Rossini – Master 19th Century Roman Engraver

Rossini Engraving, 1823, Rome, View of St Peters from Castel St Angelo

Rossini’s Engraving Print, St Peter’s Basilica and Castel Sant’ Angelo, 1823

A “Grand Tour” souvenir of Rome, circa 1820.  Certainly you must have one, to show that you’ve BEEN there.  Rome, the Eternal City.  During the foment of the Romantic time, when the concept of a “Grand Tour” was well into adolescence, there were artists busy documenting the scenes for the visiting masses, and, fortunately, for us in posterity.  Today, just a few of these artists remain notable.  This work was done by prodigious Italian engraver Rossini, who documented the highlights of Rome with a remarkable collection of engravings.   Rossini’s Rome collection not only catalogues the tourist sights as they appeared at the time, they provide a fascinating glimpse into Roman life in the early 19th Century.  In his works, you’ll find Romans going about their business around the city’s grand, yet sometimes crumbling, monuments.  This print is handily labeled by the artist to be a souvenir view of St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums (see “A” & “B” labels on bottom and on print).  These locations are shown from the Ponte Castel Sant’ Angelo, the worthy-of-its-own-postcard, solid and elegantly-round fortress commanding your attention in the right foreground.  Lest they be overlooked for the view, a few Citizens also jostle for attention, a momentary Buon Giorno perhaps.  These Romans of 1823 are industrious, as shown by their comings and goings, their moving and ready ships, their pulleys on the Castel.  But they also seem to lead “simple” lives – fishing, commuting, strolling with friends.  In Rossini’s work, including this piece, we not only get a 200 year-old memento of a Roman monument, we get a honest-to-goodness instruction in what is “Romantic.”  The monuments ARE important; they are, of course, why many believe they came.  But Romantics were bred of humanism, and the monuments they depict are now fully invested with emotion and are participants in the actions of man, nature and time.  Today’s traveler is privileged to have this view ‘thru the sands’, and will likely feel a common bond, as we too lead our lives amongst the monuments of time.

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