Wrapping up 2016-17: our year in events

As the final event of our 2016—17 events programme, AHMM’s Architecture and the Art of the Extra Ordinary exhibition, is about to close, it is with great pride that we look back on a fantastic year. Our calendar this year has been one of the richest yet, with some 90 lectures, conferences, exhibitions and seminars. To showcase the wide range of events we have hosted and the diversity of the disciplines cultivated, here is a taste of the fantastic cultural programme we are proud to have hosted over the past ten months.

From 19—21 September, the BSR hosted the conference The Lateran Basilica, which saw specialists in archaeology, architecture, art history, liturgy and topography come together to present and discuss new research on the Basilica. The conference included not only a rich programme of lectures, but also a site visit to the excavations of the ancient foundations of the Basilica.

In October, the exhibition Emplacement by Miroslaw Balka, which was the first of our 2016—17 Architecture programme Meeting Architecture: Fragments curated by Marina Engel, drew to a close with the artist in conversation with Joseph Rykwert. Focusing on Otwock, near Warsaw, Balka’s home town and Rykwert’s childhood holiday home, the artist and architectural historian discussed their respective work in the context of architecture and memory and architecture and ideology.

You can watch the video of the conversation here.


Joseph Rykwert (L) in conversation with Miroslaw Balka (R), chaired by Pippo Ciorra (C). Photo by Antonio Palmieri.

The first event of our Fine Arts programme, curated by Visual Art Residency and Programme Curator Marco Palmieri, was a talk by British artist Emma Hart, who last year won the Max Mara Art Prize for Women. Emma discussed her practice and elaborated on recent works, motivations, and projects.


Artist’s talk by Emma Hart. Photo by Antonio Palmieri.

Also taking place in November was our annual Molly Cotton Lecture, which this year was given by Maria Paola Guidobaldi. Her lecture Arredi di Lussi da Ercolano: I più recenti rinvenimenti dalla città e dalla Villa dei Papiri gave an insight into new findings at Herculaneum. Click here to listen to the audio podcast of the lecture.

You can read about Molly Cotton and her legacy in this piece written by Archaeology Officer and Molly Cotton Fellow, Stephen Kay.

The first three months of our 2016—17 programme culminated in the December Mostra, which gave us the first glimpse of the new works by our Fine Arts award-holders. As always, the Mostra was a great success and we were blown away by the quality and diversity of the works on show.

From 26—27 January, the BSR hosted the conference for Rome’s Mediterranean Ports Project for the second year in a row, a five-year research project funded by the European Research Council and led by the University of Southampton. This conference was another international event which brought together new research from a broad range of scholars.

You can read more about the project here.


While the BSR recently celebrated its 100th birthday, a talk by John Osborne marked the 150th birthday of a significant advancement in photography. In this lecture, Charles Smeaton, John Henry Parker and the earliest photography in the Roman catacombs, John Osborne discussed the innovation of using magnesium wire to take photographs, which allowed images to be captured without natural light. The impact of this was that Roman catacombs could be documented with photographs for the first time. This is a topic close to the BSR, as the collection of photographs by Thomas Ashby (Director 1906–25) is a treasure of the BSR Archive. We are also very much looking forward to welcoming John as one of 2017–18 Balsdon Fellows!

For Assistant Director Tom True’s reflection on the talk, follow this link. You can watch the lecture on our YouTube channel by clicking here.


We thank Robert Coates-Stephens for captaining another fantastic City of Rome course, in which eleven postgraduate students spent eight weeks in Rome on an intensive residential course, with a rigorous itinerary of site visits and research. The course is accompanied by the City of Rome lecture series, and in this we were treated to seven fantastic lectures on the ancient city.

In June, no less than four conferences were held at the BSR. The first, Oltre Roma medio repubblicana: il Lazio tra i galli e la battaglia di Zamaformed the second part of the conference series which seeks to address anew the themes of growth and transformation of the city of Rome and its territory.

