City of the Soul: Rome and the Romantics

John A. Pinto
224 pages
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Rome, described by Byron as the City of the Soul, has always inspired fervid imaginings and visionary renderings of itself and its past. It has existed not only as an intensely physical place but also as a romantic idea onto which artists and writers projected their own imaginations and longings. City of the Soul illuminates how the spirit of Romanticism (the term itself invokes Rome)—its passion, imagination, individuality, transcendence, nonconformity—thrived in the artistic community of Rome in the century between 1770 and 1870.

The expansive artistic response to Rome during that period reflected the timeless yet changing city, when visitors experienced the transition from the Grand Tour to the onset of mass tourism and history witnessed Rome’s dramatic transformation from papal enclave to the capital of a newly unified Italy. Rome in the Romantic era attracted extraordinary writers and visual artists, and, as it had for centuries, facilitated vibrant artistic exchange among them. The records of these encounters—in the form of letters and diary entries, poems, novels, prints, drawings, watercolors, oil sketches, and the exciting new medium of photography—collectively constitute the portrait of a very particular place, a city that touched the very soul.

This catalogue accompanies the exhibition City of the Soul: Rome and the Romantics on view June 17 through September 11, 2016.