Villa Hadriana as a Microcosm. A Space of Artistic Interaction in 18th- and 19th-Century Europe

Francesco Piranesi, Pianta delle Fabriche esistenti nella Villa Adriana 1781, pl. I-VI, 812 x 3105 mm (Photo: public domain)

The research project addresses the multi-faceted reception of the Villa Hadriana near Tivoli in its significance as a “dynamic contact zone” or “space of artistic interaction” in (early) modern Europe. The architectural finds, the building surveys, as well as the varied representations of the grounds and the objects uncovered over the course of centuries illuminate the evolution of archaeology, from the beginnings of the excavation campaigns as mere unearthing and recovery of artifacts up through the modern discipline with its scientific documentation.

“Warwick Vase” from: Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Vasi, candelabri, cippi…, 1778-1780, vol. I, pl. 2, Etching, 550 x 800 mm

The complex realized by Emperor Hadrian between 117 and 138 C.E. was “rediscovered” in the Renaissance and since then could be considered a surface for projecting an idealized ancient culture. It functioned on the one hand by creating a common experiential space as a basis for European understanding, but served on the other hand – beyond broadening the respective horizons – to develop individual and national concepts. The reception, presentation, and transformation of meaning of the portable decorative elements from the villa complex will be examined on selected examples for their “recontextualization” in private collections and museums. The various areas of inquiry primarily focus on the receiver groups of artists, architects, and draughtsmen, but also the excavators, restorers, and art dealers. With their (literary and visual) records, the representations and concepts, finds and impressions, aspects and notions of the Villa Hadriana were transmitted, which raises numerous questions.

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Associated Project Fellow

Dr. Cristina Ruggero

DFG Research Project
(April 2017-March 2020)


Dr. Cristina Ruggero
Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte



9. November, 2018 – Stuttgart, Hauptstaatsarchiv
Congress, 8–10, 2018: Aufbewahren, Transportieren, Inventarisieren. Objekte und ihre Ordnung in der Vormoderne. 3. Jahrestreffen des Arbeitskreises „Materielle Kultur und Konsum in der Vormoderne“
Vortrag: Ausgrabungsfunde aus der Hadriansvilla in neuen Ausstellungskontexten
17. Oktober 2018 – München, ZIKG
Lecture Series: Villa Hadriana: die kaiserliche Residenz und ihre Rezeption
Vortrag: Bares für Rares: Antike aus der Hadriansvilla und der römische Kunstmarkt
Gäste: Clare Hornsby, Ph.D, FSA, London: Man of Spirit, Man of Taste, Man of Fashion: deciphering identities of the British collectors of ancient marbles.
Adriano Aymonino, The University of Buckingham: The reception of ancient painting in the eighteenth century: theoretical debate, antiquarian publications and the visual arts
2. Oktober 2018 – Moskau, Lomonosov Moskow State University
8th international academic conference, October 2–6, 2018: Actual Problems of Theory and History of Art congress
Vortrag: Hadrian’s Villa on tour
13. September 2018 – Munich, LMU, Institut für Ägyptologie und Koptologie
Workshop: Diplomacy in Ancient Times: the Figure of Udjahorresnet. Close readings from across the ancient world, September 12–15, 2018)
Vortrag: Egyptianizing sculptures from Hadrian’s Villa in museum presentations

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