Image of Gallery in South Kensington
On display at V&A South Kensington
Request to view at the Prints & Drawings Study Room, level E , Case MB1L, Shelf A, Box 105

Elevation and plan of the Arch of Septimius Severus, Rome

Drawing
mid 18th century (made)
Artist/Maker
Place Of Origin

This drawing shows an elevation of the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome with a plan beneath. Located at the foothills of the Capitoline Hill, the Arch of Septimius Severus was one of the best preserved structures in the Roman Forum and was the subject of numerous, 18th century vedute. The elevation is composed of two levels: a lower portion, composed of a high archway at the centre with smaller archways left and right, and a high attic above holding the arch’s dedicatory inscription. The lower portion of the arch is framed by tall columns on pedestals of the Composite order surmounted by an entablature which breaks out over the columns. The elevation depicts the arch in simplified form omitting the inscriptions on the attic and the bas-reliefs carved into the wall surfaces.

The drawing belongs to a set of 66 measured drawings of Italian Renaissance and Ancient Roman architecture which the V&A purchased from Edwin Parsons in 1886. The Parsons set may belong to a larger series of over 700 architectural drawings scattered in English and international collections formerly owned by the British Consul at Venice, Joseph Smith (1682-1770). A proponent of Palladian architecture, Smith began collecting measured drawings of classical and Renaissance architecture from the early 1740s. Today, most of this material exists in a series of bound volumes at the Royal Collection (where the Admiranda Artis Architecturae Varia is kept) and at the British Library (which holds the three-volume Admiranda Urbis Venetae), as well as in loose sheets scattered in collections across Europe and North America including the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Canadian Centre for Architecture.

The author of these drawings is unknown. However, their style and subject matter suggests the involvement of the Venetian architect, painter, engraver and theorist Antonio Visentini (1688-1782). A member of the Venetian Academy since its foundation in 1755, Visentini was affiliated with Smith and executed a vast number of architectural drawings for the British Consul as well as for a broader British collector base. Most of these drawings are scaled in English feet and consist of simplified plans and elevations of exemplary Italian architecture. Often produced as a series, the drawings were purchased by British Gentlemen to be included in their libraries and collections. The present drawing forms part of this material. The drawing is not signed by Visentini, but may have been produced by one of Visentini’s workshop members or pupils or by an unknown draughtsman working in the style of Visentini.


object details
Categories
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Pencil, pen and ink with grey wash on paper
Brief Description
Elevation and plan of the Arch of Septimius Severus, Rome, Italy, mid 18th century (made).
Physical Description
Elevation and plan of the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome, in pencil, pen and ink with grey wash, on paper. The drawing, in a portrait format, depicts the arch in simplified form omitting inscriptions and bas-reliefs. A linear scale in English feet is inscribed in the bottom centre of the sheet.
Dimensions
  • Length: 480mm (Note: Measurements taken at the opening of the mount)
  • Width: 362mm (Note: Measurements taken at the opening of the mount)
Marks and Inscriptions
  • Linear scale in English feet inscribed in pen in the bottom centre of the sheet.
  • ‘Arco di marco severo imperatore’, inscribed in pencil in the lower left in another hand.
Object history
The object was purchased from Edwin Parsons in 1886 as part of a collection of 66 drawings of Italian Renaissance and Ancient Roman architecture. Edwin Parsons was a dealer in books, prints and drawings. He was the founder of Edwin Parsons & Sons (1850-1950s) at 45 Brompton Road SW7. Parsons had a notable client base reportedly including the writer William Makepeace Thackeray, Sir John Pierpoint Morgan (of J.P. Morgan), and Napoleon III.
Production
This drawing is one of two drawings of Roman triumphal arches included in the E. Parsons series (see D.1462-1886).



The inscription in the lower left of the drawing - ‘arco di marco severo imperatore’ (arch of marcus severus emperor) - is incorrect.
Subjects depicted
Summary
This drawing shows an elevation of the Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome with a plan beneath. Located at the foothills of the Capitoline Hill, the Arch of Septimius Severus was one of the best preserved structures in the Roman Forum and was the subject of numerous, 18th century vedute. The elevation is composed of two levels: a lower portion, composed of a high archway at the centre with smaller archways left and right, and a high attic above holding the arch’s dedicatory inscription. The lower portion of the arch is framed by tall columns on pedestals of the Composite order surmounted by an entablature which breaks out over the columns. The elevation depicts the arch in simplified form omitting the inscriptions on the attic and the bas-reliefs carved into the wall surfaces.



The drawing belongs to a set of 66 measured drawings of Italian Renaissance and Ancient Roman architecture which the V&A purchased from Edwin Parsons in 1886. The Parsons set may belong to a larger series of over 700 architectural drawings scattered in English and international collections formerly owned by the British Consul at Venice, Joseph Smith (1682-1770). A proponent of Palladian architecture, Smith began collecting measured drawings of classical and Renaissance architecture from the early 1740s. Today, most of this material exists in a series of bound volumes at the Royal Collection (where the Admiranda Artis Architecturae Varia is kept) and at the British Library (which holds the three-volume Admiranda Urbis Venetae), as well as in loose sheets scattered in collections across Europe and North America including the Royal Institute of British Architects and the Canadian Centre for Architecture.



The author of these drawings is unknown. However, their style and subject matter suggests the involvement of the Venetian architect, painter, engraver and theorist Antonio Visentini (1688-1782). A member of the Venetian Academy since its foundation in 1755, Visentini was affiliated with Smith and executed a vast number of architectural drawings for the British Consul as well as for a broader British collector base. Most of these drawings are scaled in English feet and consist of simplified plans and elevations of exemplary Italian architecture. Often produced as a series, the drawings were purchased by British Gentlemen to be included in their libraries and collections. The present drawing forms part of this material. The drawing is not signed by Visentini, but may have been produced by one of Visentini’s workshop members or pupils or by an unknown draughtsman working in the style of Visentini.

Bibliographic References
  • McAndrew, John. Catalogue of the Drawings Collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects: Antonio Visentini. Farnsborough: Gregg, 1974. 130p., ill. ISBN 0576159999.
  • Modesti, Paola. I disegni architettonici di Antonio Visentini (1688-1782): un corpus autografo inedito e una produzione con un’etichetta da riconsiderare. In: Alessandro Bordini and Giovanna Curcio, eds. Porre un limite all’infinito errore.’ Studi di storia dell’architettura dedicati a Christof Thoenes. Rome: Campisano, 2014. pp. 191-208, ill. ISBN 8888168524.
  • Vivian, Francis. The Consul Smith Collection: masterpieces of Italian drawing from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle : Raphael to Canaletto. Munich: Hirmer, 1989. 200 p., ill. ISBN 3777452505.
Collection
Accession Number
D.1461-1886

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record createdJune 30, 2009
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