BSR alumna exhibits at Pompeii and Herculaneum

Back in 2008, artist Catrin Huber visited Pompeii and Herculaneum for the very first time with her fellow BSR award-holders under the expert guidance of former BSR Director Andrew Wallace-Hadrill. This is when Catrin first fell in love with Roman wall painting.

Fast forward to 2018, and the seeds of an idea first sown during her BSR residency have come to fruition in the form of two site-specific contemporary art installations at Herculaneum and Pompeii.

The opening at Pompeii took place earlier in July in the Casa del Criptoportico. In the cryptoporticus itself, Catrin’s painted colonnade sits in dialogue with the Second Style wall paintings (inspired by episodes from the Trojan War) and incorporates replicas of everyday objects such as oil lamps.

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The second installation can be found in the area of the house containing one of the very few ‘private’ baths documented in Pompeii.

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A whole team of researchers was behind the project Expanded Interiors based at Newcastle University where Catrin is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art. The team included archaeologists Dr Thea Ravasi (Research Fellow at the BSR), Professor Ian Haynes (co-director of the BSR-Newcastle University Lateran Project) and Dr Alex Turner (Newcastle University). Their combined expertise was invaluable when it came to producing scans of the houses as well as the altered 3D replicas of Roman objects.

At the exhibition opening, speeches were given by BSR Honorary Fellow and Director of the Parco Archeologico di Pompei Massimo Osanna, as well as the Director of the contemporary art museum Museo Madre in Naples, who both discussed the value of an interdisciplinary dialogue when approaching archaeological sites.

37233072_10160680685475578_2726541695876333568_nThis dialogue between the historic and the contemporary can also be seen in the exhibition in Herculaneum which opened earlier this year. Here the installation focuses on objects, with some artistically altered replicas of rarely-seen artefacts from the storerooms of Herculaneum. The chosen location was the Casa del Bel Cortile, a significant site in the history of the excavations as it was used as a small antiquarium when the site was under the direction of the renowned Amedeo Maiuri.

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The Expanded Interiors exhibition rounds off a year of exciting initiatives for the Parco Archeologico di Ercolano and the Herculaneum Conservation Project to mark the 90th anniversary of the Scavi Nuovi initiated by Maiuri in 1927.

Both exhibitions are open to the public until January 2019.

You can read more from the Guardian here and watch a feature from RAI News here (from c. 18 minutes).

Expanded Interiors is led by Newcastle University with kind support from the Newcastle University Institute for Creative Arts Practice. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), Parco Archeologico di Pompei, Parco Archeologico di Ercolano, Herculaneum Conservation Project and Art Editions North are project partners.

Photos by Sophie Hay.

 


If you are interested in Herculaneum more generally and wider issues of conservation, take a look at the recently published volume Protective Shelters for Archaeological Sites, the proceedings of a collaborative symposium which took place at Herculaneum in 2013.

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An update from the Lateran Project

As an archaeologist, I am used to seeing transformation in many contexts and in many ways, but nothing has excited me so much as what one can witness underground in one of the most hidden, albeit historically significant areas of ancient Rome: the Lateran quarter on the Caelian. Thanks to the generous support from Mr Peter J. Smith, this year I had the opportunity to spend six months on a post-doctoral fellowship at the British School at Rome, working as a research assistant to the Lateran project, under the direction of Professors Ian Haynes (Newcastle University) and Paolo Liverani (University of Florence).

One of the aims of my research was to get a greater understanding of the excavations underneath the Lateran baptistery, where the archaeology reveals the complex series of transformations that took place in this quarter of Rome from the 1st century up to the early 4th centuries AD. The development of this part of the Caelian is well known: occupied by luxury residences for the Roman elite during the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, the area was transformed by Septimius Severus, who ordered the construction of the barracks for his horse guards (the Castra Nova Equitum Singularium). Next to the barracks, at some point between the reign of Septimius Severus and Caracalla, a bath building was constructed that underwent several transformations during the 3rd century AD.  The Severan imprint on the area was completely wiped out by the Emperor Constantine, who dismantled the corps of the equites singulares and gave the land where the barracks and the baths were built to the church. This event marked the beginning of what we can still see today, as the barracks and the baths were completely dismantled, and replaced by the construction of the Constantinian basilica and of the baptistery. As part of my research on the Severan baths, I was able to suggest a new phasing for the building and get a greater understanding of its design and final layout.

