About the book (from the publisher):
This luxuriously oversized book uses Rome’s artistic treasures to chronicle the eventful history of the city itself. We see the customs and beliefs of the ancient Romans through their own frescoes and mosaics, and their greatest – and most terrible – deeds depicted by later masters such as Ingres and David.
All roads lead to Rome: the Eternal City, seat of the Western world’s greatest empire and of the Catholic Church. Long after its empire declined, Rome remained a living monument to artistic and imperial greatness, a city where ancient and modern flourished side by side. The world’s foremost artists have flocked there, drawn by the city’s history and mythology as much as by its piazzas, streets, ruins and monuments.
The History of Rome in Painting shows the evolution of one of the world’s greatest cities, through nearly two millennia of its art. It opens with the mosaics and frescoes of the first century AD, and closes with Alfredo Ambrosi’s portrait of Mussolini and Picasso’s Rape of the Sabine Women. It is a magnificent book both in scope and scale: measuring 17″x 11″, with over 300 colour illustrations including four spectacular gatefolds. Titian’s portrait of Pope Paul III with his nephews; Velásquez’s View of the Garden of the Medici Villas; Poussin’s Roman Landscape with St Matthew and the Angel; these are just some of the masterpieces Rome has inspired.
Rome’s history began modestly around the ninth century BC, as a village of thatched huts on the Palatine Hill. By the first century BC, it controlled most of the known world. The early days of the Roman republic are captured here in superbly well-preserved mosaics and frescoes, showing both mythical subjects and everyday domestic scenes, chariot races and dances. Rome’s fortunes fell with the Empire, but with the rediscovery of classical learning, and the return of the Papacy, the city was reborn. Artists – first Italian, and later from all over Europe – came to serve the Popes and to study the art of those who came before them. The 15th and 16th centuries saw one of the most magnificent flowerings of painting, sculpture and architecture in European history, as Rome became a cultural as well as a religious capital.
A treasure-trove of works by the world’s greatest artists
The pages of this book are graced by some of the greatest names in art: Fillippo Lippi, the Limbourg brothers, Botticelli, Cimabue, Guerchino, Veronese, Rubens, Velásquez, Delacroix, Sargent and Picasso. Expert essays explain the stories behind the paintings. Raphael’s Fire in the Borgo, with its allusion to the Trojan war, shows how in Rome ‘antiquity lives in the present; antiquity is the present’. Michelangelo’s frescoes for the Sistine Chapel could be seen as a triumphal assertion of the values of the Counter-Reformation; they also bear witness to the internal crisis of the Reformation. When the Milanese artist Caravaggio arrived in the papal city, the reality of everyday Roman life erupted into religious painting – often to scandalous effect, as when he depicted the Virgin Mary as a Roman beggar.
Rome never again enjoyed the power and pre-eminence that it held during the 16th century, but it remained an essential stop on the Grand Tour, and a Mecca for artists from Joshua Reynolds to John Singer Sargent. As well as depicting the broken columns of the Forum and the Coliseum, Jacques-Louis David portrayed numerous scenes from Rome’s classical history including The Oath of the Horatii. When Jean-Dominique Ingres painted a portrait of his colleague François Marius Granet in front of the Quirinial, he was providing visual evidence that Granet had made the most important artistic pilgrimage possible. With the reunification of Italy in the 1870s, Rome was once again a capital, painted by Italians like Luigi Bazzani as well as by foreign visitors like William Turner and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot. Works by artists such as Gino Severini and Giacomo Balla adorn the final pages of this imposing book.