The idea of the Arc
                   Detail from the Arch of Costantino
                                         
  11" x 17" pencil sketch
                            (
Click here to see another version of Arch)
José Grave de Peralta
Toroazul Painting and Fine Arts
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The Arch of Constantine again challenges me to draw and think while I draw. . . .
On the day I studied this part above the middle ARC of the monument, on the south
side, away from the Colosseum, I had also been reading in my biography of this
Roman emperor (by Eberhard Horst), how certain events in Constantine's life are
more in the realm of legend and poetry than they are in that of historical fact.
According to legend, for instance, his  supposed conversion to Christianity resulted
from either a DREAM where he was told to wage battle against Maxentius carrying
the Christian cross as his battle insignia. Again, other narrations from late
antiquity tell us that Constantine received Christian BAPTISM as a young man
while he was afflicted with leprosy. The Pope himself baptized him -- and
thereupon Constantine was miraculously cured of his leprosy! From then on,
4th-century author Eusebio of Cesarea assures us --- Constantine was a devout man
and proceeded to make the many law decrees that eventually allowed people of the
same faith to worship without fear of persecution or death in the Roman world.

A very different version of events is found in the late 4th-century texts of another
historian, a certain Lattanzio, who was bishop in Constantinople when the
emperor breathed his last breath. Lattanzio claims that the dying monarch was
baptized in the Christian religion as an older man, on his death bed. Still other
historians disparaging the emperor's life and deeds, even question the veracity of
his conversion altogether!

What contains more truth, though, poetry or history? Is the kind of truth of each of
those two disciplines mutually exclusive?

Modern historian Eberhard Horst proposes that although the emperor's turn in
favor of Christianity may not be ascribable to one individual event, in the large
"arc" of his life, one may indeed see his change of heart.  

While I drew this quadrant of the Arch of Constantine, in the two images on this
page, I thought about these controversies. And I also found that in drawing
"freehand" the various large geometries of this area of the arch ---especially the arc
of the arch! -- I also had to pull back and almost "see it in my mind's eye" before
my hand indeed reached the entire scope of the arch.
See more Arch of
Constantine details!
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   
Page 10   
Prisoners and inscription on the Arch of Costantino
                                       
  11" x 17" pencil sketch
                          (
Click here to see another version of Arch)
It used to be that until a few years ago, architecture students across the world's
better universities learned the geometries of the ROMAN font or order of letters
(Times New Roman, nowadays) when they began to learn how to hold in their hand
the drawing pencil, and move its point across the space of the page. Of course this
was before computer programs made such hand movements obsolete, and turned the
act of drawing into an exercise on the digitized keyboard. Again, although such
freeehand drawing lessons were best carried out on the now old-fashioned drafting
table, using not only the T-square ruler but also the protractor and triangle, among
other tools of the old trade, they made students consider the intimate connection
not only between the construction of a letter and that of a building, but also
between these things and the eye-and-hand coordination required to draw lovely,
crisp pencil or pen lines, directly on paper. Without printers and scanners.

In this follow-up drawing exercise of the same central arch of the Constantinean
monument, I began the entire study with the large circles and squares and diagonal
lines that I saw under the architecture.  I then focused on the Roman lettering of the
Latin INSCRIPTION, describing how the Senate and people of Rome (=S.P.Q.R.)
had dedicated this triumphal arch to the great and august emperor, based on a
"divine instinct" and on the power of his mind, had defeated the TYTRANT and
faction that were oppressing the city.
Some hands-on knowledge of this type or font of lettering are necessary, of course,
in order for one's hand to almost glide on the paper surface, and to be able to place
each letter in its appropriate point on the epigraph space.

These drawings will serve as notes for me when I proceed next to do a more
full-color gouache painting of the Arch, using brushes and watercolor medium.

It was especially meaningful for me to draw the two freestanding sculptures of the
Dacian prisoners who are at the top of the two Corinthian columns: their elegance
and dignity, though they be slaves, moves me so.
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