The Most Magnificent Book of Roman Architectural Views of the 19th Century

Rossini, Luigi (1790 - 1857)

Le antichità romane ossia raccolta delle più interessanti vedute di Roma antica.

Rome: presso il negozio Scudellari, dai tipi di Mercurj e Robaglia, 1829


Large oblong folio: 77 x 53 cm. Contents: title page, 101 engraved views.

SECOND EDIITON, differing from the first ed. only in the new title-page and in the ordering of plates. Millard regards this as the second issue of the first edition.

A fine copy in 19thc. three-quarter green morocco over boards, gilt, the leather framing a central panel of marbled paper, light wear, discreet repairs. With the rare printed title, a trifle foxed and re-margined. With EXCELLENT, rich impressions of all 101 engraved plates.

These magnificently large and stunning views of the Eternal City, created by the Ravenna architect Luigi Rossini, are by far the most spectacular of those issued in the nineteenth century. The subjects include temples, public baths, basilicas and other monuments, both modern and antique; many that had been recently excavated are known only from this work. The collaboration of Bartolomeo Pinelli is evident in the costumed figures, which enliven architectonic and archaeological views.

Luigi Rossini was the last of the great artists to produce large-scale etched views (vedute), plans, and speculative reconstructions of Rome and its ancient remains. His inspiration was the undisputed master of such images, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, and it was he that the young Rossini set out to emulate even as he developed his own artistic style and identity. Rossini’s artistic and philosophical objectives –and therefore the images that he produced- were markedly different from those of Piranesi. His images reflected the new realities of the post-Napoleonic era, and reflected the development of a more modern, scientific archaeology, expressed in extraordinarily beautiful and powerful images.

“With his works depicting Rome through the most significant and evocative images, produced over about a half a century of intense activity, Rossini gradually reshaped the face of the city, depicting with acute and objective attention the features of its complex archaeology and its most attractive locations. While remaining within the context of the veduta, Rossini never ceased documenting the archaeological remains with scholarly accuracy, introducing some substantial innovations compared to previous interpretations. By depicting yet again the landscapes and monuments of Rome and its surroundings, while recording the most picturesque and distinctive aspects of its everyday life, his work moved closer to a Romantic vision, while seeking to present an extremely meticulous documentation based on studies of the sources and direct examination of the latest discoveries, illustrating the restoration work being carried out, reconstructing the plans and elevations of buildings and sites, so making him a protagonist of the cultural elaboration of Rome in the early nineteenth-century.

“Through his landscape and archaeological views, Rossini interpreted Rome as a privileged place for objective, scholarly and poetic evocations, translated into etchings with the utmost technical virtuosity, and disseminated through the powerful expressive medium of print.”(Nicoletta Ossanna Cavadini, ‘Rossini Architect and Engraver: from views of antiquities to the Romantic spirit’ in “Luigi Rossini, Il Viaggio Segreto”, 2014)

"Like Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Rossini was an observant topographer but also a scrupulous archaeologist; like Carlo Labruzzi he was also a neoclassicist. In Rossini's pictures the suffering humanity of Piranesi's views has disappeared. From Piranesi, Rossini takes precise topographic information, the understanding of ancient building materials, and knowledge of places. Piranesi's method of archaeological research is Rossini's principal cultural and artistic reference. Thus Rossini borrows from his predecessor the sotto-in-su views, and like Piranesi he assembles fragments of Roman architecture and inscriptions in an imaginative agglomerate. But Rossini also benefits from the extraordinary archaeological activity carried out by Giuseppe Valadier and others. The freshly uncovered monuments offered additional subjects to the topographic artists working in Rome … The Antichità Romane marks a direct confrontation with Piranesi. In this work Rossini emancipates himself entirely while precisely quoting his predecessor in his tile as well as in some of his captions". (Millard, Italian books, pp. 360-366).

Berlin Katalog 1916. Millard 115. RIBA 2848. A.M. Hind, A History of Engraving & Etching, p. 232