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Friday, August 26, 2016

Cecilia Metella and the Picturesque Landscape

From the Circus of Maxentius

Just off the via Appia, more or less behind the tomb of Cecilia Metella, is the villa of the emperor Maxentius and its enormous Circus. Open to the public—and free of charge—the Villa’s Circus is an evocative place in and of itself, but perhaps the best place from which to see Cecilia in a context that evokes the eighteenth century landscape we know from artists who were enamored of her.

On September 10 at 14:30 I’ll be presenting a talk at the conference Reconsidering Archaeology and Architecture at the Ex Cartiera Latina on the via Appia. I’ll be speaking about what was once a fertile, creative relationship between archaeology and architecture (as it certainly was for Piranesi), about the archaeological landscape as a place of inspiration, and the idea of excavating as a metaphor for the creative process. I tend to consider my plein air work a kind of research, and in this case especially it’s a pleasure to be able to share the fruits of that research with colleagues and friends.

The images below show both my drawing done earlier in the summer, and the process of executing the painting on site. The attendants at the Villa were very accommodating (within limits, of course) of my work, and the magic of the place—arid as it may be in the heat of summer—rewards a visit, but especially rewards the act of careful observation with pencil and brush.

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