- Museum number
Basso relief of the Triumph of Vespasian from the Arch of Titus in Rome, 1645; with a procession of figures carrying various objects including a menorah
- Production date
Height: 225 millimetres
Width: 415 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- Text from Nicholas Turner, 'Italian Drawings in the BM, Roman Baroque Drawings', London, 1999, cat.no.168:
Evelyn commissioned the drawing to prove how inaccurate and misleading a record of the actual state of the ancient relief was the etching after it by the French painter and engraver François Perrier (1590-1650), issued in the latter's then recently published and widely circulated 'Icones et segmenta illustrium e marmare tabularum ...', Rome and Paris, 1645 (an impression of the print is in the Department of Prints and Drawings, inv.no.1972-u.922(2)). The fidelity of copies after the Antique was an important issue of the day among cognoscenti and Evelyn must have been aware of the high standard set by the drawn copies in the collection of Cassiano dal Pozzo (1588-1657), whose palace he had visited on 21 November 1644 (Evelyn, ed. de Beer, 1955, vol. II, pp.277-8).
This sheet is the same as the one mentioned in Evelyn's Diary, which, he states, was commissioned by him from Carlo Maratti, in Rome, on 14 November 1644 (Evelyn, ed. de Beer, 1955, II, p. 247 and n. 3). But the Diary was written up later, and so incorporates subsequent observations. The inscription on the drawing strongly suggests that Evelyn commissioned the drawing only after the publication of Perrier in 1645 and that his text was added some years later. This is also supported by a similary worded passage from Evelyn's 'Numismata, A discourse of Medals, Ancient and Modern' of 1697, which, in the context of the drawing by Maratti, mentions Perrier as one of "those Sculptors ... who presume to supply what is quite worn out with their Conjectures" (p. 72).
The drawing shows a section of a carved relief from the Arch of Titus, representing Roman soldiers bearing sacred relics from the Temple at Jerusalem as part of the triumphal procession of Titus in AD 71 (Bober and Rubinstein, 1986, fig. 173). It is probably the best documented drawing commissioned from an Italian artist by an English patron in the seventeenth century.
In the entry in his diary written after his visit to the Forum, Evelyn describes the scene on the relief with Roman soldiers bearing into captivity what he and many others of his day believed to be the "Arke of the Covenant", and concludes: "This I must confesse did much confirme the Idea I before had, and therefore for the light it gave to the holy history, I caused my Paynter Carlo to copy it most exactly out." It is in fact the only drawing from Evelyn's collection described in the Diary to survive, although its originator, Maratti, is occasionally mentioned elsewhere. Thus on 7 November 1644 Evelyn commissioned a copy of the 'Sacrifice of Marcus Aurelius' (Evelyn, ed. de Beer, 1955, II, p. 223, nn.9 and 10). Although Evelyn employed Maratti, he did not know as much about the painter as he might, referring to him as "Neopolitano", when in fact he came from the Marche.
Antony Griffiths, who has worked on the Evelyn papers at Christ Church, Oxford, discovered some as yet unpublished letters that relate to Evelyn and Maratti. They show that Maratti (still very young and relatively unknown) was being patronised by a circle of English tourists (or exiles) in Rome, including Evelyn and his friend Thomas Henshaw. In July 1645 Henshaw wrote to Evelyn (then in Venice) that Maratti was falling far behind in the work of drawing after the Antique in Rome: "This one design I have, is excellently well done, and the least it has bin valued at by very good painters is a pistole, so that were not the times so scurvy, it were very well worth the pursuing of my intention, but come what will come I will have him doe nine or ten of them." Another letter at the end of that month reveals that Evelyn had also commissioned Maratti to design a coach for him, and continues:
"but because you think Carlo has much enhanced his price, I must tell you that for every piece of paper more I am to have of him I am to give two crowns apeece but this is my comfort that for the same thinges, and I thinke no better done, Mr Fortree is to give another a pistole - he has made already a very brave collection and if hee continue as hee hath begun, hee will carry with him the best thinges of that kind that ever any English man did from Rome."
The relief which the drawing partly copies is one of two on the interior side walls of the Arch of Titus and is composed of warriors in the dress of peace carrying booty plundered from the Temple at Jerusalem. To celebrate his victory over the Jews in AD 70, Titus, son of the emperor Vespasian, was granted a triumph, which took place in Rome the following year. The historian Flavius Josephus, who had accompanied Titus on his campaign, provided an account of the war as well as of the subsequent procession, in which the sacred Temple treasures, including the Menorah or seven-branched candelabrum, were carried in triumph ('Bellum Judaicum', vii, 149). Evelyn was mistaken in his belief that the treasures included the Ark of the Covenant (purportedly the object on which stands the seven-branched candelabrum), since the Ark was altogether different in appearance.
Maratti's copy is among the earliest documented drawings by the artist and was carried out some eight to nine years after the painter had first arrived in the Holy City. Like the studies at the Kunstmuseum, Düsseldorf (Harris and Schaar, 1967, pp. 86-7, nos 168-72), for the 'Virgin with the Archangel Michael, SS Peter, Paul, James and Philip' at Monterotondo, of 1645 (Mezzetti, 1955, p. 330, no. 78), it shows the strong influence of Andrea Sacchi (q.v.), in whose studio Maratti had trained up until the previous year. The British Museum sheet is more tightly drawn than the Düsseldorf studies, but is similar in style to another drawing after the Antique tentatively attributed to Maratti in the Academia de San Fernando, Madrid (inv.no.1096).
Literature: Evelyn, 1697, p. 72; Bober and Rubinstein, 1986, p. 204; Griffiths, 1992, pp.35-7
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1995-6 Nov-Apr, BM, Recent Acquisitions (no cat.)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- J. Evelyn, by descent until 1977, sale Christie's, 6.vii.1977/9; private collection, England.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number