Round Temple by the Tiber

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We had gone but a little way...when we saw the Temple of Vesta before us, right on the bank of the Tiber, which, however, we could not see behind it. It is the most perfectly preserved Roman ruin that I have yet seen, and very beautiful, though so very small, that, in a suitable locality, one would take it rather for a garden house than an ancient temple. A circle of white marble pillars, much time-worn, and a little battered, though none of them broken, surround the solid structure of the temple, leaving a circular walk between it and the pillars; the whole covered by a modern roof, which looked like wood, and disgraces and deforms the elegant little structure. This roof resembles, as much as anything else, the round wicker cover of a basket, and gives a very squat aspect to the temple. The pillars are of the Corinthian order, and when they were new, and the marble snow-white, and sharply carved and cut, there could not have been a prettier object in all Rome; but so small an edifice does not figure well as a ruin. ... We got admittance... and found the interior... fitted up as a Chapel, when the Virgin took the place of Vesta.

—Nathaniel Hawthorne, French & Italian Notebooks, V, 134–135

Soon after Louis-Jacques- Mandé Daguerre publicly demonstrated his revolutionary process in 1839, de Prangey had mastered the new medium. Like all daguerreotypes, this is a unique image recorded on the highly reflective surface of a silver-coated copperplate—one of over eight hundred de Prangey brought back from his travels in Italy, Greece, and the Levant. This accomplishment is all the more impressive when one takes into account the weight and bulk of his photographic apparatus and the difficulties posed by developing the exposed plates in the field. To produce a horizontal format, which lent itself to panoramic views as well as architectural details, de Prangey cut one of his copperplates in half along its major axis.

Joseph-Philibert- Girault De Prangey, Round Temple by the Tiber, 1842. Collection W. Bruce and Delaney H. Lundberg. Photography by Graham S. Haber

Location photography by John Pinto