The Colosseum

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Arches on arches! as it were that Rome,
Collecting the chief trophies of her line,
Would build up all her triumphs in one dome,
Her Coliseum stands; the moonbeams shine
As 'twere its natural torches, for divine
Should be the light which streams here, to illume
This long-explored but still exhaustless mine

Of contemplation; and the azure gloom
Of an Italian night, where the deep skies assume
Hues which have words, and speak to ye of heaven,
Floats o'er this vast and wondrous monument,
And shadows forth its glory.

—Lord Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1818)

Compared to daguerreotypes, with their sharp detail, salt prints made from early calotype negatives have a softer, painterly appearance. As an accomplished watercolorist, Jones no doubt appreciated this quality. The penumbra of Jones’s print, with its nightlike sky, creates a meditative mood reinforced by the profiled pose of the solitary figure. The appearance of the Colosseum in Jones’s photograph differs from what visitors see today—the substructures of the arena are now exposed, and the flora crowning the arcades has been stripped away. The cross was erected in 1750 to commemorate the Colosseum as a site of Christian martyrdom.

Calvert Richard Jones, The Interior of the Colosseum, 1846. Collection W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg. Photography by Graham S. Haber

Location photography by John Pinto