Hans Ditlev Christian Martens (1795-1864) ~ “Veduta dell’arco di Costantino a Roma”

Arco di Costantino web

Ditlev Martens (1795-1864)
Veduta dell’arco di Costantino a Roma (View of the Arch of Constantine, Rome)
Drawing in pencil and watercolour on paper
1826 – 1830 ca.
44 x 55 cm – Frame: 70 x 81 cm.
Signed with initials (lower left) “D. M.

Hans Ditlev Christian Martens (July 26, 1795 in Kiel – 1864 ibid) was a Danish-German painter.
Martens was trained as a painter in Kiel, he then went in 1817 to the Academy of Copenhagen as a student of CW Eckersberg, and then received further schooling from Karl Friedrich Schinkel in Berlin in 1825. From Frederik VI, he received a monthly subsidy of 20 Thalers from 1820 to 1824, and public subsidies in the years 1825, 1828, 1832 and from the king private funding of 240 Thalers a year from 1825 to 1827. Ditlev Martens arrived December 31 of 1825 to Rome without funds. Here he sought immediately the help of Bertel Thorvaldsen, who took care of him. Shortly after he painted a sketch of the interior of Thorvaldsen’s studio, a work that documented the Papal visit to Thorvaldsen. He drew and painted diligently, especially interiors from Rome’s churches and monasteries, but also views that were inspired CW Eckersberg’s experience in Rome. Thorvaldsen bought several of these works to support him.
During his stay in Hamburg from 1837 to 1842 Martens received many commissions and became a wealthy man. His home was destroyed during the town fire in 1842, and shortly after he left for Copenhagen. Here he was in touch with the portrait painter N. P. Holbech, who he knew from Rome. Martens was for some years engaged in decorating Holbech’s house in Kronprinsessegade.
His production of the year in Copenhagen is sparse. He was considered an eccentric and was popularly known “the mad painter”. In Copenhagen he worked in various projects, including the city’s expansion, and beautification and completion of the Frederik’s Church (known as The Marble Church) . He left town in poverty and died in his hometown of Kiel in 1864. Martens’ specialty was architecture painting; his views are characterized by a precise rendering of perspective that often dominates the picturesque qualities.

-Olsen H. P. 1985, Roma com’era nei dipinti degli artisti danesi dell’Ottocento, Rome, Newton Compton Editori, 1985, p. 204

Arch of Constantine

Dedicated by the Senate in AD 315, the tenth anniversary (decennalia) of the emperor’s reign, the Arch of Constantine (Arcus Constantini) commemorates the victory of Constantine over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in AD 312 for sole control of the Roman empire in the west. The inscription, which is repeated on both sides of the attic, alludes to the “divine inspiration” about which Eusebius writes in his Life of Constantine (I.28), although which divinity had helped Constantine deliberately is not specified. The arch is the last and largest in Rome, and the most flamboyant in its use of coloured stone.
Many of the decorative sculptures on the Arch of Constantine have been incorporated from other monuments. The eight medallions or roundels, for instance, set in pairs above the side arches, alternately representing scenes of hunting and sacrifice, are from the time of Hadrian nearly two hundred years earlier. The eight rectangular reliefs in the attic come from an arch erected in AD 176 to celebrate the victories of Marcus Aurelius. Three other panels from the same series are in the Palazzo dei Conservatori. Standing on the cornice above the columns, the eight Dacian captives, which have been partially restored, come from the Forum of Trajan, as do the two large panel reliefs at one end of the arch and in the reveals of the central arch, which originally formed part of a long frieze. It is possible, too, that the original emperor was Domitian, who damnatio memoriae would have made his monuments available for reuse.
On four of the roundels, the head of the principle figure has been resculpted to represent Constantine, which sometimes has a halo (nimbus) around it, signifying the sacred character of the emperor, an iconography that was adopted by Christians to signify divinity. His head also has been substituted on the reliefs of Marcus Aurelius. Recutting the heads and incorporating the sculptural adornments of the great second century emperors into his own arch also served to publicly affirm Constantine as their embodiment and legitimate successor.


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