Published by Antonio Lafréri (French, ca. 1512–1577) From the Metropolitan Museum's copy of the Speculum Romanae magnificentiae (Mirror of Rome's Magnificence)
8 7/8 x 13 in. (22.6 x 33.1 cm)
Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1941 (41.72[1.59])
The Renaissance interest in classical antiquity is revealed in this engraving of the Colosseum, published by French engraver Antonio Lafréri as part of a collection of prints available in his Roman shop. A patron could select from available stock that included maps, views of ancient and Renaissance Rome, architectural elements, and antique statuary, collecting images to suit his or her personal taste. In 1575, Lafréri produced a title page for his collection of stock images, calling it the Speculum Romanae magnificentiae (Mirror of Rome's Magnificence), effectively encouraging clients to compile print albums under this title by purchasing as many prints as possible from his shop. Although prints available for inclusion in the Speculum included some views of modern architecture, ancient Roman buildings in both reconstructed and ruined states were of primary interest. Here, the Colosseum is depicted as a crumbling and weed-strewn relic of the once-glorious Roman empire, isolated under a sky dotted with wispy clouds. The unevenness of the surrounding terrain suggests decay and disorder, but two tiny figures approaching the Colosseum on a footpath from the lower right corner of the scene provide a sense of scale that belies the pathos of the theater's ruined state.