Studium UrbisRoma Delineata
Nolli, detail, Pianta di Roma, 1748.

Piranesi, detail, archeological map entitled Ichnographiam Campi Martii antiquae urbis, c. 1770.


Ichnographic plans of the city / Piante iconografiche di Roma
December 2000

Curated by Dr. Allan Ceen / organizato di Professore Ceen
To inquire about the exhibition, contact Allan Ceen.

Roma Veduta, an outstanding exhibition currently showing at Palazzo Poli, was the inspiration for the subject and the title of this much more modest effort, entitled Roma Delineata. The subtitle of Roma Veduta: "Disegni e stampe panoramiche della cittą dal XV al XIX secolo" indicates that exhibit's emphasis on view-maps and panoramic views, as opposed to plan-maps (ichnographic, orthogonal plans), of the city. There were no plan-maps in that exhibit. Roma Delineata is an attempt to parallel and perhaps complement the larger show with an exhibit of plan-maps of Rome, but for a more limited time frame.

Plan-maps of Rome do not really take hold before Giambattista Nolli's masterly 1748 image. There were none in the fifteenth century. There was one in the sixteenth century: Bufalini, 1551, the first since the Forma Urbis of about 203 A.D. There were three in the seventeenth century, and one before Nolli in the eighteenth. This brings us to a total of five plan-maps before Nolli. However, once the standard is set by Nolli's extremely accurate Pianta Grande, plan-maps proliferate, most of them using Nolli as their base. A similar situation had occurred after Bufalini's plan was published: whereas the first half of the Cinquecento produced no maps at all (neither plan-maps nor view-maps) of the contemporary city - and this was the 'High' Renaissance! - after 1551 and before 1600 there are nearly twenty view-maps drawn, most of them using Bufalini as a base.

In the 19th century, plan-maps replace view-maps as the dominant image of the city. Over 30 significant maps are drawn between 1800 and 1870, most of them plan-maps. This is not to say that the panoramic view is forgotten. Following Vasi's famous panorama of the city seen from the Gianiculum (1765), we find many imitations and variations of this technique, culminating in the spectacular 360-degree view of the city during the siege of 1849, by Philippet (1882), which is so well illustrated in the ROMA VEDUTA exhibit. But the view-map itself seems to give way before the plan-map, to the point that Frutaz (Le Piante di Roma, 1962) illustrates only two of the former between 1800 and 1900.


Nolli's map was chosen as the starting point of this exhibit not only because of its importance in the cartographic history of the city, but also because it was drawn at the end of considerable Baroque urban development and the beginning of a long period of stasis during which urban changes were few and far between. This means that maps drawn between 1750 and 1870 tend to repeat both the Nolli map (with the necessary updates) and themselves, often with a mere changing of the date. Dating therefore becomes a problem, as individual maps in this exhibit will reveal.

1870 was chosen for the exhibit's concluding date because after Rome becomes the capital of Italy, a new type of plan-map takes over: the Piano Regolatore (Master Plan). Most of the plan-maps after 1870, even those intended for tourists and pilgrims to the city, make reference to the Piano Regolatore and make a point of illustrating the rapidly changing and expanding capital. Therefore the set of post-1870 plan-maps deserves an exhibit of its own. One is being planned for Autumn 2001 at the Studium Urbis, with accompanying website.

The cartography of Rome in the second half of the 18th century is dominated by the Nolli Pianta Grande and Piranesi's archeological maps. Apart from these original works, most of the other published maps were updated reprints of earlier ones. Thus Falda's 1676 map is republished in 1756, and Barbey's 1697 map is republished in 1798. asi produces a view-map of the city in 1781, but it is modeled largely on the Falda 1676 image. View-maps were already giving way to plan-maps.

The urban stasis between 1750 and 1870, mentioned above, meant that mapmakers during that period were portraying an essentially unchanged city. This made it tempting for both designer and editor to keep copying and reprinting, respectively, the earlier maps. Evidence of this abounds (see catalog numbers 10, 11, soon to be displayed on the web page) and repetition is one of the major characteristics of 19th century mapmaking. At the same time different ways of drawing plans of the city were developed: some followed the Nolli pattern of exact representation of street widths, while others developed a way of broadening the streets so as to permit the viewer to distinguish them more clearly and the mapmaker to insert their names. In the latter context, it should be recalled that street-names were variable until the Catasto Urbano of Pius VII, at which time street signs began to be painted on the sides of buildings.

Dating the maps of the period under discussion is something of a problem. Some maps are undated, while others bear a publication date which is misleading because they are reprints of much earlier maps and therefore do not represent the contemporary city. Apart from the clearing of houses around the column of Trajan, the redefinition of Piazza del Popolo and the Pincio, and the building of Pius IX Mastai-Ferretti's Fabbrica di Tabacco and a few bridges on the Tiber, there are not many other reference points useful for th process of dating (see chronological list below). The difficulty in dating further emphasizes the fact that the city changed little over the 120-year period before Rome becomes the capital of Italy.

Studying the evolution of the city for this period then becomes a question of micro-analysis, searching for small changes and developments on the maps themselves, researching texts and archives for the details of urban projects such as the tortured evolution of the design, and lengthy execution, of Piazza del Popolo. Much of this type of analysis remains to be done. The selection of maps presented here attempts to provide a starting point for this kind of work.


Pertinent Roman Landmarks
Date Landmark
1786 Obelisk on top of Spanish steps
1811 Street from Campidoglio
1823 Casina Valadier built
1823 Old fountain removed from Piazza del Popolo
1824 Piazza del Popolo completed
1827-63 Porto Leonino
1839 Semi-circular piazza on Via Ripetta
1853 Ponte Rotto Suspension bridge
1861-67 Stazione Termini
1863 Fabbrica di Tabacchi
1867 Via Garibaldi hairpin curve
1870 Old Acqua Marci fountain in Piazza Esedra

Continue with the Exhibition:
Descriptive Catalogue of Roma Delineata Exhibition Images

The Studium Urbis
Rome Research Center in Architecture and Urban Planning
Centro ricerca topografica di Roma
Via di Montoro 24 - 00186 Rome Italy
Tel. (06) 686-1191 (Rome)  -  (503) 223-3130 (usa contact)
Email: Contact Allan Ceen