A contribution by
The Courtauld Institute of Art
The subject of this book began to materialize as soon as I moved away from the streets and squares of Rome where I had grown up, first to Florence, then Los Angeles, Mantua and, finally, to London. Each of these cities, large and small, underscored the exceptional complexity of the historical layering of Rome. As a result of my exposure to these very different kinds of places, what had been until then the ordinary suddenly became exceptional and unique. I began to re-consider the spaces of my schooldays, at the time traversed almost unthinkingly whether on foot, by bike or on a Vespa, as meaningful spaces which reveal long-lost historical conflicts and ambitions, hopes and horrors. It was as if, by the very act of leaving Rome, my role had switched from that of an actor, immersed in the ever-changing and chaotic plot of the city, to that of a spectator with a much more comprehensive view of the narrative unfolding on the urban stage.
And so the square that had once been a social or romantic space (sometimes even a football pitch), the Piazza Farnese, now appeared as the embodiment of the enormous dynastic ambitions of Paul III and his family; what had been a rather unappealing and crowded shopping street, Via del Corso, revealed itself to be an ancient ceremonial route, restored to its former glory by the Farnese pope as an opportunity to expand the city and its prestige, and to honour himself with lavish processions. Looking back at the origins of this book, it is evident that gaining this physical distance enabled in turn a critical detachment from the spaces that were most familiar to me, and which had now been re-cast as new, exciting fields of historical and intellectual inquiry.
By Guido Rebecchini
About the author
Guido Rebecchini has read art history at “La Sapienza” in Rome and obtained his PhD at the Warburg Institute in 2000. Having received scholarships at Villa I Tatti, the Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies and at CASVA, he has taught at the Università degli Studi di Siena and at the Florentine campuses of Syracuse University and New York University. In 2013, he was appointed Lecturer of Southern European Renaissance Art at The Courtauld Institute of Art, where he is now Senior Lecturer. He has published on the Gonzaga court of Mantua, on the Medici in Florence and on the Farnese papacy in Rome, as well as on individual artists, including Giulio Romano, Correggio, Titian and Giorgio Vasari. He has co-curated the exhibition Giulio Romano: Art and Desire at the Palazzo Te at Mantua in 2019-2020.