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Exhibition Feature: The Virtual Tourist in Renaissance Rome

Last week to view!

The Virtual Tourist in Renaissance Rome
Printing and Collecting the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae

An exhibition in the Special Collections Research Center
September 24, 2007 – February 11, 2008 (more info)

Organized by Rebecca Zorach, associate professor of Art History and the College

In 1540 Antonio Lafreri, a native of Besançon transplanted to Rome, began publishing maps and other printed images that depicted major monuments and antiquities in Rome. These images were calculated to appeal to the taste for classical antiquity that fueled the cultural event we call the Renaissance. After Lafreri published a title page in the mid-1570s, collections of these prints came to be known as the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae, the “Mirror of Roman Magnificence.”


Though its prints were usually bound into albums that later libraries catalogued as books, there was never a single original edition of the Speculum. Rather, tourists and other collectors who bought prints from Lafreri made their own selections and had them individually bound. Over time, Lafreri’s title page served as starting point for large and eclectic compilations, expanded and rearranged by generations of collectors. The exhibition also showcases The Speculum Romanae Magnificantiae Digital Collection created by the Library. This exhibition examines the publishing history of Lafreri’s Speculum through several generations of printmakers and print publishers (who often re-published earlier images with slight changes). It also looks at Lafreri’s models, competitors, and imitators, and at the collectors who, over several centuries, revisited and reinvented the Renaissance image of Rome. Along with the history of print collecting, themes include Renaissance city planning, the idea of the picturesque in landscape, Renaissance ideas of history, religious pilgrimage and tourism. The exhibition will also showcase the Library’s project to make a digital image database of these prints available online. The Virtual Tourist in Renaissance Rome is presented in conjunction with the Festival of Maps Chicago, a 2007-2008 citywide celebration featuring maps, globes, artifacts and artworks at over 25 cultural institutions.

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