Scholars convened at the BSR for the the Rome Art History Network (RAHN) conference Le collezioni degli artisti in Italia, which considered the impact of social change between the 1500s and 1700s on art and artists in that period.

Hot on the heels of this, the first day of the two-day conference Sensing Divinity: Incense, Religion and the Ancient Sensorium came to the BSR. Many were drawn out into the cortile by the smell of incense wafting through the corridors.


Sensing Divinity conference. Photo by Antonio Palmieri.


Sensing Divinity conference. Photo by Antonio Palmieri.

The fourth and final conference in June was rounded off with Hortus inclusus: Expanding Boundaries of Time and Space, which marked twenty years since the landmark Horti Romani conference which opened new directions for the study of cultural landscapes.

The final event of the 2016–17 programme was a lecture and accompanying exhibition by Simon Allford of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris Architects. Architecture and the Art of the Extra Ordinary explores the idea of the Universal Building, demonstrated in six projects in a range of physical, political and cultural contexts. For the video of Simon Allford’s lecture, please click here.

We are already looking forward to a fresh set of events beginning in September! New programme coming soon…

Ellie Johnson (Communications and Events)


March Mostra 2017 / Meet the Artists… Sinta Tantra

Our annual March Mostra is opening tomorrow and we are really looking forward to seeing what our six resident artists and architects have produced over the course of the past three months. As the finishing touches are made to the gallery, we bring you a teaser of what to expect in the fifth interview of the Meet the Artists blog series, this time with Sinta Tantra, our inaugural Bridget Riley Fellow.

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Photo by Antonio Palmieri

Sinta Tantra describes her work as ‘painting on an architectural scale’, creating works that celebrate the spectacle, questioning the decorative, functional and social role of art. The compositional arrangements are rooted in formalism, when private becomes public and when the viewer becomes active. Her work is an ‘overlay’ of colour which inserts its identity within pre-existing spaces – heightening a sense of fantasy within a functional context. 

So far, has being in Rome made a big impact on your work?

Realistically speaking, it’s quite a difficult city to settle into – visiting as a tourist is quite a different experience to living here. Naturally, I am of course interested in the many artists and writers who were inspired by Rome, but equally, I’m also interested in the people who weren’t – James Joyce is an example. He said something like, ‘Rome was like visiting the corpse of your dead grandmother’. Quite a shocking thing to say, but for me it’s about looking at ideas around the ‘Grand Tour’ and subverting that.

In his letters to his brother, Joyce writes about walking around the city and how he has a new idea for a book which would later on become Ulysses. From this, I became interested in how you walk around Rome, the relationship the body has to the city and how our own individual journeys become invisible line drawings traced/overlaid onto the city itself.

I’ve also been inspired by the colours of Rome, not only in nature – there’s amazing light here –  but also in the fashion, style and music – everything is very vivid compared to say an ‘English taste’. People here seem to walk with confidence, a sense of ‘peacocking’ and I love it! The colours in my recent paintings have been inspired by this – more vivid, more reds and yellows.

Is this residency different in that, given that you are here for a longer period than usual, you wouldn’t usually have the opportunity to do two mostre?

Yes absolutely, I see it as both a residency and an academic programme with things being divided term by term. It’s very structured, so it’s quite nice having two mostre and being able to reassess and reflect at the end of each three-month period.

Have you found it difficult to manage all the travelling you’ve been doing?

Yes, I’ve been doing some travelling outside of Italy as I’m managing a few projects back in the UK and in Asia.  I’ve been trying to feed all these influences and inspirations back into my studio in Rome – the idea that ‘all roads lead to Rome’.

In your introductory talk, you showed us a lot of large-scale, outdoor installations – has the residency in Rome been a challenge, given that for this mostra you are in a way confined to the gallery space?

In the first term, I wanted to focus on settling in, contextualising my location, research and making paintings. The second term I’ll be doing public art projects and working outside the BSR. One of the things I’m interested in doing next term – maybe going back to this idea of journeys and walking around the city – is to create three mini public art interventions based on James Joyce’s walking route around the city.

