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triumphal arch


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Type of formal gateway set over an axis to commemorate a victory or individual. In Roman Antiquity there were two basic kinds: a tall rectangular structure with a single arch (e.g. Arch of Titus, Rome (c.ad 81); and an even grander building containing a large arch flanked by two smaller and lower arches (e.g. Arch of Septimius Severus, Rome (ad 203) ). In the history of architecture triumphal arches are important not only because they were precedents for many later such structures, but because they combined the arcuated and columnar and trabeated methods of construction. The Antique Roman type consisted of a large rectangular mass of masonry pierced by one or three parallel arches cut through the wider sides, with an engaged or applied Order, invariably set on pedestals, and a large Attic-storey over the entablature usually carrying a grandiose inscription. In the Titus arch the panel with inscription was set on the Attic over the single wide arch, but in the Septimius Severus arch the inscription stretched almost the full width of the Attic. Other arches of the three-arched type include the ‘Arch of Tiberius’, Orange, France (late C1 bc), and the Arch of Constantine, Rome (c. 312–15).

The triumphal arch was quoted by Alberti for the front of the Church of San Francesco, Rimini (from 1446), and for the inside and west front of the Church of Sant'Andrea, Mantua (designed 1470): it was used on countless Renaissance façades in various combinations and transformations as it offered almost limitless possibilities for enrichment. It was often used as a centrepiece (e.g. the south front of Kedleston, Derbys., by Robert Adam (1759–70), and the Avenue d'Antin entrance to the Grand Palais, Paris, by Deglane, Louvet, and Thomas (1900) ), but was also revived as a free-standing monument during the Neo-Classical period (e.g. Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, Paris, by Percier and Fontaine (1805–9) ). Some later triumphal arches were designed to have extra arches at 90° to the main axis (e.g. Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, Paris, by Chalgrin and others (1806–36), and the Thiepval Arch, Somme, by Lutyens (1920s).

J. Curl (2001);Mansuelli et al. (1979);Meeks (1966);M. Nilsson (1932);Jane Turner (1996);Watkin (1986);Westfehling (1977)

Plan and elevation of C18 triumphal arch(After Langley)

Subjects: Architecture — Art.


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