Let’s try a game--something like those “which does not belong” quizzes in elementary school—think of a great period for art in Rome. Ancient Rome. Yes, obviously. Medieval Rome. Yes, although there isn’t much of it left. Renaissance Rome. Of course. Baroque Rome. Self-evident. Rome in the eighteenth century. Rome in the eighteenth century? Not what first leaps to mind when we think about the city of the Caesars and the Medici popes, of Raphael and Bernini. Yet if we reflect, even briefly, we remember that throughout the eighteenth century Rome was the symbolic center of the world of art and culture, the great destination for painters, sculptors, architects, and poets from all over Europe, for English aristocrats on the Grand Tour, French novelists, German art theorists, Scottish lovers of antiquity, and more.

Well into the nineteenth century—and possibly longer—a sojourn in Rome was an...

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