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Perspective View of a Roman Amphitheatre
Codazzi, Viviano; Gargiulo, Domenico, called Micco Spadaro
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Codazzi, Viviano
Bergamo, 1604 - Rome, 1670
Gargiulo, Domenico, called Micco Spadaro
Naples, 1609, 1675

Perspective View of a Roman Amphitheatre

Ca. 1638. Oil on canvas.
Muguruza P1 Escalera 3

This painting was one of four views of ancient Roman life commissioned around 1638 for the Buen Retiro Palace, Madrid. Two of the other works depict a Roman circus and a Roman gymnasium respectively, while the third, now lost, was recorded in 1701 as The baths of Diocletian with a fleet of galleys, which may be a misidentification of a view of a sea-battle stadium, or naumachia. The paintings are first documented in 1701 as hanging in the Pieza de Vesas Manos (Gallery for Royal Obsequies) in the Buen Retiro. All were painted by Viviano Codazzi, a painter from the Bergamo area first recorded in Naples in 1633, who painted the architecture, and his regular collaborator, the Neapolitan painter Domenico Gargiulo, who painted the figures.

The commission was apparently to depict scenes of four important Roman entertainments: gladiatorial combats, chariot racing, athletics and (probably) staged sea battles. During the sixteenth century much energy had been expended by antiquarians and printmakers on visualising the sites of such entertainments. For gladiatorial combats the task was relatively easy, since the principal Roman amphitheatre, the Colosseum, was and still is in large part intact. Simplified versions of such reconstructions were gathered together in a book of woodcuts first published by Giacomo Lauro in 1612. In the case of the Colosseum, Codazzi referred either to a somewhat crude plate in Lauro, or to one of the series of engravings from which it derives that originated with prints by Girolamo Fagiuolo, published by Antonio Salamanca in 1538. The engravings adopt the convention of showing a perspective view from the outside in the right half, but with a quarter of the walls removed to reveal a view of the interior and a ground plan of the removed section. In order to emphasise the interior, Codazzi used only half of the composition, so that we are shown only one of the building’s exterior bays. The whole has been stretched laterally a little, so that the curve of the upper part of the amphitheatre, seen from within, becomes the dominant compositional element.

Codazzi enlivens the schematic nature of the sectioning by representing unevenly projecting blocks of masonry, as if the building is not so much ruined as in the process of being disassembled. The engravings reconstructed the upper storey as a platform raised upon two vaulted passages and open to the sky, but here Codazzi follows one of two variant reconstructions published as a woodcut in Book III of Sebastiano Serlio’s Tutte l’opere d’architettura et prospetiva (1540). In the left background Codazzi has included a representation of the Tor de’ Conti, a medieval tower near the Colosseum.

Gargiulo populates the structure with thousands of tiny spectators, which serve to give an impression of vast scale, and marks the place where the rim of the area has been removed with a ring of standing or seated spectators. Within the arena various combats are taking place simultaneously, mostly the slaughter of wild beasts, known as the venatio, which was the principal activity of such amphitheatres.

Úbeda de los Cobos, A., El Palacio del Rey Planeta. Felipe IV y el Buen Retiro, Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado, 2005, p.196-199

Technical data

Inventory number
Codazzi, Viviano; Gargiulo, Domenico, called Micco Spadaro
Perspective View of a Roman Amphitheatre
Ca. 1638
Height: 220.5 cm; Width: 352.7 cm
Historia de Roma Antigua, Palacio del Buen Retiro
Royal Collection (Buen Retiro Palace, Madrid, 1701, no. 117; Buen Retiro, 1794, no. 804).

Bibliography +

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura italiana del S. XVII en España, Universidad Fundación Valdecilla, Madrid, 1965, pp. 258-259.

Pérez Sánchez, Alfonso E., Pintura italiana del siglo XVII: exposición conmemorativa del ciento cincuenta aniversario de la fundación del Museo del Prado, Ministerio de Educación y Ciencia, Madrid, 1970, pp. 192.

El Prado disperso. Cuadros depositados en Madrid. VII., Boletín del Museo del Prado, III, 1982, pp. 49.

Espinós, Adela; Orihuela, Mercedes y Royo Villanova, Mercedes, ''El Prado disperso''. Cuadros depositados en Madrid. VII. Museo de América, Boletín del Museo del Prado, III, 1982, pp. 49.

Barghahn, Barbara Von, Philip IV and the Golden House of the Buen Retiro in the Tradition of Caesar, Garland PublishingInc, Nueva York. Londres, 1986, pp. 722.

Cóndor Orduña, María, Algunas fuentes compositivas para las obras de Andrea de Lione en el Museo del Prado, Boletín del Museo del Prado, VIII, 1987, pp. 30.

Museo Nacional del Prado, Museo del Prado. Inventario general de pinturas (I) La Colección Real, Museo del Prado, Espasa Calpe, Madrid, 1990, pp. nº2703.

Úbeda de los Cobos, A., El ciclo de la Historia de Roma antigua, En: El Palacio del Rey Planeta, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2005, pp. 169-189.

Úbeda de los Cobos, A., El Palacio del Rey Planeta. Felipe IV y el Buen Retiro, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, 2005, pp. 196-199.

Corona y arqueología en el Siglo de las Luces, Patrimonio Nacional, 2010, pp. 66-68.

Morán Turina, Miguel, La memoria de las piedras : anticuarios, arqueólogos y coleccionistas de antigüedades en la España de los Austrias, Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica, 2010, pp. 51-107.

Marshall, D, Viviano Codazzi , Domenico Gargiulo 'Perspectival view of a Roman amphiteatre' En:, Italian masterpieces from Spain's royal court, Museo del Prado, National Gallery of Victoria Thames & Hudson, 2014, pp. 204.

Marshall, Christopher R., Baroque Naples and the industry of painting, Yale University Press,, 2016, pp. 228,237 f.173.

Other inventories +

Inv. Real Museo, 1857. Núm. 2703.
Idm. (Castiglioni) / Un circo de roma y gladiadores luchando con fieras. / Alto 7 pies, 10 pulg; ancho 12 pies, 6 pulg, 6 lin.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1854-1858. Núm. 1923.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1872-1907. Núm. 556.

Catálogo Museo del Prado, 1972. Núm. 2632.

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos II, Buen Retiro, 1701-1703. Núm. [117].
[117] Ottra [pintura] de quattro Uaras de largo y tres menos quarta de alto Con Vna prespectiua Original de Viuiano y las figuras de Anelo falconi Con el Anfiteatro de Roma y el espectaculo de las fieras Con los façinerosos Con marco dorado y tallado tasada en doscienttos Doblones ... 12000

Inv. Testamentaría Carlos III, Buen Retiro, 1794. Núm. 804.
Otra [pintura] de Biviano, y las figuras de Falconi, con una Perspectiva del Anfiteatro de Roma y expectaculo de las fieras con los facinerosos; de quatro varas de largo, y tres menos quarta de alto...3000

Exhibitions +

Italian Masterpieces from Spain's Royal Court. Museo Nacional del Prado
16.05.2014 - 31.08.2014

Carlos III y la Historia de la Arqueología Española: España, Italia y América
15.04.2010 - 11.07.2010

El palacio del Rey Planeta. Felipe IV y el Buen Retiro
06.07.2005 - 30.10.2005

Location +

Muguruza P1 Escalera 3 (On Display)

Update date: 18-06-2022 | Registry created on 28-04-2015

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