How I found Domitian and the Falvian Palace

First by little blurb from my artist statement: The arch in my work is based on the semi-domes that proliferate the Flavian Palace on the Palatine Hill. These semi-domes were added by Rabirius, the architect for the Emperor Domitian, to project divinity onto the ruler as well as sealing off the space behind him. Here the arched space functioned as a speculative insular and isolating form and was meant to project the ruler’s future divinity. Arches, vaults and domes are in conflict with the folded forms as they represent systems that the forms navigate.

I came across this palace while looking into arches as a form. I became interested in the arch form oddly enough by looking at Florine Stettheimer paintings and her renditions of curtains. It was a coincidence that I came across them on a trip to new York at the Met in the fall of 2016 and they sort of stayed with me. Once my paintings moved up in scale and they became landscape like, the curtains of Stettheimer’s paintings became important to my work. They acted like a screen, a protective covering, a stage facade, a barrier between the view and the viewer and it points to the edge of the canvas.

I began to research the arch in general and came across this lecture by Yale University Professor Diana E. E. Kleiner, who is the Dunham Professor of History of Art and Classics at Yale University, Founding Project Director and Principal Investigator of Open Yale Courses, and former Deputy Provost at Yale, and she is amazing! The lecture series is here.  


From this lecture I learned of the Flavian Palace aka Domus Flavia the sits on the Palatine hill in Rome. In her lectures Kleiner explained the operation of the palace semi-domes as forms that were meant to project Domitian's divinity and power. The semi-domes of the Falvian palace became to root of this forms introduction into my work as a stand in for power, protection, patriarchal systems that warp both femininity and masculinity and as forms to project one's will into the future.


Below are a few fascinating excerpts from The Architecture of the Roman Empire:

An Introductory, Study by William Lloyd MacDonald.  


" ...his policies, though despotic, had a far reaching influence upon architecture, The imperator, once an honored general, was now possessor of ultimate authority, using the ancient title as praenomen. His rank and presumably sacrosanct person required as architecture that broadcast impressions of the majesty he wished to impose upon the world. Splendor, great size, and luxury, though important, were insufficient Novelty alone would not do. It was necessary that the imperial architecture lead, as the imperator presumably lead, that allow him to be seen and thought of in dwelling both unique and pertinent, The was the challenge that Rabirius met.”1

“Within the palace the visual instruments of the new style served those (Domitian’s) claims. Curving surfaces were the key to the matter. The vaulted imitations of the heavenly arc invited­ unbroken continuity of imperial authority was implied, for the embracing surface, free from angles and curving around his person at a consistent distance, suggested his surveillance of the realm from its center.” Apses also firmly directed attention to the seat of power, an effect quickened by the iterated meter of the columns and spur walls that lined the sides of the great halls of state and closed toward the presence framed beneath an arch in the distance. An Apsidal vault over the imperial figure completed this geometry of sovereignty"

I mean, there is so much here for me to use! 

Thinking about these arches, semi-domes and alcoves of the Flavian Palace as forms of Projection for my own uses.