Roselyne de Ayala has written or edited a number of books on art, literature, and music, including Brilliant Beginnings: The Youthful Works of Great Artists, Writers, and Composers (Abrams, 2000).
A sumptuously illustrated history of the Eternal City—the capital of Italy and world art—as captured by painters from the Antiquity through the twentieth century.
Traditionally founded by its namesake Romulus in 753 BC, Rome began modestly, as a little village of thatched huts on the Palatine Hill. By the third century BC, it controlled the entire Italian peninsula, and by the first century BC, much of the known world. Rome’s fortunes have stumbled more than once since then—indeed, there have famously been times when cows grazed on the Forum—but it has always reemerged as a leading city, thanks to its status as the seat of Christendom. Through the centuries, artists from all over Europe have been drawn to Rome, both to work in the service of the Church and to learn from the accumulated masterpieces.
This luxuriously oversized book uses Rome’s artistic riches to chronicle the eventful history of the city itself. We are shown the customs and beliefs of the ancient Romans through their own frescoes and mosaics, and their greatest deeds in the history paintings of later masters such as Poussin and David. We follow the fitful rise of Rome, which eventually blossoms forth into the supreme achievements of Michelangelo and Raphael. With eyes uplifted to frescoed vaults, we watch the great decorators of the Baroque add to the city’s store of monuments, which are then deftly—and sometimes quite imaginatively—recorded by the vedutisti of the eighteenth century. Finally, in canvases by a surprising range of nineteenth- and twentieth-century artists—from Sargent to de Chirico, and even de Kooning—we see Rome in its role as the capital of a unified Italy, and of the modern Western imagination.
With its more than three hundred full-color illustrations, including four spectacular gatefolds; its insightful text, written by leading art historians; and its valuable apparatus, including capsule biographies of 175 artists; The History of Rome in Painting is an important achievement in scholarship and publishing and a fitting tribute to the Eternal City. Like its predecessors The History of Venice in Painting and The History of Paris in Painting, it belongs in every art lover’s library.