Karen Elliott

WIGHTWICK, G. Select Views of the Roman Antiquities (London, 1827) 

Parthenon

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‌The Parthenon was an architectural masterpiece of its time; a circular building with a domed roof (Brown 1981: 35) was a near impossibility to achieve for Roman builders, but was achieved through the use of concrete (Sear 1982: 71: Thorpe 1995: 9) and skilled carpentry (Sear 1982: 80). It is thought to date to the reign of Hadrian (Thorpe 1995: 9). These images were originally drawn by George Wightwick, an architect. Wightwick, as an architect might have drawn this building due to his connection with it in this manner. As an architect, he was probably fascinated with ancient architecture and how it was made; he might have gained inspiration for his own creations from them (Pearson 1973: 175), like many architects have (Thorpe 1995: 1).

This image is a lithograph. This technique was first used during the late 18th century, discovered by Alois Senefelder (Twyman 1970: 3). This chemical method uses wax, or another greasy substance and stone or metal to create the image from a drawing (Twyman 1970: 3-4, 62). Lithography became a popular printing technique in Europe during the 19th century due to it being a cheaper process than earlier forms of printing, and being easier to use and versatile (Twyman 1970: 64-65). The printer of the images in this book, Hullmandel, was the first to create tone in lithographic prints (Twyman 1970: 187), and was pioneer in lithography in England during the early 19th century (Twyman 1970: 185-90). Lithographic printing as a technique is a consistently unique process; every artist and every lithographer has a different style, so one drawing made into a lithograph by two different people will produce two different images, which is why the lithographer, printer and artist are always cited on these types of prints.

Basilica of Constantine

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‌The Basilica of Constantine is near the Forum in Rome (Brown 1981: 34), along the Via Sacra (Picard 1965: 146). When it was built in the early 3rd century AD (Sear 1982: 272), it was a very different design than that of previous basilicas (Sear 1982: 29, 32; Picard 1965: 147), using new techniques like concrete (Thorpe 1995: 47). Basilicas were used as law courts and financial exchanges (Sear 1982: 31). This basilica was actually started by Maxentuis, but completed by Constantine, the first Christian Emperor of Rome (Sear 1982: 273), and so is known by both names, as well as Basilica Nova. This building was used as inspiration for many other buildings throughout history (Picard 1965: 147), and is one of the most well-known buildings in Italy. This image depicts the ruins of the basilica, the remaining part is the north-east side of the building.

George Wightwick an architect, drew this image, and was actually born in Flintshire, Wales. This book then, has a special place within the archive as a book complied by a Welshman. These images are from an educational tour of Italy that Wightwick took from 1825 to 1826 (Phillips 1846). His purpose in publishing this volume was most likely to get himself recognised as an architect, for it was published just as he was going into the business; this book was an advertisement to his ability (Phillips 1846).

Coliseum from above

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‌The Coliseum opened in AD 80; an arena like no other in the centre of the Empire, in the capital, Rome (Pearson 1973: 7; Sear 1982: 134; Brown 1981: 29; Picard 1965: 56). Its construction started under the Emperor Vespasian and continued under his sons (Pearson 1973: 7; Brothers 1989: 117). It was a lavish gift from the imperial family to the people of Rome; the construction, plus the shows that were put on, as one would expect, cost a lot (Pearson 1970: 7-8). This huge arena would have held gladiator and animal shows, re-enactments, festivals, all the entertainment a large city needed for up to 55,000 people at a time (Sear 1982: 136; Brothers 1989: 117; Thorpe 1995: 56). 

This image shows what the Coliseum would have looked like in the early 19th century. This image was drawn before the first restorations in the 1840s (Pearson 1973: 185). Preservation techniques were obviously not a priority at this time, as you can see clearly vegetation growing on the monument. During this period monuments like these were purely decorative to a city's landscape, parks were built up around them and they were used purely for aesthetics due to people’s fascination with ancient antiquity; an age of the 'Grand Tour', a phenomenon where wealthy people would travel Europe to educate themselves in history and other cultures.

These images were drawn soon after the Napoleonic War and many other conflicts in Europe and the Near East, so the continent had opened up again to tourists and artists; there was a need for the 'authentic' as opposed to 'touristic' experience of the Grand Tour (Buzard 1993: 6). For travellers, the Coliseum became an essential place to visit, a symbol of Rome, endlessly painted and depicted by artists and tourists (Pearson 1973: 181). As a ruin, it gained an aesthetic attractiveness for 18th and 19th century travellers, an inspiration of the picturesque movement and an irresistible monument (Pearson 1973: 181-182). This book would have been bought in order to show one’s wealth; this kind of book would have been expensive to buy, and the locations expensive to travel to, which bears another reason, to demonstrate one’s travels and therefore adventurousness. These kinds of acts would not only portray wealth and characteristics that one wanted others to see but mainly status (Buzard 1993: 121; Black 1992: 275).

References:

Black, J. 1992. The British Abroad: The Grand Tour in the Eighteenth Century. Stroud: Sutton

Brothers, A. J. 1989. Buildings for Entertainment in, Barton, I. M, Roman Public Buildings. Exeter:  UEP

Brown, F. 1981. Roman Architecture. New York: George Braziller

Buzard, J. 1993. The Beaten Track: European Tourism, Literature, and the Ways to 'Culture'. 1800-1918. Oxford: OUP

Pearson, J. 1973. Arena: The Story of the Colosseum. NewYork: McGraw-Hill

Phillips, T. 1846. George Wightwick: Select Views of the Roman Antiquities (London, 1827). University of Wales, Trinity Saint David. Available from: http://www.trinitysaintdavid.ac.uk/en/rbla/onlineexhibitions/tonybrotherstravellersandtexts/wightwick/. [Accessed on 15/04/13]

Picard, G. 1965. Living Architecture: Roman. London: Oldbourne

Sear, F. 1982. Roman Architecture. London: Batsford

Thorpe, M. 1995. Roman Architecture. London: Duckworth (Bristol Classical Press)

Twyman, M. 1970. Lithograhy: 1800-1850. London: OUP

 

Karen Elliott