Detail from a bird's-eye view of Rome showing the Colosseum, 1562
© RIBA Library Drawings and Archives Collections
This drawing is a detail from one of the most complete records of Rome in the mid-16th century and shows the city in transition. Rome's decline through the Middle Ages had left monuments as ruins. Among this decay, the Renaissance popes' urban renewal schemes began to carve out luxurious grand avenues, palaces and churches. The largest of these projects in the 16th century was St Peter's Basilica.
Once surrounded by theatres and large homes, the Colosseum sits alone in the drawing, highlighting Renaissance Rome's small size and openness compared to its imperial predecessor. The artist has captured all of this information in an imagined bird's-eye view that reflects a masterful knowledge of both drawing conventions and of Rome.
This drawing came to the RIBA, along with drawings by Andrea Palladio, through the collection of Lord Burlington. Burlington used this drawing as a way to understand Rome as Palladio saw it.