If you could do an installation anywhere in the city, where would you choose? 

I’d love to do any of the piazzas. The piazzas here are like platforms or stages where people congregate. They have a very different feel to squares in the UK. Maybe that’s another thing I was inspired by – this Italian attitude of being ‘seen to be seen’. It’s quite dazzling for a foreigner because Romans come across with such confidence – a kind of bravado which I like and am trying to incorporate into my work.

What is usually your approach to making a final piece, and has that changed at all?

Regarding the painting process, it’s still the same. I’d say the colours have changed though because of the natural light in the studios. I can mix colours with more intensity, as opposed to London where I work under electrical light.

Do you think that being in an environment with both scholars and artists has had a different impact on your work than it would have had you been working solely alongside other artists?

The interdisciplinary side is very evident – scholars see and speak very differently to artists. But because of the community and the activities that go on here, conversations between us happen quite naturally.

Also, usually on a typical art residency, artists work more independently. The environment here at the BSR feeds into your work – you might be having a conversation with someone at dinner who will immediately take you to the library after coffee to give you a book to read.

Can you tell me a bit about your final piece for the Mostra?

It’s part painting, part sculpture, part domestic object. It consists of four painted screens configured in a way so that it’s free-standing rather than on the wall. Some of the motifs on it are inspired by the Piranesi prints that I came across at the BSR.

When it comes to choosing what to show in the Mostra, what is the process? Do you start a work thinking, ‘I’m going to show this in the Mostra‘, or do you come to a selection process and think, for example, ‘these three pieces work well together’?

A bit of everything: I plan for things quite in advance, but then again I take such pleasure in positioning my paintings in the gallery and how it interacts with the architecture. This is quite different from my public artworks that are always placed precisely.

And do you think that you can do that because it’s a six-month process – do you think that, say if you were here for just three months, you would try to encompass that whole process into that shorter time frame?

It’s very important as an artist to not just produce work, but to produce work, reflect on it, and then make new work in response to that. Having the six months enables you to learn a lot more.

Sinta’s work will be exhibited alongside the five resident artists in the March Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Saturday 18 March until Saturday 25 March 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Ellie Johnson.

March Mostra 2017 / Meet the Artists… Caroline Cloutier

The second awardee-in-focus as part of our Meet the Artists blog series as we approach the March Mostra is Caroline Cloutier, our Québec Resident. We spoke to Caroline about her practice, the installations that she has produced for the exhibition, and how her time spent in Rome has influenced her work.


Photo by Antonio Palmieri

Caroline Cloutier is interested in the reflective function that exists in specular and photographic images, and in their ability to evoke virtual spaces. Using mirrors and large-scale photographic prints, her installations deconstruct exhibition spaces or reveal them as a mise en abyme. Sculpted with new hollows and multiple surfaces, the spaces of her interventions become the locus of a truly upended reality, a virtual space of indeterminate boundaries into which the body is inscribed by mental projection.

Can you start by briefly describing what you will be showing in March Mostra?

For this exhibition, I have produce two different installations. One is a very large-scale photographic installation and it will interact with the architecture of the gallery. The second piece will be a small intervention in the gallery corridor.

Do you always keep the gallery space in mind while you are working – both for the March Mostra and for your other shows?

My art installations are always site-specific, and the same goes for these two installations for the Mostra. Usually, the way I work is to go into the [exhibition] space and I have to take time to understand how the architecture and the space work, and how the body feels in the space. After that I can use some of the architectural details: I photograph them and I use them as a trompe l’oeil, so the main idea is always to combine the virtual space and the real space. This is what I’m doing for the two Mostra pieces: they are installations but they are also images, and the resulting images depend very much on the architecture. I will use images of the floor, the ceiling and the walls, and duplicate these elements.

Can you explain the process behind selecting a space to work with?

It is not so much that I choose the space, rather the space determines what I want to do with the architecture, because I play with reflection. For example, for an installation I might place a mirror in front of an architectural detail to reflect it, so if I want my pieces to interact with the architecture and create an illusion of perspective, I have to know exactly where I’m going to work.

