The main subject of this micromosaic is the Flavian amphitheatre or Colosseum, as it has come to be known since medieval times due to its colossal dimensions. The largest surviving monument from Roman times, it was begun by Vespasian in 72 A.D. and was completed by Titus eight years later. The inauguration ceremony, during which hundreds of gladiators and thousands of animals died, apparently lasted 100 days. Over the centuries the structure fell into disrepair, after being struck by lightning and hit by earthquakes. From the 15th century the Colosseum was regularly pillaged and its travertine used to construct other buildings in Rome, such as Palazzo Venezia, the Cancelleria, Saint Peter's Basilica, and the Porto di Ripetta (in the case of the last of these, three whole arches were used after an earthquake of 1703 caused them to fall). It was not until Pope Benedict XIV declared the monument sacred in the mid-18th century, that the pillaging ceased and the Colosseum retained its appearance:
The dates of the various stages of restoration to the Colosseum are well-known; what is not certain is whether the Roman mosaic artists rigidly followed the prints we know they used as inspiration or whether they kept up to date with reality. One would suspect that as Romans have always been very proud and aware of their city and as they were working for tourists who would have just visited the sights, each new development would have been promptly chronicled.
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