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The Colosseum is one of the most impressive of all the great monuments of classical Rome. Constructed between AD 72 and 80, it was used for gladiatorial combats, games and other festivities. Because of its immense scale, it could only be shown in its entirety from a distant viewpoint. Some artists, like Wright, instead chose to depict a section of the arcade, stressing its monumentality. This dramatic composition is reminiscent of the powerful etchings made by the Italian printmaker and architect Piranesi, and may indeed have been inspired by his example.

April 2007