Item #4681 IANI. QVADRIFRONTIS TEMPLVM ROMAE IN FORO BOARIO. Tommaso Barlacchi, publisher, active.


Rome: Tommaso Barlacchi, 1550.

Price: $2,800.00

Single sheet engraving. 487 x 385 mm. Image area: 454 x 370 mm.


A fine, even impression with light surface soiling, a very faint trace of a vertical crease, and several very discreet paper repairs. Re-margined, almost imperceptibly, on one side, just shaving the plate mark. Signed and dated in the plate by the publisher: “THOMA BARLACHI EXCVDEBAT M.D.L”. Watermark: crossbow and circle.

Tommaso Barlacchi worked as a publisher and engraver at Rome from sometime after the Sack of 1527 until 1550. He acquired the surviving matrices of Marcantonio Raimondi, whose atelier had been destroyed in the Sack, and produced new images in collaboration with, among others, the master engravers Enea Vico and Nicolas Béatrizet.

During the 1540s Barlacchi was in direct competition with both Antonio Salamanca and Antonio Lafréry. In 1550, when Barlacchi issued this print, Lafréry and Salamanca had yet to form their powerful partnership. The plate was later (1564) copied, in reduced form, by Lafréry, who also absorbed a number of Barlacchi’s plates.

This image displays a curious blend of modes of representation, as if the anonymous artist were wrestling with how best to depict this monument. The arch proper is shown in isolation, removed from its urban environment, its marble revetment and ornamental carving restored, the pillars exposed to their base (which was in reality still buried). Yet the upper story is shown in its ruined form, recalling the other common mode of representation, the veduta, in which the monuments were shown as they appeared in the 16th c.

“The Arch of Janus in the Forum Boarium is the only surviving quadrifrons arch in Rome.   This arch with four facades marked an important meeting place and crossroads in antiquity, where a busy port on the Tiber River met the slope of the Palatine Hill and led into the heart of the ancient city. Contrary to popular belief, the arch was not dedicated to the Roman god Janus, but it was named after the Latin word ianua, or door, which was itself derived from the name of the double-headed god of beginnings and transitions.”(World Monuments Fund)

“Ianus Quadrifrons is the name commonly given to a four-sided arch in the Forum Boarium so placed that two of the four piers of the arch are on the right bank of the Cloaca, the other two on the left, so that the stream flowed beneath it. It is entirely sheathed in white marble, and above a high socle each pier is adorned on each exterior face with six rounded and round-headed niches, the half-domes decorated with fluted shells, in two zones of three each, forty-eight in all. These have been presumed to be for statues, but their small size in proportion to the arch as a whole makes this doubtful. Sixteen of the niches on the two minor faces are undeveloped, simply decorative panels, only the central ones being developed as full niches. The piers are connected by quadripartite vaulting, the interior being relatively plain but continuing the lines of articulation of the exterior. The arches are 10.60 m high, 5.70 m wide, and had sculptured keystones, Minerva on the north and Roma on the east being still discernible. The block of the arch as a whole is 12 m square and 16 high, but the attic is missing. Parts removed in 1830 as medieval may actually have belonged to the attic, but there is no convincing evidence for the pyramid with which Hülsen would finish it (see Töbelmann, Römische Gebälke 1.131-35)

“The monument is of relatively late date, storage jars being used to lighten the mass of the masonry, and is commonly identified as the Arcus Divi Constantini listed by the Notitia in Regio XI. It does not appear to have been a triumphal arch. Because it spans the Cloaca, it can be taken as a rebuilding of an older ianus, perhaps the Ianus Primus of CIL 6.12816, on monumental scale. There is no clear place for a cult statue here, but the original function of a ianus would have been to carry the road from the Clivus Victoriae and Nova Via, united just above this point, across the Cloaca. There may be an allusion to a precursor of this ianus in Horace, Epist. 1.20.1: ‘Vortumnum Ianumque, liber spectare videris.’”(Richardson p. 208)

Tommaso Barlacchi & The Revival of Marcantonio Raimondi’s Atelier:

Barlacchi Played an important role in the revival of the print trade after the disastrous Sack of Rome in 1527, essentially reconstituting the firm of the great Renaissance artist Marcantonio Raimondi, whose printing office had been destroyed by the invaders during the Sack. Barlacchi salvaged what was left of Raimondi’s plates, restoring or copying those that were damaged, and recalled Raimondi’s pupils, engravers, and pressmen, who had scattered after the disaster.

Marigliani, Lo splendore di Roma (2016), III.3 (p. 133); Witcombe, Print Publishing in Sixteenth-Century Rome (2008), pp. 202, 105; For Lafrery’s copy, see Hülsen, Speculum (1921), p.143 n. 4 and Marigliani III.4