The Colossus of Constantine
Published 23 Oct 2017
The Colossus of Constantine was originally constructed at the Forum Romanum in Rome in the Basilica of Maxentius. The statue was created in the acrolithic medium, which literally means “stone at the extremities”. In this case, the head, arms and legs were carved from marble while the body was created from brick and wooden frameworks that were most likely covered in gilded bronze. This statue is emblematic of the art of the Roman Empire in many ways, but it also stood out from the rest due to its sheer magnitude, the Colossus of Constantine originally stood over forty feet high.
The head of the statue depicts Constantine in a moment of stoic reflection. His face is nearly expressionless and his eyes have a glossed over appearance as they are directed outward and upward, lending him an other worldly aesthetic. That being said, the statue aligns with many portraits of Constantine from this era, including his bulging nose, big chin, and calloused feet. In this way, the body is individualized while at the same time canonizing the emperor in all of his superhuman magnitude. This balance between the symbolic and the naturalistic would be a recurring theme in the art that came out of this historic era.
The statue was pillaged for its bronze body portions and now is displayed in body parts that are all separated from a singular form. However its original construction was created following the Constantine”s victory over his co-emperor Maxentius. Some reports claim that Constantine had his image fashioned from the ruins of the Colossus of Maxentius while others claim that his statue was built from scratch. The right hand of Constantine is upright and his pointer finger is aimed directly to the sky. This pose gives the impression of Constantine as a leader with a counter point, perhaps halting a discussion or an argument with the raising of one single finger. This portrays him in a position of power and knowledge and leaves little doubt as to his infallibility.
The Colossus of Constantine parallels the great art from the Roman Empire. The trends of naturalism and symbolism are here presented in the form of a legendary emperor in the groundswell of power following his defeat of Maxentius. His depiction, although on a much more massive scale, aligns with the portraiture style of sculpture that was popular at the time, while at the same time enhancing and emphasizing the balance between his symbolic presence and his physical being.
- Details and Photos of the remains of the Constantine Colossus at the Capitoline Museum in Rome. LegionXXIV. Retrieved 7 April 2009, from http://www.legionxxiv.org/constansgallery/