The History of Rome in Painting

Edited by Maria Teresa Caracciolo and Roselyne de Ayala

Abbeville Press

In shops now

A couple years back I got myself a copy of “The History of Paris in Painting,” which still sits in my office.  It’s an astounding volume, and now it has a friend.  A very heavy but marvelous book that people will love to see on your coffee table even if they can’t be bothered to hoist it out of the sleeve because of its sheer size.

“The History of Rome in Painting” begins with the founding of the city, linked by legend to the twin brothers, Romulus and Remus – the sons of the god Mars around 753 BCE.  The paintings, of course, wouldn’t come until later, but the images here are how we learn the story.  It begins in antiquity and moves all the way through the 20th century.  What begins in legend, ends in Picasso.

In between, the book has lavishly reproduced paintings, some spread over two large pages or foldouts.  You would never imagine being able to get so close to a Caravaggio or Michelangelo’s ‘Sistine Ceiling.’  The accompanying editorial contributions are brief but fascinating, allowing you to really spend your time soaking up the artwork with the perfect amount of context.  It’s a mesmerizing work of publishing, and not one you will soon forget.