New Book | Speaking Ruins: Piranesi, Architects, and Antiquity

Posted in books by Editor on June 30, 2013

From the University of Michigan Press:

John A. Pinto, Speaking Ruins: Piranesi, Architects, and Antiquity in Eighteenth-Century Rome (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2012), 352 pages, ISBN: 978-0472118212, $65.

coverAs they had during the Renaissance, ruins in the eighteenth century continued to serve as places of exchange between antiquity and modern times and between one architect and another. Rome functioned as a cultural entrepôt, drawing to it architects of the caliber of Filippo Juvarra, Robert Adam, Charles-Louis Clérisseau, and Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Through their collaboration, on-site exchanges, publications, and polemics, architects contributed notably to fashioning a more critical and sophisticated view of the material heritage of classical antiquity, one that we associate with the Enlightenment and the origins of modern archaeology. In this lavishly illustrated volume stemming from his Thomas Spencer Jerome Lectures at the University of Michigan and the American Academy in Rome, distinguished architectural historian John A. Pinto traces an extraordinary path through the development of European architecture. This period saw the transformation of history and archaeology. Texts were treated more skeptically as scholars placed greater reliance on artifacts as sources of information, and architects such as Giovanni Battista Piranesi increasingly played a crucial role in the recording and visual presentation of ancient art and architecture.

Piranesi and other eighteenth-century architects active in Rome explored the full creative potential of ancient architecture, its dual metaphorical function as both palimpsest and template. Their responses to the ruins of Rome, as well as other parts of the classical world, created a significant body of historical knowledge, but also propelled them to create new and dazzling designs, such as the Trevi Fountain, Santa Maria del Priorato, and Syon House. Their elaborate study and accurate renderings of ancient sites enriched contemporary understanding of the material heritage of classical antiquity; their informed conjectures and flights of fancy gave it wings. Their encounters on sites such as Hadrian’s Villa and Pompeii, where the ruins spoke with great eloquence, greatly enriched the architectural discourse of the Enlightenment. Speaking Ruins emphasizes the close relationship between the intensifying archaeological explorations in this period especially in Rome and vicinity, but also in Greece and the Levant, and the development of post-Baroque styles in architecture, shading gradually into romanticism and neoclassicism.

Speaking Ruins is an investigation of the legacy of classical antiquity. As a study of the classical tradition, it should be of particular interest to classicists and archaeologists, while its argument that eighteenth-century Rome provided a crucible for the developing disciplines of archaeology and art history will engage the interest of a wide range of humanistic scholars. Speaking Ruins tells a fascinating story, with Piranesi and his works centrally involved.

Jacket image: G. B. Piranesi, Fragments of the Temple of the Sun on the Quirinal, from Campus Martius (1762), courtesy of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.

John Pinto is Howard Crosby Butler Memorial Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University and a Fellow of the American Academy in Rome.

Lecture | Connecting the East India Company and the Caribbean

Posted in lectures (to attend) by Editor on June 30, 2013

Chris Jeppesen is the AHRC cultural engagement fellow working on a project entitled “East Meets West: Caribbean and Asian Colonial Cultures in British Domestic Contexts” with The East India Company at Home team, The Legacies of British Slavery team, and the British Library. From the British Library:

Chris Jeppesen | Uncovering Connections between the East India Company and the Caribbean
British Library, London, 3 July 2013

chris_jeppesen239x150Chris Jeppesen, Research Associate at the UCL Department of History, talks about his recent work on the Library’s collections tracing links between the East India Company and the Caribbean through the movement and correspondence of families.

Historians have tended to draw a binary between British involvement in India and the Caribbean. Rarely, do they acknowledge the intricate connections between the Atlantic and Indian Ocean worlds that facilitated the transfer of people, capital and goods during the late eighteenth/early nineteenth centuries. Chris’s ongoing research project based between UCL and the Library, has sought to uncover some of the connections between the East India Company and the Caribbean and to suggest ways that other interested researchers can expand our understanding of these links.

Crucial to many exchanges were family networks that spanned India, Britain and the Caribbean, allowing members access to opportunities that promised wealth and prestige. This talk will seek to demonstrate how by following one family – the Martins of Antigua – through the Library’s collections, one can start to uncover the all too often ignored links between India and the Caribbean.

Organised with support from the Eccles Centre for American Studies. This talk is part of the Summer Scholar’s programme. To book a space please email: summer-scholars@bl.uk

Wednesday, 3 July 2013, 12.30-14.00, Foyle Suite, Centre for Conservation, The British Library. Free, booking essential.

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