How has being at the BSR, or more generally in Rome, influenced your work? Has there been a site or museum or gallery that has made a significant impression on you?

Many sites in Rome have been inspiring for me, but Villa Farnesina is one that made a particular impression. It was very interesting, because a prime attraction of the Villa is the wall paintings which play with perspective and illusion and trompe l’oeil. The art piece is the room itself and its wall paintings, without needing to put other paintings or sculptures or furniture in the room, and for me it was very inspiring to see both how the artists played with perspective and the anamorphose that comes through the paintings when you move through the room. For me, it was a very immersive experience. Although it is very different from what I am doing now, being able to see the artists’ process of entering a room and asking ‘what can I create as a picture that will become an extension of the real space?’, and to see that they had been working this way even in the Renaissance period, was very inspiring.

Can you tell me a bit about these photographs that you have up in your studio? Have these been taken in Rome?
Yes, I can talk about this photo-montage of these four photographs I took in the Chiesa S. Carlino alle Quattro Fontane [first visited on a tour led by Assistant Director Tom True].

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Photos by Caroline Cloutier

This is in the crypta – I was so amazed by how all the spaces interrelate in this crypta. You have this central room, and outside of it you have these little niches and openings which let you see inside the central room. What you can see from those openings, the construction of it as you can see on the picture, is that it is so perfect. You really can see how the space was mathematically constructed and I was amazed by how it creates a perfect composition. I just took a picture of the openings to see how the space imbricates and how it is harmonious and perfect. This is a study for me, it is not a photographic artwork project. After the tour, I obtained permission and returned and worked in the crypta for about two hours and took many photographs, and these four photos capture a sense of what for me were the most striking observations in this space.

So, say you are going to see a site or a gallery or museum – do you take some pictures on your phone then go back with your camera if a place makes an impression on you?

Yes, I never carry my camera around with me so usually I will revisit a site with my camera. I will visit sites without having any expectations, and I can take photos with my phone but if a place makes a strong impression then I don’t even need to do that – I know that it is somewhere to go back to. And if after a couple of days I still have the place in my mind, I know that I need to go back and take my camera and see what is happening there.

Do you feel that after working here for three months your practice has changed, or has the way in which you approach you work changed?

It may change afterwards, I think. As we are talking now, I have been here two months and this is my first time in Rome and in Italy, and my first real contact with all those masterpieces of painting and architecture. So far I’m processing all this and I feel that it affects a lot of things in the way I’m thinking and the way I want to create, but for now it is too soon to say. Maybe for the mostra what has changed is that the two pieces of work that I’m showing are a lot more about anamorphose, which has not been such an important part of my work before. This is a slow process, but of course I have been moved by many of the new things I have discovered and it will change how I will work afterwards.

Is there anything else you would like to say about your work or about the mostra?

There are so many things to say about the subject, the themes around my work, where I want to head… I have recently thought that I would like to try out collages. But I haven’t had the time yet – the last two months have already gone so quickly! I went to the Olympic neighbourhood recently and took many photos of the buildings that were really interesting to me – the forms, the shapes, how the sunlight falls on the blocks, so I now have many photos of this area and I don’t know what will happen with that, maybe I will do a photo collage with those motifs. But because it is new, I don’t know how to work with it… maybe now that I have made the installations for the mostra, this is more the experimental part that I can begin to work on without the pressure of showing these new ideas in an exhibition yet. And maybe this is how my practice will change, because so far all my photomontages are done on the computer, and I really feel that I need to work more with paper and making things by hand.

Maybe that can be your next BSR residency!

It’s maybe something I will take back with me to Montreal and work on in my Montreal studio. I have a lot of new material now, which is great!

Caroline’s work will be exhibited alongside the five resident artists in the March Mostra; open 16.30-19.00, Saturday 18 March until Saturday 25 March 2017, closed Sundays.

Interview conducted by Ellie Johnson.

