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The very rapid, "down and dirty" watercolor sketches (ABOVE) of two more of the tondos
from the time of Hadrian on the Arch of Constantine speak for themselves. The
calligraphic or shorthand nature of the color stains (the "manchas") speak a thousand
words. The execution of these more impulsive but nonetheless focused and accurate
drawings of the round reliefs demand from the draughtsman much concentration and
In addition, all the subjects that make up this series of pages in my web site, specifically
about Rome's Arch of Constantine, underline one of the great virtues of freehand drawing
historical monuments on-site in a city like Rome. They also convince me more and more
of the importance of history and precedent for the student of Rome or of art and
architecture in Rome. It is lamentable that so many study-abroad-programs in Rome fail
to ask students to read and analyze books like the Iliad and the Odyssey or the Aeneid
while they are here -- based on the specious argument that such assignments would fall
outside the basic curriculum's goals.
The subject of HEROISM in the teaching and learning of art and architecture is, of course,
one that is at the heart of this discussion -- and much of modern pedagogy frowns upon,
looks down on this dimension, arguing that heroism is literally -- and sadly -- a thing of
the past.
                    The Arch of Costantino --
Relief of the emperor as peacemaker of the City
watercolor  8" x 9"
The seminal phrase about "la Historia...madre de la verdad..."  from Cervantes' novel
DON QUIXOTE, quoted above on this page, takes on new meanings and invites one to
reflect on it, after doing this drawing exercise in Rome's Constantinian Arch. First of
all, this monumental Roman figure is so packed with historical references from other
periods, and in fact it is
itself a concrete piece of History ... with a capital H !   In
addition, it is interesting how the various
angles I had to take to draw this section of
the Arch are comparable to the various angles one must take when trying to read
something that purportedly reveals history. How objective can one be, really, to grasp
the "truth" of things? How can I be sure I read, from my "angles," what the author was
trying to say?  Moreover, is there one overarching History that should be made present
in the cities where we live -- in the form of such monuments? In this age of cybernetics
and digital record-keeping, but also of conceptual (non-figurative) art, these are great
The Arch of Constantine
Page four
José Grave de Peralta
Toroazul Painting and Fine Arts
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I began to paint the watercolor (above) by first composing the pencil sketch (see below) of
this very large high-relief sculpture on one of the inner walls of the central arch of the
Arch of Constantine.  Since a high fence surround keeps observers away from the Arch, it
was a challenge for me to draw this subject accurately! Not only does one see it at a slant
from outside the fence ( the inner wall of the arch is perpendicular to the viewer) but the
light of the sun may cast deep shadows on the sculpture, depending on the time of day,
enlarging some parts, obscuring others, etc. Also, since the sculpture is high relief, one
must view the work from both ends and comprehend the figure in question as best one
can, before one DRAWS what it is doing, what it says, as if viewed frontally.
It was very important for me to work in pencil on a separate piece of paper first, figuring
out what was where and why. And then, based on my findings, I had to "tweak" that
same pencil drawing to make it look as the relief would if viewed frontally, etc., with
more even illumination (supplied by one's intellect!).
This was not only one of the most challenging moments of the Arch so far,
"plasticamente" or visually, but it also invited me to reflect on the importance of history
in the City -- in terms of its buildings -- a topic that is dear to my friend, Kate Wheeler,
professor of architectural history at the University of Miami.
"... For historians ought to be precise, truthful, and quite
unprejudiced, and neither interest nor fear, nor hatred nor
affection ...  should cause them to swerve from the path of
truth, whose mother is history, the rival of time, the
depository of great actions .... "
          ----- Miguel de Cervantes: DON
QUIXOTE,                                                                                  Part one
                 The Arch of Costantino
...The boar hunt .... and votive thanks after the hunt
watercolor  8" x 9"
                  The Arch of Costantino --
Relief of the emperor as peacemaker of the City
  pencil on paper 5" x 7"
...or...CLICK on any of these
other pages of the series
about the
Arch Costantino in Rome
Page 1
Page 5
Page 6
Page 2
Page 7
Page 3
Page 8   
Page 4
Page 9