2023 SCSC Annual Conference, Baltimore, MD
IAS-Sponsored Session

Antiquarianism and the Image of Rome III

Friday, October 27, 2023, 8:30-10:00 AM

Chair and Organizer: Jasmine R. Cloud, University of Central Missouri

Organizer: Catharine Wallace, West Chester University of Pennsylvania

The juxtaposition of modern Rome with the vestiges of its lengthy history still stirs the spirit of twenty first-century visitors, just as it did Petrarch, Poggio Bracciolini, and Raphael. Representing this lived experience occupied early modern writers and artists across media, from paintings to spatial reconstructions. Antiquarians frequently relied upon visualizations of the city, whether in drawn city views or printed maps. The artists who depicted Rome’s urban form looked to the work of antiquarians to bolster the authority of their representations. This artistic and intellectual culture resulted in many figures occupying both categories of study, including Baldassare Peruzzi, Sebastiano Serlio, and Pirro Ligorio. This trio of sessions will examine images of Rome, in ink, print, and marble, with a special consideration of their role in antiquarianism: as purveyors of all’antica knowledge, in their roles establishing a fixed image of antiquarian discovery, and as collectibles for those seeking their own memento of the Eternal City’s long history. For scholars today, exploration of these images through digital technologies continues the work of our early modern protagonists by visualizing the city and providing twenty-first-century access to the complexity of Rome’s long history. The papers in these sessions will consider the production of such images, connections with classical texts, antiquarian values, and the multiplicity of Rome’s pasts. Presenting a variety of methodologies, including three digital projects related to sixteenth- and seventeenth-century views of Rome, these sessions will illustrate the complexity of reviving and re-inventing the past in the construction of an early modern Roman identity.


Catharine Wallace, West Chester University of Pennsylvania
“Egypt in the Eternal City: Pirro Ligorio’s Antiquarian Visions of Rome”

By examining everything from ancient texts to the remnants of inscriptions, architectural fragments, pipes, coins, and gems, Pirro Ligorio’s (c. 1510–1583) knowledge of Rome’s antiquity and the city’s material remains was truly comprehensive. In addition to compiling his expertise into the encyclopedic Libro delle antichitá, the artist-antiquarian visually reconstructed ancient Rome in drawings, printed maps, and designed all’antica environments—conjuring the physical and historical space of the city before the eyes of the sixteenth-century viewer. While Ligorio’s antiquarian images of Rome have been the focus of much scholarly work, many questions remain. By necessity, artistic portrayals of the city were carefully curated distillations of only its most quintessential characteristics. Why then did Ligorio frequently highlight (and even exaggerate) the presence of ancient Egyptian imagery, such as the obelisk and pyramid, in his visions of Rome? Through an exploration of Ligorio’s manuscript writings, his 1561 map of Rome, and his designs for the gardens of Villa d’Este in Tivoli, this paper will illuminate the artist-antiquarian’s use of Egyptian monuments to both signify Roman space and promote Rome as a syncretic and powerful cittá eterna.

Jessica Maier, Mount Holyoke College
“Tempesta’s Rome Recut: Renewing an Urban Icon”

In 1662, Roman editore Giovanni Giacomo de’ Rossi published an updated version of Antonio Tempesta’s famous 1593 bird’s-eye view of Rome. In many ways, this move was standard practice: important images of the city were commonly copied or reprinted, and Tempesta’s original had been reissued multiple times. De’ Rossi’s version of 1662 was more than an incrementally revised restrike, however. In the title, he claimed it to show Tempesta’s prototype “recut, embellished, and enlarged” (rintagliato, abbellito ed accresciutto), and for once this language seems to reflect more than a rhetorical flourish. This talk will show, rather, that it was a meaningful reflection of process—one that leads, in turn, to many new questions. What was the lasting value of Tempesta’s view: what made it worth painstakingly refashioning for the present? How was its perceived value affected by the process of revision itself? Where did resemblance leave off and rupture begin? This essay seeks answers to these questions in interfamilial feuds and in the cut-throat world of Roman publishers as they sought novel ways to hitch their own reputations to that of their city. Among other challenges, they had to balance Rome’s illustrious antiquity with its shape-shifting modernity, and to attract an increasingly international market while catering to their local patrons and protectors. Ultimately, the significance of Tempesta’s image transcends any original author and moment. Its complex afterlife suggests a web of competing interests, as well as a cycle of decline and renewal, very much like that of Rome itself.

Sarah McPhee, Emory University
“Mapping Papal Rome: From Two to Three Dimensions”

In the course of his brief career, the seventeenth-century etcher Giovanni Battista Falda (1643-1678) produced two maps and 300 urban views of Rome. In aggregate, his work amounts to the closest record we have of a comprehensive vision of the early modern city. Trained in the orbit of antiquarians such as Ottavio Falconieri and Camillo Massimo, Falda aimed to record structure and distill information with something approaching archaeological precision. The clean tectonic lines of Falda’s maps and prints invite the viewer to experience the city in the round. This paper will focus on the great bird’s-eye view map of papal Rome produced by Falda in 1676 and a cognate project, in which the same map is dismembered and reconstituted within a virtual world. Early modern architectural etching and engravings are translated and redeployed through twenty-first century modeling and texturing to create a correctly scaled, topographically accurate, walkable reconstruction of the Baroque city. Falda’s publisher, Giovanni Giacomo De Rossi, beckoned viewers of Falda’s great map to “stroll the streets with your eyes.” With the technology of the virtual world, we can walk the Strada di Parione, following the route of the papal possesso, scale the Campidoglio, and descend the steps flanking the Tabularium to explore the ancient Forum as it stood around 1676.

Back to Conference

Officers & Contacts