Empire Without End

Antiquities Collections in Renaissance Rome, c. 1350-1527

Kathleen Wren Christian

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This lucid and coherent account provides a new overview of the collecting of antiquities in early renaissance Rome, from the time of Petrarch to the Sack of Rome in 1527. In the early 15th century, when Romans discovered ancient marble sculptures and inscriptions in the ruins, they often melted them into mortar. A hundred years later, however, antique marbles had assumed their familiar role as works of art displayed in private collections. In this important book, the author steps back to examine the “long” 15th century, a critical period in the history of antiquities collecting that has received scant attention. She examines shifts in the response of artists and writers to spectacular archaeological discoveries and the new role of collecting antiquities in the public life of Roman elites. The book culminates in a detailed catalogue of the thirty-six most important antiquities collections formed before the Sack and brings these vanished sites back to life by using archival documents, drawings, and descriptions by visitors to clarify the history and appearance of little-studied collections.

Kathleen Wren Christian is assistant professor, Department of History of Art and Architecture, University of Pittsburgh.

"Numerous photographs of the antiquities plus sketches of them in situ by 16th century artists visiting Rome add compelling interest to this comprehensive scholarly worked, which is recommended for historians and art devotees."—Anne Marie Lane, Library Journal

"Kathleen Wren Christian’s Empire Without End deals with pleasure, ambition, monetary worth, and intellectual status: the value of collections and the cultural values they were made to embody. Ranging from the mid-Trecento to the sack of Rome, the book catalogues how the ancient city surrendered its visual and cultural legacy to successive generations of collectors….It looks beyond Renaissance rhetoric to unearth a complex, sometimes tortuous relationship between early modern self-fashioning and the material culture of antiquity."—Sally Korman, The Art Newspaper

“This important and long-awaited book is the most significant study of antiquities collecting in Rome to appear in the last several years….On every page, Christian displays a stunningly sophisticated level of erudition, sharp critical judgment, and an unerring eye for the telling detail, skills that make her uniquely qualified to tackle this exceptionally challenging subject.”—Brian A. Curran, Renaissance Quarterly

“The book is carefully produced…..and comprehensively illustrated, so that images support Christian’s intelligent, well-documented and compelling conclusions.”—William Stenhouse, History of Collections

“The book is very clearly and elegantly written, and beautifully illustrated with high-quality images…..This is a thought-provoking and highly enjoyable study accessible to a wide readership.”—Guido Rebecchini, Renaissance Studies

"An excellent book. . . . The book is well documented, lucidly written, and well illustrated. This study will appeal not only to scholars and more advanced students in Renaissance art, literature, and history, but also to those involved with classical antiquity who are interested in the afterlife of classical sculpture, and anyone interested in the history of collecting and display."—J. Pollini, Choice

“Empire Without End is a well-researched and learned survey, entertainingly written and lavishly illustrated … this book promises to become an indispensable tool for future research.”—Ingo Herklotz, Burlington Magazine

Winner of the Society of Architectural Historians 2012 Elisabeth Blair MacDougall Award.
The award recognizes annually the most distinguished work of scholarship in the history of landscape architecture or garden design.
ISBN: 9780300154214
Publication Date: August 31, 2010
288 pages, 8 1/4 x 10 3/4
50 color + 220 b/w illus.