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The remains of the Severan bath complex and of its Late Antique transformations under the Lateran Baptistery (photo: A. Turner ©The Lateran Project)

I am spending the remaining time of my fellowship in Rome working on the future development of the Lateran project. After six years of intense surveying of the excavations under the Lateran basilica and baptistery, the Lateran team has now expanded its investigations beyond the limits of the basilica, to get a better understanding of how political, social and religious changes that occurred in Rome during the Imperial age reflected in the transformation of this portion of the Caelian hill. The new investigation is taking place within the property of the Azienda Ospedaliera San Giovanni-Addolorata and is carried out as part of an agreement between all the institutions that are currently involved in the area: the Soprintendenza Speciale Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio di Roma, the University of Florence (IT), Newcastle University (UK) with the British School at Rome, the Seinan Gakuin University of Fukuoka (JP) and the Azienda Ospedaliera San Giovanni-Addolorata.

The portion of the Caelian occupied by the modern Azienda Ospedaliera underwent huge transformations during the Roman era: situated outside the Servian walls and the pomerium of the city, but easily and quickly accessible from the city centre and conveniently set on a raised plateau, the area was cut across by the via Caelimontana and by the via Tuscolana. The excavations carried out between 1957 and 1978 within the property of the Azienda Ospedaliera have revealed a complex of properties that were distributed around this important crossing point of the Caelian and that were variously transformed from the Imperial age to Late Antiquity.  During the 1st and the 2nd centuries AD, a series of richly decorated aristocratic houses were built. Among these properties were the horti Domitia Lucilla, mother of Marcus Aurelius.

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Inscription on a water lead pipe, mentioning Domitia Lucilla, found in the Lateran area (photo: T. Ravasi ©The Lateran Project)

The property, where the future emperor spent his early years until his adoption by Antoninus Pius, likely encompassed a residential building with a richly decorated peristyle and a small bath complex and an area destined for the production and storage of wine.

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The area underneath Corsia Mazzoni in the old Ospedale di San Giovanni (photo: T. Ravasi ©The Lateran Project)

If the impact of the Severan and Constantinian transformations is broadly understood in the eastern part of the Caelian, it is however still unclear what role it had in the development of the residential properties found in the Azienda Ospedaliera di San Giovanni-Addolorata.

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The area underneath the Ospedale delle Infermiere (photo: T. Ravasi ©The Lateran Project)

It is likely however that the area kept, at least partially, its residential nature. As part of the 2018 fieldwork, the Lateran team has completed a laser scan survey and comprehensive reassessment of the stratigraphy of the structures in three out of four of the excavated areas within the property of the Azienda Ospedaliera, providing a foundation for further interpretation of the area.

Thea Ravasi (BSR Research Fellow)

2017-18: our year in events

This week we closed our 2017—18 events programme rounding off the rich programme of events curated by Assistant Director Tom True that we have proudly hosted here at the BSR over this academic year.  In this blog we look back over what has been a fantastic year, illustrated by snapshots that give just a taster of the varied, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary programme we have presented over the past year.

We began the first term with the workshop Digital Humanities and the Roman Campagna, a study day uniting scholars working on the landscape of Rome, focusing on the use of new digital technologies for research and publication. With presentations by BSR staff (former Director Christoper Smith, Assistant Director Tom True, Librarian Valerie Scott and Archivist Alesandra Giovenco), this lively workshop set the year’s focus on the importance of Digital Humanities and the challenges of transforming our unique resources into digital assets.

Friday 27 October 2017 saw us host Lost and Found: Places, Objects and People, a workshop that formed part of the international Being Human Festival. The workshop brought together experts from various backgrounds to discuss the importance of cultural preservation. Below are links to the video recordings of the workshop, a collaboration between the British Council, the British Embassy in Rome and the BSR.