Keeping up with the borsisti: Part II

A few weeks ago, the Life at the BSR blog took a look at the progress of the research and practice of some of the award-holders who arrived at the BSR at the start of the year. This week we are checking in with the other new arrivals: JD Rhodes, Mark Somos and Caroline Cloutier.

John David Rhodes (Balsdon Fellow)


While staying at the BSR, JD is researching modern cinematic depictions of Rome in a project entitled The uneternal city: modern Rome according to cinema. During the past couple of weeks, he has shared his expertise with fellow BSR award-holders by arranging a two-part study series, Spatial and Visual Empiricism. The first session, Piazzas, Doors, Hallways, was a seminar held at the BSR in which the methods for thinking about urban and domestic space, and the spaces that link them, were discussed. The second session, Cinematic Place and Roman Urban History, put this discussion into practice as JD led his group to  EUR, a district in Rome which Mussolini chose to develop as a showcase of Italian Fascist architecture. Below are some photos of the EUR trip, taken by Zoe Cormack (Rome Fellow).


We are very much looking forward to JD’s talk, Disembowelled vision: Fascism, Rome and cinema, taking place at the BSR on Monday 13 March.

Mark Somos (Balsdon Fellow)


On his time spent as an award-holder in Rome so far, Mark writes: ‘My first month at the BSR was wonderful. Like Rome itself, the BSR staff and fellows are a daily source of joy and learning.

‘Work has been going well. For my main project on finishing a census of Vesalius’ Fabrica (1543 and 1555) I’ve visited the BNC, the Lincei, the Vatican and the Angelica, which together hold over half the total copies in Rome. My co-authors and I are on schedule with the  manuscript. Our publisher is very supportive, and continues to invest resources.

‘Because the project is going smoother than expected, I started another one. There were several possibilities, and Christopher [Smith, BSR Director] very kindly advised me on which one to follow. I am now reading Alberti’s I Libri della Famiglia, written in Rome and Florence in the 1430s-40s, and now regarded as the first work to seriously examine the boundaries between private and public in early capitalism. I’ve always thought that an insufficient interpretation of the book; and it turns out that Rome is the place to reread it. When Alberti discusses planting different pine trees, one finds several of the varieties he had in mind in the Villa Borghese. When he transforms the semantic range of terms like ‘masseria’ and ‘masserizia’ to cover thrift, economy, self-mastery, correct relationships within the household, the right way to protect the household from contentious and unprofitable politics, one can then talk to native Romans to learn that ‘masseria’ also invokes a widely recognisable, romantic architectural image of a self-sufficient homestead, something between a villa and a farm. I look forward to closely examining what is probably the most important (and neglected) manuscript in the Vatican.

‘My wife, son and I have also spent a great deal of time just walking around. It’s a joy to share this city, and spend days in the Vatican, Capitoline, MAXXI and other museums.

‘All three things – Vesalius’ anatomy atlas, Alberti’s manual on modern households and politics, and absorbing the living historical city en famille – are only possible here. From completing projects to starting new ones, I expect to enjoy my Fellowship’s benefits for many years to come’.

On Wednesday 8 March, Mark will be giving a talk entitled Gender and power in the reception of Andreas Vesalius’s Fabrica: results from the census, which we are very much looking forward to!

Caroline Cloutier (Québec Resident)


‘During the first weeks of my stay in Rome, I had the privilege of doing on-site studies of trompe-l’oeil paintings from the Renaissance. While those have given me important revelations for my current research, lately I have found myself being strongly inspired by the modern Italian architecture, and the late afternoon sunlight that draws sharp triangular shadows on the suburbian buildings. Feeling enriched from those heteroclite new inspirations, I am currently working on a unique site-specific photographic installation for the March Mostra, that will dialogue with the architecture of the BSR gallery’.

