“The Most Glorious Place in the Universal World”: Rome in the Age of the Grand Tour, a lecture

Professor John A. Pinto will give a lecture at 6.30 p.m. on November 27 in Split City Museum (Papalićeva 1). This lecture is thematically related to this project, and it is included in the programme of the conference Diocletian’s Palace in the works of Adam, Clérisseau and Cassas.

Abstract The eighteenth century was a period in which patrons, artists, and architects furnished Rome with many of its most admired monuments and shaped the city’s cumulative urban countenance. Robert Adam famously referred to Rome as “the most glorious place in the universal world.”  Adam, of course, would return to England by way of Split, and what he saw on both sides of the Adriatic profoundly influenced the course of architecture in his native country, and – by extension – the New World.

More than any other center, Rome attracted architects from throughout the continent and stimulated international exchange. Countless prints and the experiences of several generations of aristocrats on the Grand Tour served to spread an awareness of Roman monuments, ancient and modern. In particular, the impressive series of prints by Piranesi and his contemporary Giuseppe Vasi collectively illustrated the city’s highly textured and densely layered urban structure. Goethe’s enthusiastic remarks upon his arrival in Rome in 1786 reveal the extent to which the Eternal City had become the cultural patrimony of all Europe: “Now, at last, I have arrived in the First City of the world!… All the dreams of my youth have come to life.”

The goal of this lecture is to provide a virtual walk through Rome in the age of the Grand Tour, posing — and answering — a series of questions. What were the buildings that Adam and others admired? What was the relation between the ruined monuments of ancient Rome, and “modern” architecture of the Renaissance and Baroque periods? How did these monuments facilitate exchange as artists grappled with the legacy of Rome? And how did prints by Piranesi and others function as portable distillations of three-dimensional architecture and urban form?

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Piazza del Popolo (Veduta della Piazza del Popolo), ca 1750
Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Piazza del Popolo (Veduta della Piazza del Popolo), ca 1750

John A. Pinto is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. His research interests focus on the architecture in eighteenth-century Rome and on the relationship between the architecture of classical antiquity and that of the Renaissance. These interests are evident in five of Pinto’s books: The Trevi Fountain (Yale University Press, 1986), Hadrian’s Villa and its Legacy (written with William L. MacDonald; Yale University Press, 1995), Pietro Bracci and Eighteenth-Century Rome (with Elisabeth Kieven; Pennsylvania State University Press, 2001), Steps Off the Beaten Path: Nineteenth-Century Photographs of Rome and its Environs (Charta, 2007), and Speaking Ruins: Piranesi, Architects, and Antiquity in Eighteenth-Century Rome (University of Michigan Press, 2012).

(written by A. Š.)