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Throughout the 18th century, the city of Rome--with its antiquities, Renaissance and Baroque monuments, and cosmopolitan spirit--was the artistic and cultural capital of Europe. This was the Rome of the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, the Rome of carnivals and papal ceremonies, the Rome that Piranesi depicted in his celebrated prints--a mecca for amateur, student and professional artists from throughout the Western world. Never attempted on this scale in the United States, this survey of 18th-century Rome will reveal the rich vitality of the city's artistic and cultural life toward the end of its existence as an independent papal state (in 1871, Rome became the political seat of newly united Italy). The Splendor of 18th-Century Rome will include a spectacular array of paintings, sculpture, works on paper, decorative arts, architectural renderings and models--some 380 works of art by more than 160 artists.
Painters who studied or worked in the city during the 18th century--including such luminaries as Germany's Anton Raphael Mengs, the Frenchmen Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Hubert Robert and Jacques-Louis David, Angelica Kauffman of Switzerland, and Italy's own Pompeo Batoni and Pier Leone Ghezzi--comprise a diverse and surprisingly international group united by the strength and precedent of Roman culture, and nurtured by enlightened secular and ecclesiastical patronage. Similarly, Roman sculpture of the period--created by masters such as Pierre Legros the Younger, Camillo Rusconi, Pietro Bracci, Clodion, Jean-Antoine Houdon, Antonio Canova and Bartolomeo Cavaceppi--was the product of cosmopolitan influences. Related changes in architectural style can be followed from the stately Baroque classicism exemplified by Carlo Fontana, through the exuberant theatricality of the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, to the austere and refined neoclassicism dominant at the century's end.
Drawing was an essential component of printmaking as well as painting, architecture and sculpture, and Rome's public and private academies produced draftsmen of astounding proficiency. The Splendor of 18th-Century Rome highlights their accomplishments in some 100 examples. Works by Giovanni Battista Piranesi are especially familiar to contemporary audiences, and the exhibition will devote an entire section to drawings, prints, books, buildings and decorative designs by this prodigiously talented artist.