With major photo exhibition, the Vittoriano pays homage to the Eternal City
Until October 28, the Vittoriano monumental complex plays host to Eternal City, a showcase of more than 200 photographs portraying Rome from the middle of the 19th century to the present day, all of them from the collection of the London-based Royal Institute of British Architects. Rome from time immemorial has aroused the interest of artists and travellers, who have interpreted both its individual monuments and its broader image down the ages. This, because Rome has not one but a thousand faces reflected in the Tiber and in its domes at sunset: distinct identities which occasionally contradict one another or overlap, forming layers and forging a tight weave of narratives and events.
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is far more than simply a leading professional association; it is driven by a desire to educate the general public to quality architecture both in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Founded in London in 1834, its photographic collection comprises over 1,7 million images. The photographs selected for the exhibition set out to provide a sweeping overview of the city ranging from archaeological detail to monumental architecture and on to the broader landscape. Aside from a few pictures from the collections of the Architectural Press Archive, the exhibition hosts only photographs taken by British photographers such as James Anderson, Tim Benton, Richard Bryant, Ralph Deakin, Ivy and Ivor de Wolfe, Richard Pare, Monica Pidgeon and Edwin Smith, stretching from the new medium’s earliest days right up to the present.
The exhibition sets out to reconstruct the image of the Eternal City at a key moment in its history. Through the lens of the Grand Tour, visitors can observe the city with the eyes of British travellers of the period and share their iconic but also unusual and profoundly narrative outlook. From archaeology to street photography, the display takes visitors on an exploration of the capital, triggering reflections on its architecture, town planning, politics and society while simultaneously stimulating critics to discover the sites that photography, as always, recounts and reinterprets. More readily appreciated in recent times by foreigners than by the Italians themselves, who may be accustomed to its beauty, Rome is the example par excellence of a city that has always stimulated the collective imagination. With its memories of the ancient world and its love of experimenting with the modern, the city was the ideal subject for painters and engravers of the Renaissance, while photography developed at the very moment that “Italy was being made“: the new technique helped to further fuel an aura that had already begun to envelop the city in previous centuries.
It was chiefly photographer/painters who, in their first group outings, set up their cameras and equipment in the same places, making it tricky in several instances to attribute some of the earlier images with any certainty. The iconic Spanish Steps leading up from Via Condotti or, even more paradigmatically, the Roman Forum are basically portrayed from viewpoints shared by all of the early photographers with only minimal variations. This journey through Rome from the Romantic era to the age of Neorealism includes a number of images depicting the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, one of the Eternal City’s most striking pieces of architecture also in terms of its symbolic and political impact.The exhibition, promoted and organised by the Polo Museale del Lazio under the direction of Edith Gabrielli, is part of the Artcity Estate 2018 programme.