|Domenico de' Rossi after Giacomo Lauro
|Cura, Sumptibus, ac Typis Dominici de Rubeis, Io: Iacobi hæredis ad Templum Sæ. Mariæ de Pace. Romæ, Anno MDCXCIX cum Privilo. Summi Pontis. et Lica. Super. 
|Image 142 x 230 mm, Plate 178 x 233 mm, Sheet 259 x 402 mm
A depiction of the Temple of the Bona Dea, Plate 41 from Rossi's Romanae Magnitudinis Monumenta. The temple is depicted in an unusual manner, as a circular structure with a four-columned porch, elevated on a high platform with a grand staircase. The platform has high windows, but no doors, perhaps suggestive of a space for the goddess's all-female rites, which were a cause for masculine speculation, both religious and bawdy, during the Late Republic. The temple is domed, with an opening, or oculus, similar to the Pantheon. The large courtyard surrounding the temple is walled, and beyond the walls the countryside beyond the Aventine can be seen. Despite the prohibitions against males entering the goddess' sanctuary, at least two of the four figures in Lauro's scene appear to be male. Lauro's notes, making use of the textual tradition of Ovid and Cicero, do not say much about the building itself, but rather provide a description of the so-called Bona Dea Scandal caused by the demagogue Clodius, as well as postulating the goddess' connection to various other deities, including Diana, Lucina, Trivia, Argentea, and Luna.
The Bona Dea, or 'Good Goddess,' is one of the most enigmatic of Roman deities. Her date of her adoption into the religious life of the Romans is contested, with Cicero asserting that she was a chthonic deity whose worship was similtaneous with the city's foundation, while others see her as an import, arriving at some point during the third century. A goddess of fertility, motherhood, and chastity, her traditional cult centre was the Aventine Hill, where a shrine and temple was dedicated to her from at least as early as 123 BC. The goddess was sometimes interpreted, as she is in Lauro's commentary, as the deified daughter of Faunus, the god of nature and the wild. By the Late Republic, the aspects of chastity prominent in her myth led to the involvement of the Vestal virgins in the observance of her rites. The most famous of these rites was initiated each year by the wife of Rome's senior magistrate. Although highly secretive, the rites of the Bona Dea have gained much attention from later historians because of the actions of the demagogue Publius Clodius, who, dressed as a woman, sneaked into the rites of 62 BC, supposedly with the intention of seducing Julius Caesar's wife Pompeia.
Romanae Magnitudinis Monumenta was published in 1699 by the Roman book-dealer, printer, and antiquarian, Domenico Rossi. The work, a collection of plates designed to celebrate the architectural and archaeological achievements of ancient Rome, featured over 130 depictions of Roman temples, public buildings, amphitheatres, gardens, private villas, and monuments. Although unsigned, most of the plates were probably engraved by Rossi's friend and collaborator, Pietro Santi Bartoli. The majority of the views are actually re-engravings of an earlier series of Roman buildings published by the antiquarian Giacomo Lauro in 1612 in his Antiquae Urbis Splendor. Lauro's original work was published in four parts. The first detailed Roman customs, with a brief history of the city and its hills and public buildings. The second and third enlarged upon this theme with further illustrations of Roman buildings and monuments, both public and private. The fourth presented a number of views of notable ruins, as well as images of Roman structures that had been reused in the present day, such as a the Villa d'Este at Tivoli and a particularly spectacular scene of a fireworks display at the Castel St Angelo. In most successive reprints though this fourth part was omitted, as it was in Rossi's 1699 edition, owing to the fact that Rossi and his audience were interested predominantly in Rome's storied past, rather than the churches, palazzi, and ruinous monuments of the present. Rossi later published a companion to the Romanae Magnitudinis Monumenta, called the Collectio Antiquitatum Urbis, in which the engravings from Lauro's fourth volume were combined with other views of the contemporary city, its cathedrals, churches, villas, and ruins. A number of Rossi's own views from this series would later be re-engraved and republished by Piranesi.
Academically, the Antiquae Urbis Splendor is significant for portraying the buildings as the artist believed they would have been at their peak, rather than as they appeared in their contemporary seventeenth century setting. Of particular note are a number of illustrations, which, while fanciful, attempt to depict monuments that by Lauro and Rossi's age had been completed erased from the archaeological record. Such depictions provide a fascinating glimpse at the breadth of seventeenth century knowledge of the Roman architectural past, and suggest that Lauro relied just as much upon descriptions of buildings in the classical text as he did the ruins of the structures themselves. Apart from providing some of the very earliest representations of Roman buildings, in many ways, men like Lauro and Rossi also pre-empted the detailed archaeological analysis championed by Piranesi and his followers a century later. Lauro's copious notes to his plates draw heavily from textual evidence, but, as he admits, he is less interested in rigid historical accuracy as he is evoking a sense of wonder for the Roman past. As a result, his Roman buildings are usually depicted isolated from their urban context. The effect at all times is one of an artist who is intensely proud of his Roman ancestry.
Domenico de' Rossi (1659 – 1730) was an Italian publisher, engraver, bookseller, and antiquarian. The scion of a large and prolific family of printers, Domenico inherited the Rossi printshop from his father, Giovanni Giacomo de' Rossi. The printworks was established near the church of Santa Maria della Pace in 1633 by Guiseppe de'Rossi, who specialised in producing engravings for designers. Under Giovanni Giacomo and Domenico, the workshop reached its zenith, with father and son working on engravings on many diverse subjects, but with a speciality in publishing works of antiquarian interest. Domenico's friendship and collaboration with the engraver Bartoli and the antiquarian Bellori proved fruitful, and in the period between the early 1690s and Domenico's death in 1730, the group published numerous works on Roman architecture, sculpture, history, portraiture, ceramics, oil lamps, and funerary iconography. In Domenico's later life, his connections with the influential Maffei family secured the Rossi imprint Papal privilege. Following Domenico's death, the Rossi printshop became the Calcographia Camerale, then the Regia Calcographia, and finally the current Calcographia Nazionale.
Giacomo Lauro (fl.1583 - 1645) was an Italian engraver, printmaker, antiquarian, and connoisseur, most famous for his 1599 perspective map of Rome, and the publication, between 1612 and 1628, of a series of views of Roman buildings called the Antiquae Urbis Splendor. Very little is known of his life outside of these two works. He may be the son of another Giacomo Lauro of Treviso (1550-1605), though the fact that Lauro frequently signed his name as 'Jacobus Laurus Romanus' would suggest a Roman, rather than Trevisan, origin. Considering the rudimentary nature of many of the plates from his Antiquae Urbis Splendor, it would be easy to see Lauro as an engraver of only moderate talent, but his cartography, and the small number of portraits in his name indicate he was an artist of some skill. Instead, the Antiquae Urbis Splendor should be seen as Lauro's attempt at producing a work that demonstrates his skill as an antiquarian and historian, the images intended to elucidate and educate.
Condition: Encircled fleur-de-lis watermark. Clean, crisp impression with full margins. Small chip to right edge of sheet, not affecting image or plate.