Théodore Rousseau (French, 1812-1867), A Swamp in the Landes, after 1884, oil on panel, 16 7/16 x 22 5/16 in. (41.7 x 56.7 cm)
fresco from Mileševa, a Serbian Orthodox monastery located near Prijepolje, in southwest Serbia.
Ferdinand Hodler, Die enttäuschten Seelen, 1892, Öl auf Leinwand, 120 x 299 cm
Adriaen of Cronenburgh, Portrait of Katheryn of Berain, “The Mother of Wales”, 1568
SPOLIA: “Romae veterem renovare decorum”
Fig. 1: Figure showing spoliatic reliefs on Arch of Constantine, from eras of Trajan, Hadrian, and Marcus Aurelius
Fig. 2: Temple of Portunus, 2nd century BCE, converted into the Church of S. Maria Egiziaca (Egypt) in 9th century AD, Rome, Italy
Fig. 3: Casa dei Crescenzi, Rome, Italy, 12th century
Fig. 4: Sarcophagus of St Helena or Constantine, reused by Pope Anastasius, 12th century, porphyry
"Spolia" ("spoils"), or "Rediviva Saxa" ("reborn stones") as they were called contemporaneously, are pieces of historical art and architecture reused in a contemporary work. In a medieval context, most spolia is antique, from Ancient Greece or, most often, Ancient Rome; however, it can also refer to objects from the Early Christian period.
A debate about the purpose and intentions of using spolia in the medieval era exists, and perhaps will never be solved. The question is; was spolia used for practical, ideological, or aesthetic reasons, or a combination, depending on context?
Was spolia used because it was associated with a desirable ‘Golden Age’, because of economic restrictions, because of a lack of skilled workers or inability to recreate Classical styles, because of its monetary prestige and value, or because, as Hansen puts it, spolia was a ‘way of fighting for the Christian cause by assimilating and transforming the power of the pagan enemy’?
Notes on artworks:
Fig. 3: Casa dei Crescenzi: This fortified tower is decorated with architectural fragments from Ancient Rome. In the 12th century, the Crescenzi family took control of the wharves of Ancient Rome, and this structure acted as protection for the wharves and the spots where tolls were collected. An inscription reads:
"…Romae veterem renovare decorum:" "to renew the ancient ornament of Rome," an example against Hansen’s theory above.
Coffered ceilings of the Sala dell’ Udienza in the Palazzo Vecchio. Florence.
Excerpt from Got in vier elementen sich erscheynet
Signet Ring, 13th century
Fig. 1: “Officium Stratoris” Scene (Donation of Constantine), Santi Quattro Coronati, Rome, Italy, 13th century, fresco
Fig. 2: Pisa Baptistery Pulpit, Nicola Pisano Workshop, Pisa, Italy, 13th century, stone and marble
Fig. 3: Presentation in the Temple Scene from Pisa Baptistery Pulpit, Nicola Pisano Workshop, 13th century, marble
The papacy in the 13th century was concerned with their power over Europe in relativity to that of Emperors and Dynasties, notably Frederick II. The emulation and use of Classical themes and imagery in papal religious art allowed for the “claim” over antiquity that the papacy asserted in contest to Frederick’s claim to be successor of the Roman Emperors of antiquity.
Notes on artworks:
Fig. 1: “Officium Stratoris” Scene (Donation of Constantine): The “Donation of Constantine” concept is one that argues that Rome and the Western Roman Empire belongs to the papacy. Constantine supposedly handed over this power to the Pope in this symbolic gesture.
Fig. 2, 3: Pisa Baptistery Pulpit and Scene: Nicola Pisano is often hailed as the first Italy Renaissance sculptor, though he worked in the 13th century. His legacy was one of the emulation of Classical themes, composition, and style into sculpture. As such, his work was valuable for the church at a time when the papacy craved Classical legitimation.
This combination of Biblical subject and Classical style is a marker of the new trend in “renascata” that was beginning in Europe and would eventually lead to the Renaissance.
FREDERICK II AND EMULATION
Fig. 1: Coin with Profile of Frederick II (right) compared with Coin of Charlemagne (left), 13th century, gold
Fig. 2: Capua Gate/Triumphal Arch of Capua (Engraving depicting: original lost), Capua, Italy, 13th century
Fig. 3: Castel del Monte, Andria, Italy, 13th century
Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, was based in Sicily. He was both HRE and King of Italy, Germany, Jerusalem and Burgundy before his death. His rule is notable for its tension with the papacy; he fought with both Gregory IX and his successor, Innocent IV. His rule is also noted for its great interest in science, arts, and literature; Frederick spoke six languages. His empire fell soon after his death.
Frederick used emulation of the Roman Empire and the Germanic dynasties to validate and reenforce his power.
Notes on artworks:
Fig. 2: Capua Gate/Triumphal Arch of Capua: The gate originally featured a sitting statue of Frederick in the guise of a Roman Emperor, probably Augustus.
Its inscription reads: “By the command of Caesar I am the guardian of the Kingdom.”
Fig. 3: Castel del Monte: octagonal in plan, thus comparable to Charlemagne’s Aachen.