla:


Pretty marvellous!  Our thanks to the UB in Heidelberg for making all this material accessible; and in a manner which means that we can actually study it, for once!


Gamucci’s images of the Septizonium; the Temple of the Sun; the Arch of Claudius; and the obelisk and Vatican Rotunda

Ste. Trombetti has continued to search through early books and prints for images of vanished Rome.  Here is another example, from the 1565 work Dell’Antichita di Roma by Bernardo Gamucci.[1]  It depicts the remains of the monumental facade that Septimius Severus built across the end of the Palatine hill facing the Appian Way.  Behind it we can see the Arch of Constantine, behind which stands the Colosseum.  Known as the Septizonium, it was clearly falling down, and was shortly afterwards taken down for its materials.

Further on in the same volume, on p.123, we find a depiction of part of the “Temple of the Sun” or “House of Nero” on the Quirinal, which was most probably actually a temple of Serapis:


On p.151 is an image of the “Arch of Domitian”, which the text says may be the Arch of Claudius.  This is also a long-demolished item, of which I have never seen any drawings.  Does anybody know?

Arch of Domitian (or Claudius). Gamucci, 1565.
Arch of Domitian (or Claudius). Gamucci, 1565.

On page 195 there is a marvellous drawing made of the south side of St Peter’s; mostly Old St Peter’s, but with the new church rising in the distance.  In front of us is the obelisk that now stands in St Peter’s square, but then stood, still, in its original position.  Behind it stands a circular 3rd century tomb, the Vatican Rotunda, long since converted into a chapel of St Andrew.

Obelisk and Vatican Rotunda, on the south side of Old St Peter's in Rome. Gamucci, 1565.
Obelisk and Vatican Rotunda, on the south side of Old St Peter’s in Rome. Gamucci, 1565.

  1. [1]B. Gamucci, Libri quattro dell’antichità della Citta di Roma: raccolte sotto breuita da diversi antichi et moderni scrittori, Venice: G. Varisco &c, 1565. Online at Google books here, or in better quality at Heidelberg here.

A book describing the ceiling of the vanished Septizonium in Rome

A couple of weeks ago Ste. Trombetti posted on Twitter another couple of finds about the Septizonium.  This was a facade in front of the Palatine hill in Rome, erected at the end of the Appian Way as a kind of formal entrance to the palaces, by Septimius Severus.  It was pulled down in the 16th century, at which time only one end was still standing, and the materials used for various building projects.

The first of these is a guidebook to the wonders of Rome, Francesco Albertini (1469-1530?), Mirabilia Romae, 1520.[1]

albertini_mirabilia_romaeA rough translation: “About the Septizonium, and some epitaphs.  The Septizonium is between the palace and the church of St. Gregory, of which there are standing three orders of columns high, not far from the Circus Maximus.  Near this they say is the place of the tomb of the emperor Severus the African: concerning whom see Julius Capitolinus writes in the life …. (?) … Spartianus says the same” (not sure about the rest).

Another item by Sebastiano Serlio, “Il Terzo Libro delle Antichità di Roma”, 1544, p.82.[2]  This has a diagram of the vaulted inside of the roof of the Septizonium, and measurements of the extent of the building then standing, made by the author, so is very valuable indeed.  The south end is at the top:

serlio_terzo_libroFinally – and nothing to do with the Septizonium – here on Twitter is a drawing of the Meta Sudans fountain, also now vanished, by  Giacomo Lauro, “Splendore dell’antica e moderna Roma”, 1641:

giacomo_lauro_meta_sudans_1641I think we may all be grateful to Mr. Trombetti for the time spent in these online archives, locating these.

  1. [1]Online as a scan of a microfilm at the BNF here, and as a properly scanned book at the BSB here.
  2. [2]Online at BNF here.

Images of vanished Rome once more

Ste. Trombetti has turned his attention to the Dutch Rijksmuseum in his search for old etchings and drawings of Rome.  The search for this museum is here.

The first image is of the vanished Septizonium, from 1550, a drawing by Hieronymus Cock (Antwerpen c. 1518-1570).  The majority of the image consists of some unfamiliar-looking ruins on the Palatine hill – are these really in the right place? -, but the Septizonium is on the left, although masked by yet another unfamiliar ruin.  The image is online here:

Septizonium, 1550, by Hieronymus Cock. Via Rijksmuseum
Septizonium, 1550, by Hieronymus Cock. Via Rijksmuseum

Another image from 1551, by the same gentleman, is at the same site.  But this makes me deeply wary.  For although it is definitely the Septizonium, end-on, to the left, the stuff to the right must be the Colosseum, and it certainly isn’t that far forward!  These are not photographs, and it bears remembering.  Anyway the image is online here:

