Many of the people clambering over the ruins of ancient Rome in the 17th and 18th centuries were merely curious about the secret city half-hidden beneath their feet. Connoisseurs, however, were acutely aware of the ruins' original function – as temples for gods and goddesses, and monuments for famous Romans.
Collectors avidly sought out original sculptures, sarcophagi and fragments of buildings from the Renaissance onwards, and in later centuries there was a thriving market for copies of major works. The discovery of the ruined townships of Pompeii and Herculaneum, near Naples, caused a widespread classical revival throughout Europe, known as Neoclassicism.
Translations and reprints of early texts whetted the appetite of connoisseurs. The names of Greek and Roman gods, as well as the heroes of mythology, became familiar to many, their symbolic meanings adapted to illustrate the ideals of the times.
This second part of Temples for the Gods draws on works from our collections which illustrate this ongoing fascination with the past. The curious 18th century onlookers populating them are joined by the heroic figures who were commemorated or worshipped in these buildings long ago.
- Curated by
- Mary Kisler
- Level 1
- Free entry