A Changing Perspective on the Eternal City Revealed

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

in Quaerendo
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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.

A Changing Perspective on the Eternal City Revealed

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

in Quaerendo




H.Th. van Veen‘A Tuscan Plan of Action for Joan Blaeu’s Book of Italian Cities’Lias18 (1991) p. 223.


Van Veen art. cit. (n. 5) p. 223.


H. de la Fontaine Verwey‘Dr. Joan Blaeu and his sons’Quaerendo11 (1981) p. 17.


Van der Krogt op. cit. (n. 2) p. 373.


In Van der Krogt op. cit. (n. 2) p. 373 it was stated that numbers 23 and 24 broadsheets were also taken from Fontana; they do not however appear in his Della trasportatione dell’obelisco vaticano (1590). This particular depiction was drawn – after Fontana’s original – by Giovanni Guerra (c.1540-1618) etched by Natale Bonifacio da Sebenico (1538-92) and published in 1586 by Bartolomeo Grassi (c.1553-95) in Rome. Cfr. D. Fontana Della trasportatione dell’obelisco vaticano et delle fabriche di Nostro Signore papa Sisto v fatte dal cavallier Domenico Fontana architetto di Sua Santità. Libro primo (Rome 1590) pp. 8-76; <http://www.georgeglazer.com/archives/prints/arch/stpetoblsk.html> (20 January 2015).


De la Fontaine Verwey art. cit. (n. 9) p. 5.


Van der Krogt op. cit. (n. 2) p. 366.


  • View in gallery
    Scheme explaining the outline of Blaeu’s Atlas of Italian Towns, Civitates Status Ecclesiastici, in: Joan Blaeu, Theatrvm civitatvm et admirandorvm Italiae, ad aevi veteris & praesentis temporis faciem expressum (Amsterdam 1663), addition to foreword (Special Collections, University of Amsterdam, hb-kzl 1808 A 21).
  • View in gallery
    Detail of the print of the transportation of the Vatican obelisk in: Joan Blaeu, Admiranda Urbis Romae (Amsterdam 1663) (Special Collections, University of Amsterdam, hb-kzl 1808 A 22).
  • View in gallery
    Detail of the Piazza del Popolo in: Joan Blaeu, Het Nieuwe Stede Boek van Italie, vol. 4 (Amsterdam 1704) (Library Koninklijk Nederlands Instituut Rome, knir; with kind permission of J. Mente and A. Coccarelli).

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