All portrait photos by Antonio Palmieri

‘I have walked this ancient road…’

Nicole Moffatt is a PhD candidate at Macquarie University in Sydney Australia. She is spending spring and summer at the BSR as the Macquarie Gale Rome Scholar for 2017. Her research project is A world both small and wide: Letter-bearers of antiquity. Here Nicole tells us about a recent walking trip on the Via Appia and how it reflects an earlier BSR tradition.

Richard Hodges, in his Visions of Rome: Thomas Ashby Archaeologist, provides an extract of a letter written in January 1920 by a young Winifred Knights, the celebrated British painter and BSR award-holder (1920-3). In it she describes a day spent with Thomas Ashby and other students hiking through the Alban Hills. Ashby, then director of the BSR (1906-25), was a keen walker, an activity he combined with research and photography of the ancient Roman remains across the Italian countryside. The occasion described by Winifred was not an isolated one, as students often accompanied Ashby on his field trips. Robert Gardener (Craven Fellow 1912 to 1914) for example took this photo of him in May 1913 at the Traiana Viaduct, on their journey on the Via Appia-Traiana.


Photo by Robert Gardner – Courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive

It was only in drawing together notes and photos of a recent excursion into the Italian countryside for this blog that I came across Winifred’s description of a similar day nearly a century earlier. The following is an account of that more recent and particularly fine day, with a group from the BSR who likewise walked on the ancient Via Appia, before hiking into the Alban Hills for lunch.

Our group for the day was led by the BSR’s Finance Manager (seasoned hiker, Nick Hodgson), together with award-holders (from the left) Morgan Lewis (Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner), Vivien Zhang (Abbey Scholar in Painting), myself (on camera), Neil McNally (Abbey Fellow in Painting) and JD Rhodes (Balsdon Fellow). From the beginning the plan was clear: as always, coffee and cornetto first, then make our way to the beginning of the Via Appia and from there our way to lunch at Nick’s favourite place in the Alban Hills.


Photo by Nicole Moffatt

First, we took a short detour to visit the Fosse Ardeatine on Via XX Settembre. Here JD shared with us a beautiful and touching memorial dedicated to the 335 victims of a massacre by the Nazis in 1944 at Marzabotto. The monument included a magnificent mausoleum designed by architects Giuseppe Perugini, Nello Aprile and Mario Fiorentini in 1948. It consists of a massive tombstone that seemingly floated above a vast burial vault containing the granite tombs of the victims.


Photo by JD Rhodes

From here we walked on to the Porta Appia, or what is now known the Porta San Sebastiano. The gateway at the end of this road sits within a third century defence wall constructed by the Emperor Aurelian and within it the Arch of Drusus, dated to the first century AD.

The archives of the BSR house a substantial photography collections, including those of Thomas Ashby and Robert Gardener, from a period when the idea of capturing historical structures in the photographic form was still in its infancy. With help from BSR Archivist, Alessandra Giovenco, and Librarians, Morgan’s recent photo of the Porta Appia was matched with earlier photographs.

Just beyond the gateway, recessed into a more recently constructed wall, we located the first milestone of the Via Appia. We were on our way!

Three kilometres on we started to find our pace, and leaving the Aurelian wall well behind, we approached the first century tomb of Cecilia Metella (later thirteen century fortress of the Caetani family). It is around here that the texture of the ancient road began to reveal itself, competing with modern restorations.

Beyond this wall the residential area of the Appia began to fall away and we increased our pace. Walking three abreast, Morgan, JD and Vivien began the serious business of exchanging ideas, pulling apart, examining and reassembling research, issues, opportunities and life experiences.


Photo by Nicole Moffatt


Photo by Nicole Moffatt

It was not all about the walking, as this part of the Via Appia also features tombs and monumnets to ancient lives, be they catacombs, mounds, rotunda or monuments such as that of Marcus Servilius Quartus.

There were now seven kilometres between us and the Aurelian walls, and off to our left were the remains of the magnificent second century Villa Quintilius. It was the modest abode of Sextus Quintilius Maximus and Sextus Quintilius Condianus (consuls of 151 AD). The estate stretched for the best part of a kilometre along Appia and through the trees we glimpsed the aqueduct installed to meet the considerable water requirements of its lavish gardens, fountains and bath house. Cassisus Dio records that things didn’t end well for the Quintili brothers who fell afoul of the Emperor Commodus and after he murdered them he subsumed their vast estate.


