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A Changing Perspective on the Eternal City Revealed

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Blaeu’s Admiranda Urbis Romae (1663) Compared to Later Editions of the Town Atlas of Rome

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A comparison of Blaeu’s Admiranda Urbis Romae (1663) with later editions of the town atlas of Rome, published by Mortier (1704-05) and Alberts (1724), reveals a changing social perspective on Rome and its cultural heritage. Most remarkable is the increasing amount of attention dedicated to contemporary Rome by successive publishers of the town atlas. Even if the ancient monuments of the Eternal City continue to serve as a main focal point, they are treated from a changing angle, placing more and more emphasis on their surroundings and contemporary state. Furthermore, the public place that is still the centre of Rome’s public sphere, the piazza, starts to appear, indicating a growing interest in the city’s cultural life as it was emerging in the early eighteenth century. The observed development is analogous to the changing attitudes of subsequent generations of Grand Tourists, who seem more and more interested in the modern state of monuments and their cultural environment. Parallels on a broader, social scale are visible within the context of the Quarrel of the Ancients and Moderns, the artistic and literary debate that raged predominantly in England and France from the 1690s onwards. While the Ancients believed that only classical literature, science and arts offered models for excellence, the Moderns questioned the supremacy of classical civilization, attempting to assert the independence of modern culture from the heritage of Roman and Greek authorities.

Affiliations: 1: University of LeidenNetherlands


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