Della Bella, The Arch of Constantine and the Colosseum
In looking at the Colosseum in this print by Stefano Della Bella, one might be struck by how the massive amphitheater is not the focal point of the piece. As the title L’Arc de Constantin would suggest, the nearby Arch of Constantine is the subject and focus of this print. Even though the arch is only partially within the frame of the print, it becomes a focal point through its extremely fine detail and dark inking. The intricacies of the reliefs, friezes, inscriptions, and sculptures, which are emphasized on the arch with rich inking, immediately draws in the viewer’s eye. By contrast, the Colosseum appears washed out, with only a few architectural elements visible. Aside from the faint outlines of the exterior arches, the Colosseum is a pale mass that seems almost to fade into the wide open sky in the top right of the print.
The focus on the arch is further emphasized through the exaggeration of scale in both monuments. Della Bella diminishes the Colosseum’s size by obscuring the bottom of the monument with foliage. Additionally, he purposefully chose a perspective of the amphitheater where the upper two levels of the walls have been destroyed, and thus is shorter than the rest of the walls. The reduction of the Colosseum’s scale functions to make the Arch of Constantine look much larger than it does in reality. The arch itself also exhibits exaggerated proportions, which Della Bella accomplishes by including two tiny human figures used to manipulate the scale of the monument. The Colosseum, through its positioning, scale, and light appearance seems to serve merely as background for the Arch of Constantine in Della Bella’s print.