The Colosseum II

During the French administration, the arena of the Colosseum was partly excavated, but after 1814, the excavated arena was again filled, because the drainage problems had not been solved. Externally, works continued with the intention of forming a tree-lined circular promenade and of building a retaining wall to consolidate the hillside. The ground-floor arches were freed of later structures and excavations were made to expose the original entrance level. Afterwards, security problems necessitated the closing of the arches with fences that were made of wood and painted a bronze colour. Even this was not sufficient to keep out visitors who wanted to follow Goethe's example and admire these romantic ruins under moonlight. The plentiful vegetation was one of the aspects that attracted romantic minds, as it had been 'changed by time into an amphitheatre of rocky hills overgrown by the wild olives, the myrtle, and the fig tree, and threaded by little paths, which wind among its ruined stairs and immeasurable galleries,'29 as Shelley described in a letter to Thomas Love Peacock in 1818. In 1815, Fea proposed removing the roots and consolidating the structure with iron straps. Further proposals were made in the 1820s, but more thorough removal of the plants was carried out only thirty years later, in the 1850s. This also caused criticism, because it was thought to affect the picturesque qualities of the ruined monument.

By the year 1820, the end of the Colosseum's outer range facing the Forum showed alarming signs of instability, and Valadier was instructed to build a timber shore to support it. This remained in place for three years until definitive consolidation work was finally started. Valadier's project involved rebuilding a part of the missing structure, thus forming a buttress. This would:

imitate the antique even in minor details with the exception that, while the original was all in travertine, the new work - for economic reasons - had travertine only half way up the first pillars, in the springing points of the arches, column bases, the capitals and in the cornices. These were necessary for reasons of stability. All the rest is made in brick imitating carefully the ancient mouldings, but being covered with a patina a fresco so that it looks as if it were travertine throughout.30

Not everybody agreed with this proposal (e.g., Carlo Fea), but it was finally accepted by the Academy in December 1823. Work began

Figure 4.9 The western section of the Colosseum was restored by G. Valadier in 1824—6, who aimed at a partial reconstitution of the architectural forms. The use of brick instead of stone was justified for economic reasons
Figure 4.10 In the restoration of the southern section of the Colosseum, around the middle of the nineteenth century, L. Canina built new parts in brick in order to distinguish them from the original stone structure

soon afterwards and was completed in 1826. Valadier argued that this method would facilitate the continuation and rebuilding of the entire Colosseum, if so desired. Further restorations were carried out in the 1840s and 1850s by Luigi Canina (1795-1856), a neoclassical architect who had a special interest in archaeology, publishing numerous volumes on ancient Roman architecture. The largest interventions by him were made in the southern section, where eight arches were rebuilt by 1844, and at the western entrance towards the Forum by 1852. In both cases, new constructions were made in yellow brick, using travertine only in some structurally important parts; the continuation of a wall was indicated with a rough surface in line with the earlier work of Valadier, but without the fresco imitation he had applied. A partial rebuilding in travertine of a small area was also made above the northern entrance in 1852.

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