Antoine Lafréry, The Colosseum, an engraving


British Museum

British Museum

Within a few years of arriving in Rome from France in 1544, Lafréry (1512-1577) established himself as the leading print publisher of the city. He commissioned the best engravers to make accurate illustrations of Rome's ancient monuments and modern paintings. By 1567 he had published one hundred and seven plates, which could be bought individually or, after 1575, bound with an impressive frontispiece entitled, Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae, ('The Mirror of the Magnificence of Rome'). Foreign visitors would take these albums home as imposing records of the wonders they had seen.

At this time for those in northern Europe, when the revival of classical architectural forms was blossoming, the Colosseum must have been one of the prime examples of ancient grandeur.This print of the Colosseum is not in itself an object of beauty; it is not the enormity and the crumbling mass of this relic from the Roman Empire which is illustrated here, but rather the building's construction as a piece of architecture; the elevation is restored and complete, with a section removed to reveal the interior construction and ground plan. The Greek Doric, Ionic and Corinthian orders are carefully distinguished on the half columns of each storey, with the flat Corinthian pilasters above.

Lafréry contributed to an important change in the history of engraving. From the mid 1500s, the publisher rather than the printmaker became the main agent of the production of new prints, providing the capital to distribute impressions an international basis.

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  • Title: Antoine Lafréry, The Colosseum, an engraving
  • Date Created: 1581/1581
  • Physical Dimensions: Height: 408.00mm; Width: 553.00mm
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: engraving
  • Subject: roman amphitheatre/arena
  • Registration number: 1947,0319.26.50
  • Producer: Print made by Brambilla, Giovanni Ambrogio. Published by Duchetti, Claudio
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum
  • Acquisition: Bequeathed by Sloane, Hans