In November BSR Research Fellow Emily Michelson (St Andrews) presented the paper ‘Walking Conversionary Rome’, which was all the encouragement needed for award-holders and BSR staff to hit the streets of Rome on foot, in the company of Emily herself and expert alumnus Piers Baker-Bates (Rome Scholar 2002-3). Together we traversed the most celebrated pilgrimage route, the Giro delle Sette Chiese (link to blog written by Assistant Director Tom True), the route connecting the Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome.

'The pilgrims'

As usual the term culminated with the December Mostra, the first exhibition showcasing the work of our resident artists and architect. This term we were even treated to a live re-enactment of the ancient festival of the Lupercalia on the steps of the BSR! The first mostra was a grand success and set the bar high for the forthcoming mostre.

The second term began with an inaugural lecture given by Director Stephen Milner, who became the BSR’s sixteenth Director in October. Stephen presented a paper entitled  ‘And did those feet in ancient time.’ Meditations on movement.’

The lecture perpetuated the themes of walking and movement in the forms of both literal and figurative feet, along with the associated practices of walking and narration, as a starting point for examining the generative power of movement in the production of culture. You can listen to Stephen’s lecture here. To listen to Stephen’s lecture click here.

It was with great excitement that at the beginning of February we welcomed Deborah Howard, Mary Laven and Abigail Brundin (Cambridge) to present their findings on on Domestic Devotions. The Place of Piety in the Italian Renaissance Home, 1400-1600, a special event to concluding their five-year European Research Council project. In the way of a three-part presentation comprising research from the Faculties of History, Architecture and History of Art at the University of Cambridge, this multidisciplinary presentation gave us a glimpse through the key-hole into the spiritual lives of Renaissance Italians.

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The term continued with a fantastic line up of a huge variety of events including Richard Wistreich from the Royal College of Music on fighting and singing in the Renaissance, the 2018 Felicity Powell lecture by BSR alumnus and artist Nicholas Hatfull, and conferences by John Harrison (Open) and Krešimir Vuković (BSR; Oxford), concluding with the March Mostra, a brilliant showcase of the second terms artists in residence.

As usual, Cary Fellow and director of the City of Rome Postgraduate Course, Robert Coates-Stephens curated a fantastic City of Rome lecture series. Over the duration of the programme, which saw eleven postgraduate students traverse and penetrate the topography of Rome, we were treated to six fantastic lectures on the ancient city.

 

Kicking off the City of Rome Lecture Series, was our very own Rome Fellow 2017–18 Fellow Krešimir Vuković (Oxford), a graduate of the City of Rome course himself! Kresho introduced us to ‘Early Rome: myth, history and the environment’,  providing the the ideal introduction to the early beginnings of the city.

The third term also saw the launch of our 2018–19 Architecture programme, entitled Brave New World: New Visions in Architecture. 

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This new programme, curated by Marina Engel (Architecture Programme Curator), will investigate the nature of some of the changes that are being brought about by the younger generation of architects and designers. The programme was launched in May by Reinier de Graaf who presented a paper entitled ‘The century that never happened’ . See below for Marina’s introduction to the programme.

June saw us host no less than four conferences and the end of fellowship presentations by our long term humanities fellows. Lavinia Maddaluno (‘Materialising political economy: olive oil, patronage and science in eighteenth-century Rome’), Niccolò Mugnai (‘Bridging the Greco-Roman Mediterranean: architectural, artistic, and cultural interconnections’) and Helena Phillips-Robins (‘Dante and medieval weeping: literary text and historical religious practice’).

 

On 15 June the last mostra of the academic year opened. The June Mostra as usual was a great success, a showcase of collaboration between our artists and the conversations between their works.

 

It is not possible to mention everybody in such a short space but thank you to every participant or visitor to each one of our events. More specifically thanks must to go Assistant Director Tom True for curating such a diverse and lively programme, and to all who helped with organisation of every event. We are already looking forward to a fresh set of events beginning in September! New programme coming soon…

Alice Marsh (Communications and Events).  Photos by Antonio Palmieri, Chris Warde-Jones and Roberto Apa.

A look back at the June Mostra…

In June we saw the final Mostra of our 2017–18 programme, in which our seven Fine Arts award-holders put together an exhibition of works produced during the course of their residencies. Here we bring you a selection of photographs of works from the exhibition. You can read more about the practice of each artist by clicking on their name.

