Rome through artists’ eyes on show at the National Gallery

Rome through artists’ eyes on show at the National Gallery Sir Denis Mahon's Collection
The voyage of Italy: 200 years of travel guides

National Gallery of Ireland

16 March – 15 September 2019

Room 11 | Admission free


The National Gallery is currently showing selected items from the Sir Denis Mahon collection of guides and travel books about Italy.

Naturally these were bought by the donor for the artistic information they contained for his own research, but they were in fact the actual guides carried by those making the Grand Tour, which in the 18th century was so much a part of many a young aristocrat’s education in taste.

The guides on show feature images of Rome and St Peters. A visit to St Peters was de rigueur, even for the most reformed Northern mind.

These, of course, are engravings. But perhaps particularly they give a greater sense of the historical reality than photographs do today, except for some of the earliest. (The photographs before 1870 reveal a city sadly in decay, the capital of a disheartened state under siege from a modernising world.)

The collection is being catalogued at the moment, but is, of course, available to anyone wishing to consult them.

But for those interested in Rome the present exhibition will give a give impression of the Vatican between the Renaissance and the Risorgimento.