C.W. Eckersberg: A View through Three of the North-Western Arches of the Third Storey of the Colosseum in Rome
When Eckersberg was in Rome, he spent a lot of time drawing and painting vistas of the city’s antique ruins
A View through Three of the North-Western Arches of the Third Storey of the Colosseum in Rome in Brief
- When Eckersberg was in Rome from 1813-16 he spent a lot of time sketching and painting vistas of the city’s antique ruins. Particularly the huge amphitheatre Colosseum caught his visual interest
- The painting is constructed. No such view exists, but Eckersberg has combined three separate views into one motif
- After Eckersberg was made a professor at the Academy in 1818, his students got the opportunity to study his Roman pictures in his flat on Charlottenborg. The vistas became, in the view of many researchers of the period’s art, a touchstone for the Golden Age’s imagery
A harmonious whole
During his stay in Rome from 1813-16, Eckersberg painted a large number of paintings of the city’s antique ruins, especially the old amphitheatre Colosseum. He chose several sections of the building’s interior and from the third level he has painted a view of Rome through three arches. With great care he has observed each and every detail of the motif. In minute detail he has shown exactly what he saw. But the view as a whole is constructed, because he has used the arches to interlink three slightly separate views so they form a single composition. He has left out random sections and created a new harmonious whole.
As something totally new in Danish art, Eckersberg introduced open air painting while in Rome, and this painting was finished in situ in front of the motif. This gave him the opportunity to study the motif more directly and the depiction is remarkable for its great freshness. To render the details in the background, he has without a doubt used binoculars. With his deep roots in a perceived reality, Eckersberg laid down the foundation of Danish painting for the coming three-four decades and was as such one of the creators of the Danish Golden Age. After becoming a professor at the Academy in 1818, his students could see his paintings in his flat in Charlottenborg.
Excerpt from SMK Highlights, SMK 2005
These two sketches, where Eckersberg is planning his motif, can be found in The Royal Collection of Graphic Art.
Eckersberg A View through one Arch of the Colosseum in Rome, Rom, 1813, pencil, brown ink, brush and watercolours, 250 x 259 mm, KKS9472, SMK
Eckersberg A View through Three Arches of the Third Storey of the Colosseum in Rome, ca. 1815, pencil on paper, 318 x 490 mm, KKS2001-1, SMK
Playing with our senses
In an analysis of the painting, A View through Three of the North-Western Arches of the Third Storey of the Colosseum in Rome, the art historian Henrik Holm writes about Eckersberg’s method:
“The painting is playing with our senses. It is a painting which intimidates the overly naive observer. The painting claims that it’s not reality that controls the spectator. It’s not reality, but the painting that’s in control.”
- Idea and Reality > Work with the painting's perspective and framing of the subject was absolutely essential in Eckersberg
- C.W. Eckersberg 1783-1853 > See film and read about Eckersberg's life and work
- > Example of an older artist - Gijsbrechts - who also worked with illusions in his painting
- > [Translate to English:] Eckersbergs læremester Abildgaard brugte også antikke romerske bygninger som motiver i sit maleri
- Classicist history painting > Eckersberg was educated as a history painter