New York City, NY
Rome exists not only as an intensely physical place, but also as a romantic idea onto which artists, poets, and writers project their own imaginations and longings. City of the Soul examines the evolving image of Rome in art and literature with a display of books, manuscripts, prints, photographs, and drawings.
This groundbreaking exhibition considers the ever-evolving identities of Rome during a pivotal period in the city’s history, 1770–1870, when it was transformed from a papal state to the capital of a unified, modern nation. Venerable monuments were demolished to make way for government ministries and arteries of commerce. Building projects and improvements in archaeological techniques revealed long forgotten remnants of the ancient metropolis. A tourist’s itinerary could include magnificent ruins, ecclesiastical edifices, scenic vistas, picturesque locales, fountains, gardens, and side trips to the surrounding countryside.
The exhibition juxtaposes a century of artistic impressions of Rome through a superb selection of prints and drawings by recognized masters such as Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778), J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851), and Edward Lear (1812–1888) along with lesser known artists whose work deserves greater attention. The invention of photography also influenced the image of the city. Photographers consciously played on the compositions of Piranesi and earlier masters of the veduta tradition, while at the same time exploiting the expressive potential of this new medium. As the meditative, measured pace of the Grand Tour gave way to the demands of organized tourism, they supplied their new clientele with nostalgia as well as novelty in their views of the Eternal City.
Credit: Exhibition Overview from the The Morgan Library & Museum website.
Where or not you go, the exhibition catalog, City of the Soul: Rome and the Romantics, examines how an international cast of visitors fashioned Rome’s image, visual and literary, in the century between 1770 and 1870—from the era of the Grand Tour to the onset of mass tourism. The history of art, architecture, and photography, the Romantic poets, and other writers from Byron to Henry James.