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Architectural Art, Rome, Arch of Septimius Severus, Temple of Saturn, Italian Antique Painting, 19th Century


Italian School
Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome
Rome, 1st Half, 19th Century
Watercolor and ink painting on paper
12 x 17.25 inches, image
15 x 20.25 inches, overall

Painting on paper of the Arch of Septimius Severus on the Via Sacra in the Forum Romanum in Rome. It was likely intended as a souvenir for tourists on the Grand Tour. The main arch and a smaller one in the background are painted in great detail, with the inscription on the attic of the arch and the relief friezes on either side rendered clearly. In the background, the ruins of the Temple of Saturn is also shown in great detail. Pedestrians on the road and seated on the ruins in the foreground provide a sense of scale and city life. The subject of the painting is surrounded by a painted grey border, as originally rendered.

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The arch was built by the emperor Septimius Severus in 203 AD to commemorate the Roman victories over the Parthians, when Septimius Severus took the city of Ctesiphon and created the new Roman province of Mesopotamia between the years of 197 and 199 in what is today northeastern Iran. The marble and travertine structure is richly decorated with sculpture depicting scenes of battle, triumphal processions, and winged victory figures, as well as the seasons and representations of Mars, the Roman god of war, and other deities. The lettering on the attic is a dedication to Septimius Severus and his sons Caracalla and Geta who “restored the Republic and expanded the dominion of the Roman people.”

The Temple of Saturn was an ancient Roman temple to the god Saturn. Its ruins stand at the foot of the Capitoline Hill at the western end of the Roman Forum. The original dedication of the temple is traditionally dated to 497 BC, but ancient writers disagreed greatly about the history of this site. The ruins, comprising the front porch, have a partially preserved pediment inscribed: “Senatus Populusque Romanus incendio consumptum restituit,” meaning “The Senate and People of Rome restored [the temple] consumed by fire.” The pediment and eight surviving columns represent one of the iconic images of Rome’s ancient architectural heritage.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, an essential part of the education of a young “aristocratic gentleman” of England was to go on a “Grand Tour” of Europe, often Italy, to explore the great architecture, archeology, and culture of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Grand Tour members loved to participate in theatrical spectacles, and during this era, archaeological “discoveries” were sometimes staged for well-to-do visitors on the Grand Tour to give them a taste of the drama of making a find.

Inscription in pencil verso: Arch of Septimius Severus in Rome.

Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall light toning, handling, wear. Upper corners professionally reinforced verso.


Cartwright, Mark. “The Arch of Septimius Severus, Rome.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. 29 June 2013. (8 January 2018).

“Italy on the Grand Tour: Witness Ceremonies and Theater.” J. Paul Getty Trust. 2001. (14 June 2002).