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News & Events for the Smith College Community
Smith Arts September 26, 2016

Views of the “Eternal City”: SCMA Exhibition Explores the Changing Face of Rome

person with backpack walks through the atrium at the museum

An exhibition documenting the changing face of Rome and how the city has been pictured over four centuries opens this week at the Smith College Museum of Art (SCMA).

“When in Rome: Prints & Photographs, 1550-1990″—which opens Friday, Sept. 30—introduces an Italian theme for the next year of exhibitions at the museum.

With more than 50 engravings, etchings and photographs on display, “When in Rome” offers views of emblematic monuments—including the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and the Trevi Fountain—that have come to represent Rome in the popular imagination.

On online version of the exhibition allows visitors to navigate the city, encountering the monuments in the exhibition thorugh images and texts.

The exhibition is a result of SCMA’s participation in the Yale University Art Gallery’s Collection Sharing Initiative, a multi-museum initiative endowed by the Isabel B. Wilson Memorial Fund. “When in Rome” was inspired by outstanding works by Italian artist Giambattista Piranesi (1720–1778) housed in the Arthur Ross Collection at Yale.

Piranesi—whose etchings are featured in the SCMA’s exhibit—was an architect, antiquarian and printmaker widely acknowledged as one of the premiere chroniclers of Rome. He was also a key figure in promoting the study of Roman achievements in architecture during the 18thcentury.

The Italian theme at SCMA will continue in 2017, when the museum will be the only East Coast venue for a groundbreaking traveling exhibition, “Leisure and Luxury in the Age of Nero: The Villas of Oplontis Near Pompeii,” featuring artifacts and art seen for the first time outside of Italy.

About “When in Rome”

“When in Rome” offers views of the “Eternal City” from multiple vantage points and invites inquiry into how Rome’s image has changed in response to new artistic media and the demands of different audiences.

In addition to presenting views of Roman sites and monuments, the exhibition is arranged to offer museum-goers direct comparisons among artworks created over a span of four centuries.

Images of the same monuments can be visually compared and considered from different viewpoints across time and media using a touch-screen interactive map—as well as other interpretive gallery materials developed by Smith students in collaboration with SCMA’s education department and the college’s Spatial Analysis Lab.

Spatial Analysis Lab Director Jon Caris, SCMA post-baccalaureate fellow Scott Gilman and student assistants Tanvi Kapoor ’17 and Karen Yu ’16 created the exhibition materials. Olivia Feal ’17, an education assistant at the SCMA, and Smith art professors Craig Felton, Barbara Kellum and John Moore provided additional support.

Exhibition-Related Programming

A series of campus lectures and exhibits on Italian themes, including this year’s annual Miller Lecture in Art and Art History, will coincide with “When in Rome.”

John Pinto—Howard Crosby Butler Memorial Professor of Art and Archaeology Emeritus at Princeton University, and a former professor of art at Smith—will give the Miller Lecture on “Rome: The Greatest Theatre in the World,” Tuesday, Oct. 4, at 7 p.m. in Weinstein Auditorium.

Other exhibition-related programs include:

  • “Italia Mia: How English and American Travelers Made Italy Their Own,” a talk by Werner Gundersheimer, director emeritus of the Folger Shakespeare Library and the donor of more than 600 historical travel books and manuscripts about Italy to Smith, Thursday, Oct. 6, at 4:30 p.m. in Neilson Browsing Room. A related exhibit, “The Lure of Italy: Travel Books and Manuscripts from the Gundersheimer Collection” will be on view through December 20 in the Book Arts Gallery on the third floor of Neilson Library.
  •  A talk by John Moore, professor of art at Smith, on “Giuseppe Vasi’s Panorama of Rome and Its Related Guidebooks: Printmaking, Book Publishing and Diplomacy in 18th-Century Europe,” Thursday, Nov. 10, at 5 p.m. in Weinstein Auditorium.
  • A cabinet installation, “When in Rome…Nineteenth Century Grand Tour Souvenirs,” on view through December 4 on the third floor of the SCMA. The display grew out of Professor of Art Barbara Kellum’s spring 2016 museum-based seminar, “When in Rome: Smith’s Tappan Photograph Collection and 19th-Century Tourism.”

“When in Rome” is supported by the Charlotte Frank Rabb, Class of 1935, Fund; the Publications and Research Fund; the Carlyn Steiner ’67 and George Steiner Endowed Fund in honor of Joan Smith Koch; the Ann Weinbaum Solomon, Class of 1959, Fund; and the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.