Septizonium: Septizonii Severi Imp. cum continguis ruinis. Hieronymus Cock, 1551.  Via Rijksmuseum
Septizonium: Septizonii Severi Imp. cum continguis ruinis. Hieronymus Cock, 1551. Via Rijksmuseum

At the Biblioteca Digital Hispania, search page here, we find a rather more convincing drawing of the ruins on the Palatine hill, with the edge of the Septizonium at right: “Palatini monti prospectus” (1560-1612?) by Hendrick van Cleve (d.1595) & Philippe Galle (d.1612)”.  It’s here:

Ruinarum varii prospectus ruriumq. aliquot delineationes. By P. Galle and Hendrick van Cleve. 156-1612? Via BNE.
Ruinarum varii prospectus ruriumq. aliquot delineationes. By P. Galle and Hendrick van Cleve. 156-1612? Via BNE.

Meanwhile back at the Rijksmuseum, Dr Trombetti has unearthed another photograph of the Meta Sudans, the ruined Roman fountain next to the Colosseum that was demolished by Mussolini.  It’s here:

1860-80, attributed to Giorgio Sommer.
1860-80, attributed to Giorgio Sommer.

But while searching for the item at the Rijksmuseum, I stumbled across this 1666 prospectus of the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, and … the Meta Sudans, twice the height of the photo and complete with a bulbous top.  It comes from here:

Lievin Cruyl, 1666.  Via Rikjsmuseum
Lievin Cruyl, 1666. Via Rikjsmuseum

If I extract the detail, it can be seen clearly:

Meta Sudans, 1666.
Meta Sudans, 1666.

A google image search for “View of the Colosseum and The Arch of Constantine – Antonio Joli” brings up a great number of paintings and other artworks, many featuring the Meta Sudans.  Let’s end with a Canaletto, no less, from here:

Canaletto - Colosseum and Arch of Constantine, Rome. 18th c.
Canaletto – Colosseum and Arch of Constantine, Rome. 18th c.

Images of vanished Rome : the Septizonium and the Meta Sudans

Ste. Trombetti has been busily searching the online site of the Spanish National Library, and posting the results on Twitter.

First of these is a view of the Septizonium, the vanished facade of the Palatine, built by Severus at the end of the Appian Way and demolished in the 16th century for materials to build New St Peter’s basilica.  This shot is particularly valuable, as it is more or less end-on, from the south, and shows the main structure consisted of two parallel walls, connected at intervals, with the facade on the front.  It can be found here (click to enlarge):

Italian, Anon. 1530-40?
Italian, Anon. 1530-40?

Next up is an old photograph of the Colosseum, with a particularly nice image of the Meta Sudans, the fountain just inside the arch of Constantine.  Its from here:

Vista Panoramica (1858-65)?
Vista Panoramica (1858-65)?

A detail shows the fountain clearly:


The same view is shown in an older drawing by Isidro Velazquez, made between 1792-96.  Note that in this drawing the Meta Sudans is perceptibly taller, and appears to have a second stage atop the first.  It’s from here:

Velasquez, Colosseum with Meta Sudans
Velasquez, Colosseum with Meta Sudans

Another image from the same period is an anonymous Spanish painting, “Anfiteatro Flavio, detto il Coloseo”, 1790-99.  Here too the Meta Sudans appears taller, and with a bulbous top.  From here:

Amphitheatro Flavio (1790-99)
Amphitheatro Flavio (1790-99)

Very interesting to see and compare!


Rome in 1557 – Old St Peters, the Septizonium, the Templum Solis

Another marvellous find by @ste_trombetti at the Bibliotheque Nationale here;[1] – a large map depicting Rome in 1557!  Here is an excerpt (click on the image to see it all)


 I have ventured to highlight, in this excerpt, three monuments, all now vanished.  Near the Palatine, the remains of the monumental entrance to the Palatine, known as the Septizonium.  On the Quirinal hill, the remains of the Temple of the Sun.  And, over on the Vatican, the Constantinian basilica of Old St Peter’s, with the circular centre of the new basilica arising at the west end, and the obelisk still in its original position on the south side (for St. Peter’s, remember, faces east, rather than west as modern churches do).

  1. [1]Recens rursus post omnes omnium description. urbs Romae …; Éditeur : Formis Anton. Lafrerii (Rome); Date d’édition : 1557; Type : image fixe,estampe; Langue : Italien; Format : 1 est. : en coul. ; 35 x 47 cm

De’Cavalieri’s image of the Septizonium.

Well!  The British Museum seems to have quite a few engravings by Giovanni Battista De’Cavalieri online.  Browsing them here, I quickly see that some come from a 1569 book entitled, promisingly, Urbis Romae aedificiorum illustrium quae supersunt reliquiae, i.e. Remains of famous buildings of the city of Rome.  It contains some fascinating images.

Here’s the one of the Septizonium: