Piazza Montecavallo

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July 1819 The fountain on the Quirinal, or rather the group formed by the statues the obelisk, & the fountain is however the most admirable of all. From the Piazza Quirinale...you see the boundless ocean of domes spires & columns which is the city of Rome. On a pedestal of white marble rises an obelisk of red granite piercing the blue sky. Before it is a vast basin of porphyry, in the midst of which rises a column of the purest water which collects into itself all the overhanging colours of the sky, and breaks them into a thousand prismatic hues and graduated shadows—they fall together with its dashing water-drops into the outer basin.

—Percy Bysshe Shelley, Letters, II, 88–89

Rossini extended Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s conceptual and compositional approach to the graphic depiction of Roman monuments well into the nineteenth century. The subject of this drawing is Piazza Montecavallo on the Quirinal Hill, named after the colossal ancient statues of the horse tamers Castor and Pollux visible at the left. The Papal Palace of the Quirinal anchors the composition on the right, effectively framing an extended vista over the lower portions of the city situated in the floodplain of the Tiber. In the distance, the dome of St. Peter’s projects above the horizon line.

Luigi Rossini, Panorama of Rome from the Piazza Montecavallo, ca. 1822. The Morgan Library & Museum, Purchased by Pierpont Morgan, 1906. Photography by Graham S. Haber

Location photography by John Pinto