Statues of the Dioscuri at the Quirinal, Rome (Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae)
Anonymous, Italian, 16th century Italian
Publisher Antonio Lafreri French
Not on view
The giant sculptures of the Dioscuri, as the twin brothers Castor and Pollux are known, have stood on the Quirinal Hill in Rome since antiquity. This engraving provides one of the few illustrations of their dilapidated condition during the Renaissance, before they were restored between 1589 and 1591 under the direction of Pope Sixtus V (r. 1585-90). Domenico Fontana's (1543-1607) new design for the sculptural group included installing a fountain, reorienting the direction of the figures, and placing them on pedestals. Two centuries later, during the pontificate of Pius VI (r. 1775-99), their positions were adjusted once again, and an obelisk from the Mausoleum of Augustus was placed between them, which conforms to the arrangement we see today.
This print comes from the museum’s copy of the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae (The Mirror of Roman Magnificence) The Speculum found its origin in the publishing endeavors of Antonio Salamanca and Antonio Lafreri. During their Roman publishing careers, the two foreign publishers - who worked together between 1553 and 1563 - initiated the production of prints recording art works, architecture and city views related to Antique and Modern Rome. The prints could be bought individually by tourists and collectors, but were also purchased in larger groups which were often bound together in an album. In 1573, Lafreri commissioned a title page for this purpose, which is where the title ‘Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae’ first appears. Lafreri envisioned an ideal arrangement of the prints in 7 different categories, but during his lifetime, never appears to have offered one standard, bound set of prints. Instead, clients composed their own selection from the corpus to be bound, or collected a group of prints over time. When Lafreri died, two-third of the existing copper plates went to the Duchetti family (Claudio and Stefano), while another third was distributed among several publishers. The Duchetti appear to have standardized production, offering a more or less uniform version of the Speculum to their clients. The popularity of the prints also inspired other publishers in Rome to make copies however, and to add new prints to the corpus.
The museum’s copy of the Speculum entered the collection as a group of 3 albums with inlaid engravings and etchings. The prints have since been removed, but the original place of each print within the album is contained in the accession number: 41.72