Italy Figurative Arts 2

The art of architecture had fallen into disuse after the transfer of the imperial seat to Constantinople, so many public monuments remained deserted, and the faculty of building new ones was taken away from the Roman prefect. And Rome became immense, without borders, due to the thinned out inert population, laughing death.

The columns generally bore a Corinthian capital of decayed shapes, with narrow volutes, the leaves attached to the edge of the capital, pierced by a drill, sponges, wasps’ nests; and then the bell of the capital was pierced, flattened into trapezoidal faces subtly carved with embroidery, woven wicker, branches bristling with thorns, acute leaves on the dark background; but, as time progressed, it was no longer possible to detach, from the shadow plane, the branches, or the braids, or the leaves, or the twigs, which remained encased in the shapeless matter, unable to emerge from it with any determination, to to reveal oneself, to take shape and figure. The column became heavier, more coarsely tapered, and, as it embarked, it twisted into a spire vitinea, in Constantinian times. It no longer supported the extended entablature, but the arch turned from capital to capital, first directly, then on the intruded cushion of a massive abacus or a high pulvinus. In the low times, arbitrariness begins to break up the mass of constructions, the severe modules, the rigorous unity; and already in the palace of Diocletian in Split we can see omissions of parts previously considered necessary for an architectural order, and alterations of their proportions. On the side of the vestibule of that building, bearing only the architrave and the cornice without a frieze; from the cryptoporticus without frieze and with the architrave not distinct from the rest; from the entablature that boldly arches in the vestibule and facade towards the sea; from the capitals of the cryptoporticus, consisting of a simple bell and the abacus; from the modillions distant from each other, without relation to pillars or other sub-structures, an architectural freedom expired which many centuries later would reign in the field of art. The capitals show the severe form of the Nordic ones of the century. XII; the architrave grows at the expense of the frieze and the frame, so much so that the frieze is reduced to a simple outline and the frame begins to become a Gothic strip; the decoration in small arches of the porta aurea  is the primitive example of an architectural ornament that will later be found in many Romanesque and Gothic buildings. The silhouettes have new profiles, the zigzag ornaments make the first appearance; and the arches simply turn from column to column, without any trace of entablature, as in the aqueduct of Hadrian in Athens and in some sarcophagi, perhaps prior to Diocletian, found in the catacombs, and as in the baths of Diocletian in Rome, which showed, according to it results from the drawings of Palladio, the immediately rotating arches on the capital.

Western art found closer and proper elements of new style in the palace of Split, where Diocletian lived the last years of his life and died in 313. There, as Jackson says, the tomb of ancient art was closed, from which new art had to arise.

With the decomposition of the mass, with the disintegration of organic unity, architectural freedom welcomed, in the days of Justinian, the Byzantine forms, which reached Ravenna in San Vitale at the same time as Santa Sofia of Constantinople rose. The church is octangular, inside with a double loggia interrupted by the presbytery, crowned by a dome set on eight pillars: it was an example of the palatine chapel, built by Eginardo in Aachen for Charlemagne, and throughout the Middle Ages. Even in Arezzo, during the Romanesque period, Ravenna models were targeted.

According to, mosaic, the priestly art of Christianity, replaced painting from the early days to the Romanesque age. Again the mausoleum known as Santa Costanza, where two daughters of Emperor Constantine were buried, exhales an aura of paganism, from the memory, now only shadowed in the mosaics of the annular vault, of the mysteries of Bacchus, a customary ornament in funeral places. Majesty of aspects, great sculptural features, architectural definition of space, connect the mosaic in the apse of Santa Pudenziana (beginning of the 5th century) to the ancient art of Rome, an august assembly of Apostles in a vast hemicycle.

Slightly prior to the mosaic of S. Pudenziana, the decoration of S. Giovanni in Fonte in Naples also springs from the spirit of ancient Rome. The art of the great Roman portrait painters lives in the statuary forms of those apostles, fixed to the ground almost statues on their own pedestal. Like the mosaicist from Santa Pudenziana in Rome, the other from San Giovanni in Fonte reflects the classical tradition, always alive in Italy, and flourishing, in the same turn of years, also in Milan, in the mosaics of the chapel of Sant’Aquilino.

Among the later examples that best reflect the vigor of Roman art, we must not omit the superb acanthus scrolls that knot and unfold opulently on the gloomy sky of the chapel dedicated to Saints Ruffina and Secondo in the Lateran baptistery. Even the compositions of the median nave in Santa Maria Maggiore have Roman majesty of forms in the spatial architecture of the scenes, while only a few parts of the compositions compete with them, of the mosaics in the triumphal arch, hymn raised to the Virgin Mother of God by Sixtus III for extol the victory over Nestorius’s heresy.

Like the oldest mosaic in the church of Santa Pudenziana, the mosaic in the apse of Saints Cosma and Damiano (6th century) reflects a Roman character. The composition will become traditional in the apses of the city, although conceived with a different spirit, in the century. IX.

Italy Figurative Arts 2