Josephine Baker (Sainsbury Scholar in Painting & Sculpture)

 

Oona Grimes (The Bridget Riley Fellow)

 

Yusuf Ali Hayat (Helpmann Academy Resident)

 

Damien Meade (Abbey Fellow in Painting)

 

John Rainey (Arts Council of Northern Ireland Fellow)

 

John Robertson (Abbey Scholar in Painting)

 

Murat Urlali (National Art School, Sydney, Resident)

 

Photos by Roberto Apa

 

Stanzas of recollection

This blog comes from Pele Cox the inaugural John Murray / Keats-Shelley Memorial Association Creative Writing Resident (October-November 2017; April-May 2018). In this post Pele shares with us the poem that she wrote and performed at the June Mostra.

I was asked to write this poem by Marta, Visual Art Residency and Programme Curator, as a homage to the artists for the recent Mostra. I decided to write a collage, using snatches from the favourite poems that some of the artists sent me. These are interwoven with my feelings of loss and gain at my own departure from the British School at Rome, which is communicated as a series of rooms (stanze).

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Stanzas

I

Leave the door ajar.

Cicero says if you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

But give me a studio and a courtyard.

Leave the door ajar and let me enter in

 

where

words can bloom

mid stripped walls, the blue guitar,

where the mosaic hours

burn

the music of gravel and of rain.

 

My love is of a birth as rare 

As is for object strange and high

it was begotten by despair

Upon impossibility.

 

Leave the door ajar

let me look inside

a sight within

where

words can bloom

mid thorns and scattered chair

 

 

II

I have a room of my own,

With twin steel nests, a desk, the curved chair with wings.

My knees to the books and back again,

the trees beyond and studios beneath,

and artist strange and rare.

 

You walk in. “This room is not going to last.”

We are caretakers of its ending: a shutter,

a camera, exposed.

I reach for the chair again

where I sat for Pushkin, for Sholokov,

where I sat for the things I knew would pass

on.

 

Lady disturbed in her bed-

your thoughts of it?

Light is it a body

 

Leave the door ajar

and let me enter in.

 

In the smoke after twilight

on a milk white steed

Michelangelo indeed

could have carved out 

your features.

 

where the mosaic hours

burn

the music of gravel and of rain.

 

 

III

When I put my hands on your body

on your flesh I see the history 

of that body.

 

Leave the door ajar

and let me enter in.

 

Not just the beginning of its forming 

in that distant lake

but all the way beyond its ending.

 

This room is not going to last

we are the inmates at

its ending.

 

And yet I quickly might arrive

where my extended soul is fixed.

 

It is finished now

this room,

a stanza of recollection.

 

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Text by Pele Cox, photo by Antonio Palmieri.

What do we really know about African art in European museums?

31462683605_ebc546dc0e_b (1)As part of the British Academy Summer Showcase 2018 former award-holder Zoe Cormack (Rome Fellow 2016-17), presents the exhibit ‘What do we really know about African art in European museums?’ An exploration of the arts and heritage of South Sudan. In this blog, in advance of the exhibition, Zoe shares some of the developments to her project since she left Rome a year ago.

(Photo: Antonio Palmieri)

I came to the BSR for a Rome Fellowship in 2016-17. My project was to study four nineteenth century ethnographic collections, assembled by Italians and now stored in museums across Italy, from the territory that is today South Sudan. Rome was new ground, as my previous research trips had been to remote parts of South Sudan. The time at the BSR gave me the opportunity to begin concentrated study of South Sudanese arts and material culture stored in European museums. This week, my research will feature in the British Academy Summer Showcase, an exciting opportunity to share my findings with a wider audience in the UK.

In Rome, the question I was most often asked was, how did these objects end up in Italy? There are many historical connections between Italy and South Sudan. When Sudan was incorporated into Ottoman Egypt in 1821, Italians were among the first Europeans to visit. Some came as traders, some worked in the Egyptian government, others undertook scientific journey of exploration. In 1864, Daniel Comboni (a priest, now a saint) from Brescia established a missionary order in Sudan, the Comboni Fathers, who still have a major presence in Sudan and South Sudan. The Sudanese saint, Josephine Bakhita, lived in Italy from 1885.

