The artwork may be the presence that denies itself and at the same time it confirms the space in which it is placed, as per the installation of Daniel Buren. The refusal of the pictorial gesture in favor of the contingent and ephemeral, the repetition is the critical experience in front of the uniqueness of the artwork, the artwork site-specific becomes a form of shared creativity. Exploration, marking, illuminations, present time are the monumentally anti-pictorial vocabularies of the flags in the wind which color the sky and history or Rome. They bring back to the terrace of the Domus Severiana its original function: to be visible from all around the circle of mountains that surround the imaginary caldera in which the eternal city was seeded, a quick symbol to alert and confuse the panorama, a joyous tribute to art and to its humanity.
The topographic position of Daniel Buren’s artwork is the clue that gives access to the history of the Septizodium, a monumental ninfeus that has become invisible in its originary form and has survived the construction of other monumental buildings in Rome. The forma urbis romae(http://formaurbis.stanford.edu/docs/FURmap.html), a marble layout wanted by the emperor Septimius Severus, confirms that the Septizodium was found in the south-east corner of the Palatine hill. The very presence of the ninfeus in the forma urbis romae makes the terminus ante quem for the dating of the marble floor plan, possibly carved between 203 and 211 CE. According to the author of the Historia Augusta, the emperor Septimius Severus ordered the construction of the ninfeus to impress the political delegations and the travelers that arrived in Rome from the Via Appia, a sign of political power and dynastic legitimacy. Unfortunately between the 4th and 9th century CE the central section of the ninfeus collapses: the northern part is repurposed in a fortress in 975 CE. In 1084 CE, pope Gregory VII takes shelter in the fortress due to the assault of Henry IV to Rome. According to the testimonies, from 1257 CE even the southern part of the ninfeus is dismantled. The final hit arrives by the hand of the architect Domenico Fontana that, under the order of pope Sixtus V, demolishes all that was left. The beauty of the ninfeus lives in the tales and writings of the Renaissance authors that describe magnificent spiral columns and polychromatic stones. The influence of the oriental ninfeus traits confirm the cosmopolitan styles of the roman architecture and most probably the decorative program of the ninfeus also included portraits of the emperor and his family, divinities and mythological figures. The celebration of the monument was aimed at softening the hold on power with use of the force: the political propaganda of Septimius Severus focuses on the construction of an imperial role that is obtained through divine consensus and a validation of a vision that uses the monument to communicate stability and dynastic continuity.
Susann S. Lusnia, “Urban Planning and Sculptural Display in Severan Rome: Reconstructing the Septizodium and Its Role in Dynastic Politics”, American Journal of Archaeology 108.4, 2004, pp. 517-544.