Du Pérac’s Engravings of Rome. One of the Most Important Series of 16th c. Roman Views. “He can often be called upon for details That are preserved nowhere else”-Richardson

Du Pérac, Étienne (ca. 1525-1604)

I Vestigi dell'Antichità di Roma Raccolti et Ritratti in Perspettiva con Ogni Diligentia.

Rome: Appresso Gottifredo de Scaichi alla insegna dell’Aquila negra in Parione vicino la Chiesa di S. Thomaso, 1621


Oblong quarto: Sheet size: 41 x 26.2 cm. [1]-40 engraved plates, comprising: the engraved title page ([1]) and 39 views of monuments, numbered 2-40.

SIXTH STATE (RIBA) of these plates, first printed in 1575 (See below.)

The plates are bound in contemporary limp vellum, rebacked, soiled and with minor chips at the edges. This is a nice, complete copy of this suite of large engravings, with occasional marginal soiling and some foxing (rarely affecting the plate) and a few trivial stains.

The Royal Institutes of British Architects’ catalog, “Early printed books, 1478-1840”, describes this as the sixth state of these plates. Taken together, RIBA and Ashby present a clear picture of the printing history, which may be summarized as follows: The first edition appeared at Rome in the jubilee year 1575, with two states of the title page. They were next printed as part 1 of a 3-volume set of engravings for the jubilee of 1600; once again, only the title plate was modified. In this 1621 printing, the engraved title has (anachronistically) the original four-line dedication to Giacomo Buoncompagni but the imprint is that of Gottifredo de Scaichi, dated 1621. The second engraving, the view of the Forum Romanum, has also been reworked to include a medallion portrait of the German antiquarian Jacob Schletzer, resident at Rome. In the foreground of the plate, a carriage has replaced a pack of mules and Schletzer (with his trademark mustache) is shown giving a tour of the ruins to a group of tourists. All early printings are extremely rare.

Du Pérac’s plates depict the major ancient ruins of Rome in their 16th c. environment, with two to three lines of descriptive text in Italian below the images. Along with Dosio’s engravings of 1569, and Scamozzi’s of 1583, Du Pérac’s series if one of the three most important series of views of Roman monuments to appear in the 16th c.

“The plates are arranged in the order of the itinerary that it was customary for pilgrims of the time to follow. Du Pérac, an engraver, painter, and architect arrived in Rome about 1559 and started to work for Lafrery, contributing several prints to his ‘Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae.’ Independently, Du Pérac produced many prints of Roman ruins and, together with others, a valuable large map of the city, but his fame rests mostly on ‘I Vestigi dell’Antichità di Roma’… On his return to France, Du Pérac decorated the ‘cabinet of the bath’ at Fontainbleau. When his work was finished in 1598 he was employed as architect at the Tuileries until his death.”(Fowler)

Du Perac’s work “is a key source for the state of the Roman monuments as they existed in the sixteenth century… The etchings represent as no other work does the lively renewal and interest in the monuments of classical antiquity which reached its climax in sixteenth century Rome.” (Builders and Humanists: the Renaissance Popes as Patrons of the Arts, p. 308)

“He can often be called on for details that are preserved nowhere else.”(L. Richardson, New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, p. xxiv)

RIBA 3833, state 6; Ashby, “Le Diversi Edizioni dei ‘Vestigi dell’Antichità di Roma’ di Stefano Du Pérac” in La Bibliofilia, Vol. 16, No. 11-12, Feb-March 1915, p. 400-421. See: Fowler No. 111 (pp. 93-4); Borroni 7957; Olschki 16857-8; Millard IV, 35; Berlin 1847; Cicognara V, 3821; Brunet II, 888