Of the collections I studied, one was made by Romolo Gessi an Italian soldier who was appointed Ottoman-Egyptian Governor of Bahr-el-Ghazal (a province in Southern Sudan). He is known in Sudanese history for recapturing part of the province from slave traders on behalf on the Egyptian government (the collection in now in the Museo delle Civilità in Rome).  The others were made by; Giovanni Miani, a trained opera singer from Venice who to Sudan to discover the source of the Nile (the collection is in the Natural History Museum in Venice); Carlo Piaggia, an explorer who lived at a Zande court in the 1860s (the collections are in the Florence Ethnographic Museum and the Archaeological museum in Perugia); and Orazio Antinori (of Antinori wines) who founded the Italian Geographical Society (whose collection is in the Archaeological museum in Perugia).

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A case of objects from South Sudan in Giovanni Miani’s collection, Museum of Natural history, Venice. (image courtesy of the Museum of Natural History)

My research has addressed both how these collections were formed, but also how we might understand and work with them today. These are complicated objects to study. Formed at the outset of European and Italian colonial projects, ethnographic collections were integral to the process of creating difference, of categorising people and their material culture into discrete ‘tribes’ and generating the racial hierarchies that made the ideology of colonialism possible. In Sudan, this process viciously intersected with the growth of a long-distance slave trade in the Nile valley, which remains a painful rupture in South Sudan’s historical memory.

I wanted to understand more about how collecting had interacted with this violent history, but I also wanted to investigate how these objects might speak to current concerns about heritage, memory and community relationships in South Sudan. I have always been struck by how – despite the violent circumstances surrounding their incorporation into museums – these collections are a remarkable and unique record of historic arts and material cultures from South Sudan.

Juba from the air in May 2018 (photo by Zoe Cormack)

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Juba from the air in May 2018 (photo by Zoe Cormack)

Since I finished my Rome Fellowship I have had several opportunities to address this question in more depth. On my return from Rome, I began work on an AHRC Research Network about South Sudanese arts and heritage in Europe. I have also spent about four months in Juba (the capital city of South Sudan), where with a Juba based organised called The Likikiri Collective – are doing amazing work using theatre and oral history to explore memory, ideas of community and the nation. More recently, I met Deng Nhial Chioh, who runs ‘Maale Heritage and Development Foundation’ in a displaced persons camp in Juba. For several years, Deng has been using images from online museum databases to build a curriculum about South Sudanese cultural heritage for displaced students.

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Presenting my research (with Prof John Mairi Blackings, University of Juba) at the Catholic University of South Sudan, Juba. (photograph courtesy of the Institute of Justice and Peace Studies)

Through the AHRC network we have also brought some of the South Sudanese diaspora in the UK into the research conversation. One comment about the museum collections, from a member of the South Sudanese diaspora in London, has stuck with me. He said “these things are important because they are about us. They are about people and a future that can be better than the past.”  As South Sudan grapples with a new civil war, which shows no signs of ending, these objects seem to offer constructive ways of thinking about South Sudanese identity.

Another development, which underlines the importance of the Italians collections, has been the decision in 2017 by the Government of South Sudan to put the former slave-station of Deim Zubeir on the tentative list of World Heritage Sites. Deim Zubeir is where Romolo Gessi fought with and defeated the merchant Suleiman Idris. Gessi subsequently took a ‘trophy’ from Suleiman (including his sword) and obtained other objects at Deim Zubeir. These are now stored in the Museo delle Civilità in Rome and the Musei Civici of Reggio Emelia. These museum collections could be used to build a better picture of the site in the nineteenth century and be put into a productive dialogue with heritage initiatives in South Sudan.

Zoe Cormack is now Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the African Studies Centre at the University of Oxford. She has held postdoctoral research awards at The British Institute in Eastern Africa and the British School at Rome.

For an opportunity to see Zoe’s Summer Showcase exhibit, visit the British Academy Summer Showcase 2018, at 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH. Open: Friday 22-Saturday 23 June,11 a.m.-5 p.m. and open for a late-night view: Friday 22 June, 6.30-9pm. 

