In 1885, excavations at Rome’s Quirinal Hill revealed one of the most celebrated Hellenistic Greek sculptures: the bronze, seated Boxer at Rest. Present was the archaeologist Rodolfo Lanciani, who witnessed its exhumation and snapped a photograph of the rare ancient object. The image he produced is as arresting as the sculpture itself, capturing the figure perched on a mound of dirt, like a time traveler taking in the ruins of a once-familiar world. It’s one of many photographs Lanciani captured of his city’s changing landscape, and it’s just one gem from his own, massive archives — amassed as his impressive effort to document Rome’s entire archaeological history through the end of the 19th century.
Nearly 4,000 records from Lanciani’s collection are now digitized and accessible through a new, online database created over two years by researches at Stanford University Libraries, the University of Oregon, and Dartmouth College. The Rodolfo Lanciani Digital Archive makes accessible about one fourth of the archive that ended up at the National Institute of Archaeology and Art History in Rome when the archaeologist died in 1929, which is available to the public at the Palazzo Venezia only during select weekday hours.
You can now browse through high-resolution drawings, prints, and photos created between the 16th and 20th centuries that show the many infrastructural layers of the capital. From watercolors of entire buildings to architectural plans to sketches of decorative elements rendered by hundreds of artists, the works reveal the city’s famous buildings at different stages as well as structures that have been lost to time.
Working as a professor of topography and secretary of the city’s Archaeological Commission — founded in 1872 to properly excavate Rome’s ancient sites — Lanciani was pretty much obsessed with mapping out the city and recording its transformation. His most impressive work is perhaps the Forma Urbis Romae, an incredibly detailed map of the city that integrated its countless archaeological sites.
“The Lanciani collection is a stunningly rare personal collection by one of the premier, pioneering archeologists of Rome,” Dartmouth professor Nicola Camerlenghi told Hyperallergic. “This was Lanciani’s working collection, amassed by a man who needed this material to conduct his research, which aimed to understand the city over the course of thousands of years. In this respect, it is indeed unparalleled because it grants insight into what was deemed significant to such a foundational scholar. These were richly informative images for him and, accordingly, for scholars today, too.”
In 1870, Rome became the capital of a unified nation, and it marked the start of a decades-long citywide infrastructural overhaul. And when construction occurs in Rome, so do archaeological discoveries (a phenomenon that lasts to this day). Lanciani photographed many of these excavations around the city, from those at the Porta Maggiore to Termini station to Ponte Sant’Angelo. Aside from his own images and carefully measured maps, he also archived material received from friends, artists, and architects he knew. Many others he purchased from vendors.
“I suspect he bought bound volumes of them issued by publishing houses and then unbound and reshuffled the images into his collection, sorting them according to subject matter,” Camerlenghi said. “He basically tore books apart in order to feed his desire for individual images, a practice with ethical repercussions, even today — although it was common enough in his time.”
The new database remains faithful to Lanciani’s preferred method of categorization, dividing material based on site, but it’s also fully searchable if you have a particular image in mind. You may also further filter results by medium, artist, date, topic, and publisher. And for those who may feel overwhelmed, one good place to start is this helpful section of curated essays that explores focused topics such as Rome’s many domes and urban scenes of labor and production throughout time.
A few years after Lanciani saw the bronze boxer emerge from the earth, he recalled the experience in a book, writing, “I have never felt such an extraordinary impression as the one created by the sight of this magnificent specimen of a semi-barbaric athlete, coming slowly out of the ground, as if awakening from a long repose after his gallant fights.” With this new, digitized version of his archive, much more of the city’s long and lost past, too, is revived.
Musician and activist Charles Murrell said he was assaulted by members of Patriot Front on his way to work.
“Nana Harriet risked life and limb to be free so that no one White person would benefit off her person. And now we have someone white benefiting off of her,” said artist Maisha Sullivan-Ongoza.
This destination for modern and contemporary art showcases the vibrant arts community of the Pacific Northwest alongside galleries from around the world, open July 21 through 24.
As the global consensus on restitution passes the tipping point, some skepticism towards these sudden, improbable Damascene conversions towards restitution is probably justified.
The Renaissance master was boundlessly ambitious and intimidatingly energetic, charming, good-looking, diplomatic, and utterly opportunistic.
Part of a media project by Dr. Imani M. Cheers, Framing Fatherhood is on view at the George Washington University’s Corcoran School of the Arts and Design in DC through July 31.
Zadie Xa’s quilted textiles and Hernan Bas’s paintings of adolescent men enjoy a surprising but generative dialogue at San Francisco’s Jessica Silverman gallery.
While Koons may be a man on the moon, he’s looking back at Earth, oblivious to the vastness behind him, if only he would turn around.
International audiences have free access to the media collections of MMCA Korea, Sharjah Art Foundation, and ArkDes through this subscription-based art streaming platform.
Croatian filmmaker Antoneta Alamat Kusijanović’s debut feature accurately captures a certain kind of Balkan machismo.
The Getty Foundation announced late last week a new pilot program for emerging arts professionals from historically underrepresented groups, funding two-year positions at 10 Los Angeles arts institutions. The Getty Marrow Emerging Professionals pilot program — named after Deborah Marrow, the former Getty Foundation director who spearheaded an undergraduate internship initiative at the organization —…
Contemporary artist studios in Karachi prioritize pragmatism; many resist a traditional understanding of spaces with singular purposes.