From Universal Ideal to Local Tradition: The Architecture of the Renaissance in Papal Rome (1815-60)
Richard Wittman is Associate Professor in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of California at Santa Barbara. His research focuses on questions of space, information, publicity, and the public as they relate to architecture. He is the author of Architecture, Print Culture, and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century France (Routledge, 2007; French translation at Les Presses du Réel, 2019), and of a forthcoming cultural history of the nineteenth-century reconstruction of the early Christian basilica of San Paolo fuori le mura in Rome.
Roman architecture from 1815 to 1860 evinced a strong predilection for Renaissance forms. Scholars have assumed that this work lazily mirrored the supposedly moribund culture of Rome in general, and was unmarked by the vital historicism then remaking contemporary architecture in Paris or Berlin. This project challenges this caricature by showing that Renaissance-inspired architecture in Rome was in fact deeply engaged with the kinds of anxieties about history and modernity that fueled innovations to the north, and that these had prompted Roman architects to start viewing Renaissance forms through a historicist prism; not as a universalizing Vitruvian discourse but as a local tradition with a Christian character.