Photo by Vivien Zhang

Moving on a kilometre or so down the road the Casa Rotonda loomed into sight. A mausoleum dating to the first century BC that now supports a farm house that was built in the Middle ages. This is an interesting example of the repurposing of buildings and monuments from antiquity: an emerging interest of mine. A comparison of the two photos suggests some preservation works on both buildings.

Eight kilometres on we passed the distinctive Torre Selce, a twelfth century tall-tower medieval fortress built on the remains of a first century BC tomb. The photos below record stages in its deterioration and then restoration – and the mystery remains as to the identity of the gentleman in Ashby’s photo.

Before long, monuments, tombs and crowds faded and the road stretched on (and on) through the Parco dell’ Appia Antica. To distract from aching feet, I reflected on my research and the letter-bearers for whom this road would have been very familiar. More specifically, the complaint by some writers that the contents of their letters (presumably carried by a bearer with ‘loose lips’) sometimes travelled faster than the letters themselves! The idea of information (absent of modern technology and any form of privacy) looping ahead of the person carrying, it an interesting one. Presumably the contents of a letter were being shared with any number of fellow travellers, as they walk and exchange views of a range of matters over a bag of nuts, handful of cranberries, chocolate, fruit and bottles of water … hold on, that was us!


Photo by Nicole Moffatt

At this point the cornetto and caffè of breakfast were a distant memory, and the priority was to reach Nick’s restaurant by 3pm. Its location: the picturesque town of Castel Gandolfo, also home of the Pope’s Summer Palace with commanding views of the volcanic Lake Albano. The catch: it was many, many, many metres above sea level. Still Nick’s confidence was unwavering as he pushed our group ever onwards, ever upwards through alleyways and country lanes, past orchards, an inquisitive foal and an excitable, yet singularly focused, Rottweiler.

Finally, 25km of ancient road and a hiking trail woven through the Alban Hills lay behind us. In front of us, Gandolfo and our prize … lunch. Alas, our restaurant table was not ready on arrival as earlier patrons had settled in for a languid Sunday lunch. Too weak to argue, we staggered off to a local bar and over a birra resolved to stage a ‘stretch-in’ protest at its front door. Eventually, the patrons were sent on their way and the table was ours!


The BSR archives contains a thumbnail sketch of the ancient town of Amelia, drawn by Thomas Ashby nearly a century ago. On it are various observations and a comment that has stuck with me since it was first pointed out by my colleague Jane Wade. Ashby simply wrote ‘I have walked this ancient road …’ and I might suggest it was probably with a number of students in tow. I’d like to think on Sunday the more recent edition of BSR award holders enjoyed a glimpse of this earlier Ashby BSR tradition.


BSR Archives – Courtesy of the BSR Photographic Archive

Thank you to Valerie, Alessandra, Beatrice and Francesca: the generous and knowledgeable staff of the BSR library who have indulged my personal interest in Thomas Ashby, his research methods and Roman roads in general. Thank you also to Nick Hodgson, who surely went above and beyond the call of duty for a Finance Manager when he agreed to walk this ancient road with us.

Nicole Moffatt (Macquarie Gale Rome Scholar)


Photo by Vivien Zhang

BSR research at Tarquinia

In November the BSR hosted a workshop of UCL and the Soprintendenza Archeologia on geophysics projects in central Italy where a range of sites were presented. Building upon these discussions, in early February a team from the BSR undertook three days of magnetometry with the Università degli Studi di Milano at the site of the city of Tarqunia at the invitation of Professor Giovanna Bagnasco Gianni.


