Les Plus Beaux Monuments de Rome Ancienne ou Recueil des plus beaux Morceaux de l'Antiquité Romaine qui existent encore

Various artists/makers

Not on view

This volume, the work of the French artist Jean Barbault, includes a total of 128 images, with views of Rome’s monuments and antique sculpture. Published by Bouchard et Gravier in Rome, it comprises 73 numbered plates – 29 full-page and 44 half-page. In the first section of the volume (pl. 1-54), the plates show (often idealized) views of monuments and architectural ruins in Rome. The second section (pl. 55-73) lacks the descriptive text incorporated in the first and includes views of antique statues and bas-reliefs. There are also 53 smaller, unnumbered images in the volume that accompany the plates: nine of these are in-text illustrations or tail-pieces, appearing at the end of text pages; the others are included below the 44 half-page, numbered plates. Typically, the numbered plate at top shows a view of an architectural ruin in a landscape, while the bottom (unnumbered) image depicts a sculptural or architectural fragment. In a few instances, the bottom image also relates to the subject of the plate above.
The text, written in French, describes the monuments depicted in the adjacent plate(s). In these descriptions, Barbault not only references the work of historians like Pliny the Elder and Bernard de Montfaucon, but also other artists’ renderings of the same monuments, particularly those by Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Barbault had previously worked with Piranesi, contributing to 14 plates to Piranesi’s Antichità Romane (1756), and the two artists worked with the same publisher, Bouchard et Gravier.
Barbault not only designed the vast majority of the images, but also engraved at least 86 of them, including the vignettes on the title page and dedication page (the volume was dedicated by the publishers to Jean François de Rochechouart). While Barbault seems to have executed many of the sculptural and relief fragments, many of the large architectural views were etched by Domenico Montagu, who was responsible for some 52 images. Montagu is also responsible for most of the etchings in Barbault’s “Les plus beaux edifices des Rome moderns,” published posthumously published by Bouchard et Gravier in 1763.

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