Regina Viarum. La via Appia nella grafica tra Cinquecento e Novecento
Istituto centrale per la grafica – Sale espositive del Palazzo della Calcografia
via della Stamperia 6
20 settembre 2023 – 7 gennaio 2024
Short stops on the Via Appia
The Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella
The via Appia is a cultural landscape. This is the guiding thread of the exhibition dedicated to the ancient Consular Road, through the eyes of many artists over the centuries.
Following in their footsteps, we start to walk along the way, a symbol of the magnificence of Ancient Rome, to stop in front of the monuments that struck their imagination the most. At the third mile stands one of the most depicted buildings in graphic art starting from the sixteenth century: the Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella, built between 30 and 10 BC as the tomb of the noblewoman Caecilia Metella. She was the daughter of Quintus Cecilius Metellus and the wife of Marcus Licinius Crassus, the son of the famous triumvir Licinius Crassus, a leading figure in Roman political life.
The monument consists of a square concrete basement, covered in ancient times with travertine blocks which were stripped in the sixteenth century, surmounted by a tall cylindrical body decorated with a marble frieze. The latter depicts shields, garlands of flowers and fruits and bucrania (ox skulls), the reason why the place was named “Capo di Bove” (Oxen’s head) in later centuries. In the Middle Ages the monument was incorporated in the castle built by the Caetani family, which also included a church and a palace, and became the main tower of the fortification. Crenellated walls were also added.
Giovanni Battista De Cavalieri (1), an engraver and publisher in Rome in the second half of the sixteenth century, portrays the architectural structure of the building with many details, including the crenellated walls and the fortified castle, based on the drawing of the florentine architect Giovanni Antonio Dosio. He also included small figures to set the scene in contemporary Rome. Giovanni Maggi’s (1) etching, published by Giuseppe De Rossi in 1618, depicts an imaginary view of the monument as the artist supposed it to be in ancient times: topped by a dome decorated with statues.
At the bottom of the print, there is a Latin inscription. Worth of mention is also Giuseppe De Rossi, the founder of the De Rossi printmaking dynasty in Rome.
The De Rossi’s printing house was active starting from the seventeenth century and was considered the most important press in Rome, specializing in publications about ancient and modern Rome.
Dating back to the beginning of seventeenth century and published as the frontispiece of Diverses veües de France et d’Italie, Israel Silvestre’s engraving (1) provides an imaginery view of the ancient mausoleum as it is represented with Saint Peter’s basilica in the background. Specialized in topographical views and perspective drawings, Israel Silvestre travelled to Italy and to Rome between 1640 and 1650 and created many drawings which later engraved.
Alessio de Marchis’s (24) drawing (first half of Eighteenth century) is technically a capriccio, a particular type of view, which became popular starting from the end of Seventeenth century, in which elements of imagination are combined with real elements such as recognisable monuments. In the drawing, the Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella is located near a sea coast or a river, probably the Almone river wich runs through the via Appia.
At end of our first stop on the Via Appia, we will find Piranesi’s copperplate etching (3) in the last room. The artist and printmaker, particularly interested in ancient building methods, gives a close up view of the decorative frieze reconstructed in painstaking details.
Engraving is a printmaking technique that involves making incisions into a metal plate which retain the ink and form the printed image.
Etching is a printmaking technique that uses chemical action to produce incised lines in a metal printing plate which then hold the applied ink and form the image.