From Del palazzo de’ Cesari. Opera posthuma di Monsignor Francesco Bianchini Veronese, Verona 1738 (in the public domain)
This research project traces and examines antiquarian field activity in the city of Rome and in the Roman Campagna in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Special focus is on developments during the early decades of the eighteenth century which culminated in the high profile «proto-archaeological» excavations of imperial palaces on the Palatine, of tombs and columbaria along the via Appia, and of villas in the Campagna and other projects. Many of these latter projects were carried out in the 1720s. Although modern judgment of such early field investigations has been mostly negative, historians of antiquarianism and archaeology have recently recognised the pioneering work that was in fact at times being done here by some of the excavators, sponsors, artists and scholars involved. Especially the visual documentation of archaeological contexts and finds has attracted much interest lately for its relative precision and detail. Rather than focus on these already well-known excavations alone, the aim of this holistic study is to trace and analyse contextually the strategic positioning and interaction of a number of so-called «instrumental actors», both within the local antiquarian community and among its Italian and foreign correspondents, and to emphasise the collective aspects of knowledge production; to look at significant shifts in the approaches to and use of material and visual culture, as exemplified by collecting and collections, visual and textual documentation, correspondence and publications. Among the actors operating in these dynamic clusters in Rome and within larger networks can be mentioned Francesco Bianchini (1662-1729), Francesco de’ Ficoroni (1664-1747), Pier Leone Ghezzi (1674-1755), Gaetano Piccini (active 1702-1740), Filippo Antonio Gualterio (1660- 1728), Alessandro Gregorio Capponi (1683-1746), Philipp von Stosch (1691-1757), Melchior de Polignac (1661-1742) and Alessandro Albani (1692-1779), but the list is long. The project will result in a monograph.