As legend has it, Romulus and Remus, twin sons of Mars, the god of war, founded Rome. Left to drown in a basket on the Tiber by a king of nearby Alba Longa and rescued by a she-wolf, the twins lived to defeat that king and found their own city on the river’s banks in 753 BC. After killing his brother, Romulus became the first king of Rome, which is named for him. Whether mythological or factual, fascination with Rome is as eternal as the city itself.
Antichità, Teatro, Magnificenza: Renaissance and Baroque Images of Rome, composed of maps and prints selected by curators Sarah McPhee, the Winship Distinguished Research Professor of Art and Architectural History at Emory University, and Margaret Shufeldt, former Carlos Museum curator of works on paper, clearly covers both the eras and the medium of printmaking. Over 130 works of art representing ancient Rome, many from the Carlos Museum’s permanent collection, were showcased in three major sections—Antichita, Teatro, and Magnificenza (Figure 1).
Antichita includes the Antiquae urbis imago, Pirro Ligorio’s 1561 reconstruction of the ancient city as the focal point of the antiquarian interests during the Italian Renaissance of the sixteenth century (Figure 1). Ligorio’s reconstruction is surrounded by works by Hieronymous Cock, several others from the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae (Mirror of the Magnificence of Rome), a Renaissance “coffee-table book” of prints of the sights of Rome produced by the French print seller and publisher Antonio Lafreri (1512–77), and images of the obelisks moved by Sixtus V.
The hand-engraved and etched coffee-table books made up about a third of the show and were to me an incredibly eye-opening look at seeing a book as a work of art in and of itself. The historic volumes were from rare and oftentimes oversized book collections, includingDe ludis circensibus by Onophrio Panvinio. Rather than the fast-paced information age we are accustomed to today, these images painstakingly show the importance that classical antiquity and the ancient world had during the Renaissance by poetically documenting history and recording culture.