Pontificata Invitation


…mi risolvetti di mettermi ad incidere e battere la strada segnata dall’immortale Piranesi.     […I resolved to engrave and produce prints following in the steps of  the immortal Piranesi]  

-from Luigi Rossini’s brief autobiography of 1830

G.B. Piranesi’s famous views of Rome dominated print sales in that city in the late 18th century.  However this ceased in 1799 when Francesco Piranesi (G.B.’s son) moved to Paris with the whole collection of the Piranesi copper plates, from which he produced  prints that he sold there.   In 1839 the Piranesi plates returned to Rome when they were bought by order of pope Gregory XVI, and placed in the Calcografia Camerale.  Thus between 1799 and 1839, Piranesi prints were not available in the city unless they were imported from Paris.

Luigi Rossini’s print activity covers a large part of the 40-year period of absence of Piranesi prints in Rome.  He was by no means the only artist producing Roman views during that period, but he was the only one turning out prints comparable in size and appearance with the Piranesi views that people on the Grand Tour liked to acquire. Rossini’s debt to Piranesi was clearly understood by his contemporaries.  His contemporary Falconieri refers to the “picturesque architectural views by Rossini, sound follower of Piranesi.” Another contemporary, the famous sculptor Antonio Canova, wrote about the prints in Rossini’s second major work, Le Antichità di Roma, (published in 1823), as being “drawn and engraved in large prints in the style of the illustrious Piranesi.” Rossini’s early 19th century views of the city perfectly complement Vasi’s mid-18th century views, and are an essential element in the sequence of urban viewmakers following in the tradition of Giovanni Battista Falda and Alessandro Specchi, culminating with Piranesi.

Rossini’s interest in Roman archaeology is readily apparent in his I sette Colli di Roma antica e moderna (published in 1829).  In the preface to this work he specifically acknowledges Piranesi’s leadership in the field: “…high praise will always be due to the efforts of Piranesi…” (Cavazzi/Tittoni, p.100).  Like Piranesi in his Ichnographiam Campi Martii Antiqvae Vrbis and Il Campo Marzio dell’antica Roma, Rossini tries to reconstruct Rome’s antiquities, devoting an outsize print (81 x 56 cm) to the seven hills either singly or in groups.  On each of these sheets he depicts reconstructed plans, elevations and sections, as well as some three-dimensional views of the sites. 


In addition to housing an extensive library of books, prints and maps of Rome the Studium Urbis is frequently used as a small lecture hall whose walls are lined with originals and reproductions of the material being discussed. Upon request individual lectures on Roman urbanism, cartography and architectural history are given at the Studium Urbis (capacity 30 seats) to U.S. university groups visiting Rome.

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The following volume is built around papers originally presented at the 2003 international conference sponsored by the Studium Urbis and held in Rome: Giambattista Nolli, Imago Urbis, and Rome. The papers explore cartographic traditions leading up to Nolli and go on to explore his contemporaries and those he influenced, as well as follow Nolli into the present.

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Vasi University of Oregon