The remains of the Basilica of Maxentius are one of the most spectacular and grandiose areas still standing in the Roman Forum which occupies the historic heart of the current capital from Italy. Well, inside this great administrative building, between two large columns located in an apse of the building, EmperorConstantine the Great(280 – 337) had a huge sculpture placed on the honor of him. Constantine had precisely defeated his predecessor,Maxentius,in the Battle of Milvian Bridge, and placing this colossal figure on this building confirmed his triumph.
Colossus of Constantine
Some even say that the sculpture was originally dedicated to Maxentius, andConstantinehad details changed to bear his name
In one way or another, we are talking about a work of enormous dimensions. The name of Colossus of Constantine is not trivial, since the remains that are preserved today in the courtyard of the Palace of the Conservatives, inside the Capitoline Museums of Rome, it can be assured that the sculpture was about 12 meters high, and in it the emperor appeared seated, and raising a scepter or a spear with his right hand.
These measurements are easy to extrapolate by taking the proportion with respect to the preserved remains. For example, the head measures 2.6 m. tall, theright knee almost 80 cm, the same as the calf of the left leg. Or the feet are around 2 meters long. There are more remains of a hand, an arm, a shoulder…
Colossus of Constantine – Left Foot
All of this in marble, although the work was done using the acrolite technique. That is, what were bare body parts, uncovered, were made of white marble. While there was a wooden and brick structure for other areas covered by a robe, which was simulated with bronze modeling and even colored marble notes.
The truth is that the remains on display today were found in 1486 in the aforementioned Basilica of Magentius. And by then it was already in parts and there was no trace of the bronze that had been stolen and reused.
The fact is that this work exemplifies a specific moment of imperial Roman art, which somehow had already lost its humanism. Not only in terms of the size of the figure. If not also regarding realism in the portrait. The face is not a portrait of the emperor, but that of a hieratic being, who pretends to relate to something divine and venerable. Although, currently, since the set is not there, it only impresses by the disproportionate scale of its features.