Tarquinia. Photo by Stephen Kay

The aim of the survey was to provide a comparative dataset for an early geophysical prospection conducted across the city in the 1980s by the Fondazione Lerici. The unpublished results appear to reveal in some detail elements of the city, much of which is buried. The new survey, conducted at a higher resolution revealed traces of a network of roads across the town as well as some hitherto unknown buildings south of the famous Ara della Regina (so-called as early antiquarians upon its discovery thought it was a pyramid due to the stepped sides of the Etruscans podium!). The BSR looks forward to continuing this new successful collaboration with Professor Bagnasco Gianni and her team (with special thanks to Matilde Marzullo and Andrea Garzulino for their support in the field).

The theme of the necropoli of the Etruscans, and in particular their painted tombs, is being explored by Morgan Gostwyck-Lewis, the BSR Scholars’ Prize in Architecture award-holder. Since joining us at the BSR in January, Morgan has visited several Etruscan sites, looking at the movement between ornamental order and figurative image through the painted interiors of Etruscan tombs. Our current Abbey Fellow in Painting Neil McNally has been looking at Etruscan artefacts, mirrors and ritual.


The site of the Etruscan tombs at Cerveteri. Photo by Morgan Lewis.

This weekend, Director Christopher Smith will be attending a conference in Tarquinia organised in memory of Giuseppe Cultrera, and presenting a new volume edited by Giovanna Bagnasco Gianni on Fascino etrusco nel primo Novecento, conversando di arti e di storia delle arti. More details about the event can be found at www.artestoriatarquinia.it

Stephen Kay (Archaeology Officer)

Keeping up with the borsisti

As we approach the halfway-point of the January-March period at the BSR, this week we take a look at where some of our new award-holders are up to, and how the city of Rome and living at the BSR have influenced their research and practice so far.

Nicole Moffatt (Macquarie Gale Rome Scholar)


On her research and her time spent at the BSR so far, Nicole said: ‘Connectivity is a modern concept and its meaningful translation to an ancient context – particularly based on documentary evidence – is still an emerging area of research. My ideas on connectivity in the ancient world are changing and developing under the influence of fellow award holders, guest speakers at the BSR seminar series, and visiting members of the greater BSR network –  all who have generously share their own research, perspectives and suggestions on mine across the communal dinning table every day.

‘In a more formal context BSR library (and her wonderful staff), together with the American Academy and the Vatican library have extended my research capabilities and help me to both position it and clarify my thoughts as to its relevance in other areas’.

Jason Blockley (Coleman-Hilton Scholar)


Jason Blockley joins us at the BSR from Sydney, and he has been taking advantage of having Europe on his doorstep, and so far he has travelled to Berlin, Ravenna and London for conferences, museums and site visits as part of his research on his topic, Economies of late antique North Africa.

Neil McNally (Abbey Fellow in Painting)


Neil has been making the most of the abundance of galleries and exhibitions on offer in Rome. Always keeping a keen eye out for news of gallery openings, he reckons that as of yet he has not missed an opening since arriving in Rome! He has been balancing out the contemporary delights of the city’s art scene with visits to many of the city’s historical sites.

Sinta Tantra (The Bridget Riley Fellow)


On her experience of the BSR so far, Sinta commented: ‘As an artist, its been so wonderful speaking to individuals from other disciplines such as history, classics, architecture. Rome is a city filled with the unexpected where layers of history are literally stacked on top of each other. For me, one of the most intriguing sculptures is on Pizza della Minerva where you can see an Egyptian Obelisk from 6th century BC balanced on top of a 17th century carved marble pig-like elephant by Bernini’.

Morgan Gostwyck-Lewis (Scholars’ Prize in Architecture Winner)


Scholars’ prizewinner Morgan Lewis is using his time at the BSR to research Etruscan tombs, and as such has been on numerous trips to ancient towns in the surrounding Lazio countryside, including Tarquinia, Veii and Cerveteri. One of the many perks of a BSR award is being allowed special access to sites that are otherwise closed to the public, all thanks to our wonderful Permissions Officer, Stefania Peterlini.


Ellie Johnson (Administrative Assitant)

All photos by Antonio Palmieri