For more information on the British Academy Summer Showcase 2018 click here.

 

Postcards & Photographs #2

I arrived at the BSR to study vedute, (highly detailed cityscapes), maps and postcards of the monuments of Rome, using Peter Greenaway’s film Belly of an Architect (1986) as a vehicle for investigation. Weaving a narrative of power and politics, Belly of an Architect is presented as a sequence of postcard images of Rome, that alternate with actual shots in the style of the postcards. Greenaway originally intended to trace a route through the city, structured almost like a Situationist dérive, by using postcards chosen for their perspective, each of which connected a monument in the foreground with another in the distance. For example, by using a postcard of the twin churches in Piazza del Popolo, in which one could find in the background a small image of a part of the Vittoriano, the next scene would be set in Piazza Venezia, and if in that postcard one could glimpse the Colosseum in the background, then the next scene would take place there, and so on. When films use postcards and texts these things are always mediated by the filmmaker’s intentions. It’s like the actors. They are both themselves acting and the part they play. Showing postcards in the film is like characters talking directly to camera or when actors play themselves on film.

How excited I was after I introduced my research at the BSR and the director told us about Eugénie Strong’s postcard collection in the BSR archives. When I originally planned this research, I intended to collect my own tourist postcards of the monuments of Rome, but I found Strong’s far more seductive and conducive to the kind of ‘postcard’ tour I was looking for, one that is entirely subjective, blurs place and personal history and, speaks to each of us in a different way, as if whispering in our ears about forgotten experiences, adventures, romances, individuals.

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 Anfiteatro Flavio, postcard (BSR Photographic Archive, Eugénie Strong Postcard Collection)

Like a postcard itself, that arrives with no return address, and only a cryptic comment, postmark and stamp to claim its origins, is the postcard collection from the 1910s and 1920s of Eugénie Strong, the first assistant director of the BSR. The postcards are filed in albums and boxes according to place, like a map that is not yet made. The Rome album begins with Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s (1720-1778) depictions of the monuments of Rome, and ends with the 1911 Ethnographic Exhibition to celebrate 50 years of Italy’s unification, that shows different pavilions from different regions of Italy for the World’s Fair that took place in the Valle Giulia. In fact the BSR building was designed by Edwin Lutyens and constructed as the British pavilion for that grand exhibition which is why it is in the English baroque style, double columns as pilasters on the walls and a neoclassical portico at the front.

Piranesi’s most famous built project is the piazza and church for the Cavalieri di Malta on the Aventine Hill. This is the famous portal with a keyhole that sights the dome of St Peter’s. Strong’s collection includes a postcard of the garden, as if we, like Alice, have entered through the keyhole.

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Cavalieri di Malta, postcard (BSR Photographic Archive, Eugénie Strong Postcard Collection) 

The album continues with a collection entitled Rome Disappeared.

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Roma Sparita, postcard album (BSR Photographic Archive, Eugénie Strong Postcard Collection)

One of my favourites is this one that shows La corsa dei Barberi, a horserace along the Corso, that took place at the time of the Carnival. It shows the Piazzo del Popolo and either very small horses, or else artistic licence in widening the street, and, since it depicts a time prior to its construction, no Vittoriano monument at the other end of the axis.

 

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Corso dei Barberi, postcard (BSR Photographic Archive, Eugénie Strong Postcard Collection)

Most of the postcards are from collections that were never sent, but collected as sets, interspersed with a very few that were sent to her by friends, colleagues or scholars with requests. For example, each year her counterpart at the American Academy would send her a Christmas postcard, in exchange for one she had sent. Another favourite (not shown here) was of a stone frieze, of a pig, a horse and a cow with the note on the back: nice to see our old friends. What was the narrative behind this? Was this a favourite place to visit? And where was it? In the Forum? Elsewhere?

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Eugénie Strong’s address, prior to assuming the Assistant Director post at the BSR (BSR Photographic Archive, Eugénie Strong Postcard Collection)

 

Renée Tobe (Paul Mellon Centre Rome Fellow 2017-18)