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In AD 312, Constantine emerged victorious over his co-emperor and adversary, Maxentius, in the decisive Battle of the Milvian Bridge before the gates of Rome. With this event, a nocturnal vision of Constantine’s was fulfilled that had foretold he would be victorious under the sign of the Cross. Pieter Lastman depicts the crucial scene of the struggle in a great circular movement: Constantine, who had ordered the standards to be adorned with the Cross and an Eagle, plunges into battle from the picture’s left, helmeted with a crown and laurels. Maxentius, on horseback at the lower right of the painting, recoils in panic. Above him, the bridge has given way, causing his soldiers to plummet into the Tiber. Lastman has placed accents of color along the picture diagonal using the soldier with his back to us, the rider on the white horse and the fallen body clad in armor. Lastman introduced history painting in Dutch art as an independent genre. He was Rembrandt’s teacher and the leader of the so-called Pre-Rembrandtists, their history paintings being characterized by epic narrative and a precise adherence to the story rendered in rich detail.

Details

  • Title: The Battle of Constantine and Maxentius
  • Creator: Pieter Lastmann
  • Date Created: 1613
  • Physical Dimensions: 161.5 x 170.0 cm
  • Type: painting
  • Rights: Kunsthalle Bremen - Der Kunstverein in Bremen
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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