Magnificent Views of Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque Rome. A Masterpiece By Piranesi’s Collaborator & Rival

Barbault, Jean (1718-1762); Montagù, Domenico (d. 1767)

Les Plus Beaux Édifices De Rome Moderne, Ou Recueíl Des Plus Belles Vües Des Principales Églises, Places, Palais, Fontaines &c. Qui Sont Dans Rome Dessinées Par Jean Barbault Peintre, Ancien Pensionnaire Du Roy a Rome, Et Gravées en XLIV. Grandes Planches et Plusieurs Vignettes; Par D’Habiles Maitres. Avec La Description Historique De Chaque Edifice.

Rome: Chez Bouchard et Gravier Libraires françois rüe du Cours près l’Eglise de S. Marcel, de l 1763


Large Folio: 53.5 x 38 cm. [vi], 72 pp. Collation: [π]3, A-Z1, Aa-.Nn1. With 44 double-paged plates. Complete.


This is a very fine, broad-margined copy bound in 19th c. half vellum (worn, small splits at head and foot of spine and another along the spine. The text and plates are in excellent condition with only a few instances of light marginal foxing or the occasional light blemish. One plate loose. Magnificently illustrated with 44 double-page etched and engraved plates of Renaissance and Baroque Roman architecture, with captions in Italian and French. All plates are signed by Barbault as draftsman (“Barbault del[ineavit”) and most signed by Domenico Montagù (“D. Montegu Sculp[sit]”), Freicenet, or Giraud as engraver. With an etched and engraved title vignette; 21 small etched and engraved plates as tailpieces. The plates are on guards so that they lie flat when opened, rather than running into the gutter.

The French artist Jean Barbault arrived in Rome in 1747 and quickly became involved with the circle of Piranesi, with whom he worked on the “Varie Vedute di Roma Antica e Moderna” and for whose “Antichità Romane” he contributed figures for 14 plates “thus becoming one of the few official collaborators” of Piranesi. Barbault’s own views of the ancient city appeared 7 years after his collaboration with Piranesi; the present work on “Rome Moderne” appeared two years later, the year that Barbault died. The success of Barbault’s views was “largely due to the great fashion for large Roman views created by Piranesi’s publications. The overlapping questions of plagiarism and influence are quite vivid, since not only were Piranesi and Barbault both collaborators and rivals (Barbault died too young to present a real threat), but, more important, in Giovanni Bouchard they briefly shared a publisher as well. It has been persuasively suggested (Rosenberg 1976) that Bouchard promoted Barbault as a rival after Piranesi left to set up his own publishing enterprise and that Barbault became Piranesi’s most feared pasticheur. “The plates of ‘Les Plus Beaux Édifices De Rome Moderne’ were made by Domenico Montagù and an entire team of engravers. The work is organized by building type: basilicas (starting with Saint Peter’s, then San Giovanni in Laterano); churches of the large orders (Gesù, Sant’Andrea della Valle); the two circular religious buildings inherited from antiquity (Santa Costanza and the Pantheon); an even longer section on palaces, fountains, bridges; and a long section on squares. In the views of ‘modern’ Rome, Barbault is, inevitably, close to Piranesi’s contemporary views. The plates are accompanied by extensive descriptive entries in French. These offer a brief history of each building, including discussion of the founder, the construction sequence, and the artists involved in making the decorations. The text, though separate from the plates, is ornamented with successful tail-pieces, which illustrate additional sites in Rome.”(Pollak, Millard IV, pp. 42-46)

Berlin Catalogue 2712; Millard IV, 14; Not in Fowler