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David Roberts

David Roberts was known for his collections of sketches of foreign lands, the last of which was Italy: Classical, Historical and Picturesque, which was published in 1859, the same year that he painted The Forum, Rome. Roberts had visited Rome in the winter of 1853-1854, just after the Forum had been partially cleared, and later painted several different views.

In the foreground are the three columns from the Temple of Castor and, in the background half buried in debris, the Arch of Septimius Severus, looking no different than it did when depicted in the engravings of Piranesi a century earlier. On the left, opposite the temple, is the church of Santa Maria Liberatrice, which was demolished in 1900-1901. The French had intended to clear the Forum but as much as twelve feet of debris still remained when its occupation ended in 1814. Additional work had been continued by Pius VII, but it was not until 1827, under Leo XII, that there was a systematic campaign to clear the Forum to its foundation. Another period of work had just been completed when Roberts visited.

At Rome (1859) was made for the same patron to accompany The Forum, Rome and shows the three columns from the Temple of Vespasian and the Arch of Septimius Severus. Behind them both is the church of Santi Luca e Martina and, in the distance, the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, the towering campanile of Santa Francesca Romana, and the Colosseum.

Reference: Imaging Rome: British Artists and Rome in the Nineteenth Century (1996) edited by Michael Liversidge and Catherine Edwards.

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