Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae: Column of Antoninus and a Roman Obelisk
The Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae is a collection of engravings of Rome and Roman antiquities, the core of which consists of prints published by Antonio Lafreri and gathered under a title page he printed in the mid-1570's. Copies of the Speculum vary greatly in the number of prints, and individual prints were reissued and changed over time.
In 1540 Antonio Lafreri, a native of Besançon transplanted to Rome, began publishing maps and other printed images that depicted major monuments and antiquities in Rome. These images were produced to appeal to the taste for classical antiquity that fueled the Renaissance. After Lafreri published a title page in the mid-1570s, collections of these prints came to be known as the Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae, the "Mirror of Roman Magnificence." Tourists and other collectors who bought prints from Lafreri made their own selections and had them individually bound. Over time, Lafreri's title page served as starting point for large and eclectic compilations, expanded and rearranged by generations of collectors.
Renaissance representation of classical ruins was a symbol of antiquity, enlightenment, and lost knowledge. Ruins spoke to the passage of time. The greatest subject for ruin artists was the overgrown and crumbling Classical Rome remains. Forum and the Colosseum, Pantheon, and the Appian Way. Initially, art representations of Rome were realistic, but soon the imagination of artists took flight. Roman ruins were scattered around the city, but frustrated artists began placing them in more pleasing arrangements. Capriccio was a style of imaginary scenes of buildings and ruins.
Printmaking in woodcut and engraving came to Northern Italy within a few decades of their invention north of the Alps. Engraving probably came first to Florence in the 1440s, the goldsmith Maso Finiguerra (1426–64) used the technique. Italian engraving caught the very early Renaissance, 1460–1490. Print copying was a widely accepted practice, as well as copying of paintings viewed as images in their own right.