The event Colosseum. An Icon goes beyond recounting its history under the Caesars to retrace the site’s long and intense life over the centuries. From the bustling yet little-known commercial, residential and religious activities that characterized the Colosseum in the Middle Ages to the fascination exerted over the great architects and painters of the Renaissance.
“Colosseum. An Icon”
March 8 – July 1, 2017
Piazza del Colosseo, 1, Rome
Then from its transformation into a mythical place of martyrdom, beginning in the sixteenth century, the setting for the ritual of the Via Crucis, to its ascendancy from the eighteenth century on as the favored destination of the Grand Tour by poets, writers and painters. It was turned into a romantic place of the imagination, with dreamers in the moonlight and daring visitors dying of malaria transmitted by the mosquitoes that proliferated in its recesses. The late eighteenth century saw its archaeological rediscovery, excavation and restoration, leading to the construction of the great spurs that still shore up the structure.
With the advent of fascism, the Colosseum once again became, as in olden times, the ideological setting for displays of power. In the postwar period there grew up a new myth of the Colosseum: the Flavian Amphitheatre burst into the cinema with sword-and-sandal movies and the masterpieces of Italian neorealism, while Roman Pop Art consecrated it in the role of an icon, which it continues to perform seamlessly to this day. Even contemporary art continues to recount the history of the monument, an emblem of the city and of Italy, in paintings, installations, performances, videos and photographs by internationally renowned artists.
The Special Superintendency for the Colosseum and Rome’s central archaeological area, with Electa, is promoting this exhibition about the life of the monument enriched with the previously unpublished results of recent excavations and restoration work, confirming the evidence of archival documents about the medieval period: the Colosseum teemed with life, crypts, churches, shops and work- shops, the mansions of great aristocratic families and humble dwellings, which found and built new spaces amid its leafy arches and high vaults.
The exhibition is curated by Rossella Rea, Serena Romano and Riccardo Santangeli Valenzani. Exhibit design by Francesco Cellini and Maria Margarita Segarra Lagunes.
Twelve sections arranged in chronological order reveal the historical and cultural influence of the amphitheater in the most diverse fields: from painting to restora- tion, architecture urban planning, entertainment, literature, sociology and politics. Over time, the monument has become an outstanding symbol of eternity and power, civilization and culture. Still making international headlines today, the Colosseum lives in the collective imagination, not just of Italians but the world: its myth continues.
Some one hundred works are on display, including ancient artifacts, drawin- gs, paintings, reconstructions in models, photos and a movie projected on the vaults of the ambulatory, where masterpieces of world cinema alternate with rare images from the Istituto Luce – Cinecittà, edited by Giorgio Gosetti and Lorenza Micarelli – Casa del Cinema.
The exhibition is accompanied by The Colosseum Book and will be followed by the catalogue, published by Electa. The Colosseum Book includes a large and original collection of images and literary passages arranged by eloquent associa- tions, the presentation of numerous little-known and even unpublished materials in continuous and coherent rapport with the monument. The catalogue, with numerous scholarly contributions, traces the monument’s long and complex history: from the unpublished records of the recent excavations, the studies of the Christian Colos- seum and the monument as an icon of the Grand Tour, and ending with an anthropo- logical focus on the contemporary amphitheater, which is still the destination of the first trip to Italy for millions of tourists. The pages of this substantial volume reveal how, in the changing city, the Colosseum has always stood at the center of power, in an urban context marked by changes in society.