The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in a Museum

The Colossus of Constantine

Rome-Capitole-StatueConstantin

The Colossus of Constantine was one huge composite sculpture statue of the Roman emperor Constantine the Great (280–337) that once stood near the Forum Romanum in Rome. Large broken portions of the Colossus are now on display at the Capitoline Museums.

Constantine was the first Christian emperor of Rome and he had a profound effect on the development of the Roman and Byzantine world. After reunifying the empire he established a new dynasty and founded a new capital, named Constantinople after himself. Christianity played an important role in Constantine’s rule and his initiatives to reform and renewal the Roman Empire.

Colossus

The Colossus was dismantled and pillaged sometime in late Antiquity. The larger marble portions of the statue were rediscovered in 1486. The large head was carved in a typical Constantinian style of late Roman portrait statues, whereas the other body parts are naturalistic.

The fragments on display include: the right arm with elbow, the head, the right kneecap, a right hand, the left shin, the right foot, the left kneecap and the left foot. The statute appears to have been re-worked, in the later part of Constantine’s reign and a hand holding an imperial sceptre was replaced by a hand holding a Christian symbol. Constantine was the first Roman Emperor to adopt Christianity as the Empire’s official religion.

Musei Capitolini-statua di Costantino-piede-antmoose.jpg

These fragments were removed from the Basilica at the Roman Forum and placed in the nearby Palazzo by Michelangelo, who was working actively in the vicinity. As with the Laocoön statue, these fragments fed Michelangelo’s imagination and his work.

Hand Constantine Musei Capitolini MC786

Did the massive finger from the “Colossus of Constantine” play an inspirational role in the painting of God’s finger in the “Creation of Adam” fresco painted by Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel Ceiling at the Vatican?

The Creation Michelangelo

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Essential Facts:

  • Title:                     The Colossus of Constantine
  • Date:                     312–315 AD
  • Material:              White marble, brick, wood, gilded bronze
  • Museums:           Capitoline Museums

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Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.” Marcus Aurelius

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Photo Credit: I, Jean-Christophe BENOIST [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY 2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons 2) User: (WT-shared) Jtesla16 at wts wikivoyage [CC BY-SA 1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons 3) CC BY 2.0, Link 4) See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons 4) Michelangelo [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons