The launch of Robert Adam and Diocletian’s Palace in Split, 26/07, Gallery of Fine Arts, Split

You are most warmly invited to the book launch of Robert Adam and Diocletian’s Palace in Split, organized as a part of the programme of the 63rd Split Summer Festival (Croatian National Theatre), on July 26, 20:00, at the Gallery of Fine Arts.

Zagreb, 2017, 608 p. ISBN 978-953-7875-38-1; 978-953-0-60975-4
Publishers: Školska knjiga, d.d. & Institute of Art History
Academic Editors: Joško Belamarić & Ana Šverko
Peer Reviewed by Iain Gordon Brown

When the Scottish architect Robert Adam travelled from Rome to Split in 1757 to study Diocletian’s Palace, he expected to find a monumental Roman villa. Instead, he came across an exceptional late antique structure that, in the Middle Ages, had been transformed into a city.

Adam turned his study of this monument into an original architectural theory, and, in London in 1764, it was published in one of the most beautiful books of the eighteenth century: Ruins of the Palace of the Emperor Diocletian at Spalatro in Dalmatia.

The lessons Adam grasped in Split also inspired his own architectural projects in England and Scotland, influencing, in part, the “Adam Style”, a specific neoclassical style that had a significant impact on European and American architecture. We find the imprint of Diocletian’s Palace as an architectural and urban design model everywhere in Adam’s projects, from the scale of the ornamentation (a famous example is his interpretation of the capital from Diocletian’s Peristyle) to the application of the specificities of its spatial construction.

In 2014, a group of scholars gathered in Split to mark the 250th anniversary of the publication of Adam’s book, and a series of essays developed out of their discussions. Their texts are illustrated with more than two hundred images, some of which are being published for the first time, from numerous archives and museums, from Sir John Soane’s Museum in London to the State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg.

This book shows that the ancient stratum of Diocletian’s Palace, this extraordinary multi-layered urban fabric, has not changed notably since Adam’s visit to Split. Yet the book is more than just the story of Adam and Diocletian’s Palace; it is also a guide to the Palace’s spaces and monuments, and a witness to its changes and its continuity. All of these we would not have been able to understand, nor experience so well, without Adam’s tireless research.

Photo: Damir Žižić
Photo: D. Ž.
Photo: D. Ž.

(written by A. Š.)