Empire Without End Antiquities Collections in Renaissance Rome, c. 1350-1527 Kathleen Wren Christian

Publication date:
30 Jun 2010
Yale University Press
288 pages: 273 x 210mm
50 color + 220 b-w illus.
Sales territories:

In the early fifteenth century, when Romans discovered ancient marble sculptures and inscriptions in the ruins, they often melted them into mortar. A hundred years later, however, antique marbles had assumed their familiar role as works of art displayed in private collections. Many of these collections, especially the Vatican Belvedere, are well known to art historians and archaeologists. Yet discussions of antiquities collecting in Rome too often begin with the Belvedere - that is, only after it was a widespread practice.

In this important book, the author steps back to examine the 'long' fifteenth century, a critical period in the history of antiquities collecting that has received scant attention. Kathleen Wren Christian examines shifts in the response of artists and writers to spectacular archaeological discoveries and the new role of collecting antiquities in the public life of Roman elites. She discusses the exemplary and political values of the antique celebrated in the era of Petrarch and the invention of fictive ancient ancestors as a rationale for collecting among the Roman nobility. She considers the unique contributions of Pomponio Leto's Academy to the invention of the antiquarian garden and shows how popes and cardinals came to dominate Rome's collecting scene, paying particular attention to the theatrical performances and banqueting rituals staged in ever larger, more elaborate sculpture gardens. The first part of the book concludes with the Sack of Rome in 1527, which brought about the dispersal of many of Rome's antiquities collections.

Kathleen Wren Christian is assistant professor, Department of History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh.

"The book is carefully produced…..and comprehensively illustrated, so that images support Christian’s intelligent, well-documented and compelling conclusions."—William Stenhouse, History of Collections

"The book is very clearly and elegantly written, and beautifully illustrated with high-quality images…..This is a thought-provoking and highly enjoyable study accessible to a wide readership."—Guido Rebecchini, Renaissance Studies

"Empire Without End is a well-researched and learned survey, entertainingly written and lavishly illustrated … this book promises to become an indispensable tool for future research."—Ingo Herklotz, Burlington Magazine