A finely colored example of Merian's decorative view of Rome.
Merian's panoramic view of Rome, based on the eastward oriented model established in 1593 by Antonio Tempesta, illustrates the city at the peak of the Italian Renaissance. The axonometric projection employed by Merian utilizes provides a striking image of many buildings that would be rebuilt over the next century. One of the most popular 17th-century views of Rome.
The view includes many monuments of the city still visible today. Classical buildings, such as the Colosseum and the Pantheon, are interspersed with younger buildings, such as St. Peter's Basilica, in a uniquely Roman way. Within the city walls, the areas to the south (left-hand side) near the Colosseum are composed of villas and farmland, in contrast to the expansive construction of modern Rome. Names are provided for main streets and plazas and all the bridges across the Tiber.
This map follows shortly after Pope Sixtus the Fifth's ambitious civic redesign of Rome, pre-dating the renovations of the city which occurred during the Baroque Period. One of the seminal characters of the Counter-Reformation, he took the role of rebuilding Rome as a distinctly Catholic Renaissance city seriously. Not only did he complete and restore many religious and political buildings, such as the Lateran Palace, he also rearranged the arteries of Rome to better connect its religious buildings. Much of this was done at the expense of antiquities, which he frequently built over and recast. The legacy Pope Sixtus V left on the city is preserved in this view of Rome.
Mathaus Merian (1593-1650) was the father of engraver Matthäus the Younger, and of the painter, engraver, and naturalist Maria Sibylla Merian. He was born in Basel, Switzerland and trained in engraving in Zurich. After a time in Nancy, Paris and Strasbourg, he settled in Frankfurt. While there, he worked for Johann Theodor de Bry, the publisher and son of the travel writer. In 1617, he married Maria Magdalena de Bry, Johann Theodor’s daughter. In 1623, Merian took over the de Bry publishing house upon the death of his father-in-law. Merian’s best known works are detailed town views which, due to their accuracy and artistry, form a valuable record of European urban life in the first half of the sixteenth century