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Revivals, Reveries, and Reconstructions: Images of Antiquity in Old Master Prints

February 5–April 16, 2000

The passion for classical antiquity that characterized the European Renaissance was given impetus by a new technology–the repeatable image. Revivals, Reveries, and Reconstructions: Images of Antiquity in Old Master Prints examines the role of the print in documenting, shaping, and disseminating the legacy of Roman antiquities. Featuring some 60 prints as well as a selection of illustrated books, the exhibition will include works by Marcantonio Raimondi, Albrecht Dürer, Hendrick Goltzius, Rembrandt van Rijn, and Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

Woodcuts, etchings, and engravings were used to illustrate classical texts, and to establish the canon of ancient masterpieces worthy of imitation. Prints also provided a new forum, both intimate and public, in which artists could improvise on the ideas they derived from ancient art and literature to create images of drama, fantasy, and romance. Focusing on various types of antique remains–from the imagery of processions and battles found on tombs and triumphal arches, to the ideal forms of the gods and heroes established by famous statues in the Vatican and other Roman palaces–Revivals, Reveries, and Reconstructions demonstrates how artists brought these subjects to life. The literary heritage of classical poets such as Ovid and Virgil is illustrated in prints of idyllic pastoral landscapes and dramatic mythological encounters.

Revivals, Reveries and Reconstructions will complement The Splendor of 18th-Century Rome, a comprehensive and unprecedented exhibition exploring artistic and cultural life in the “Eternal City” toward the end of its existence as an independent papal state (in 1871, Rome became the political seat of newly united Italy). On view at the museum from March 16–May 28, 2000, the exhibition featured a spectacular selection of paintings, sculpture, works on paper, decorative arts, architectural renderings and models–some 380 works of art, in all–by a cosmopolitan array of artists and craftsmen who studied, celebrated and transformed Rome’s classical past.

Main Building


Wendy Thompson, Curatorial Intern, Department of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

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