Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History
One of our greatest art and cultural critics now takes on Rome’s complicated history as a city, an empire, an origin of Western art and civilization, and as his own inspiration.
Robert Hughes opens this authoritative, searingly smart history with his own arrival in Rome in 1958, as a wide-eyed twenty-year-old from Australia. We see him blissfully plunging into the life of t...more
The two books I have previously read by Hughes, “The Fatal Shore” (A history of Australia), and “Goya” (A biography of the artist), were both excellent, and I was looking forward to this one, his latest. I was disappointed. Although it is a large book – over 450 pages – it still tries to cover too much. There are actually several books hidden in this one that are yearning to get out. For example, Chapters 1 through 5 cov ...more
This history is primarily focused on the art and culture of the city, offering cutting remarks on the political side of things. With such eminent leaders as Berlusconi, who could blame him for being dismissive?
The only flaw I could notice was that the book needed even more pictures - but that isn't so bad - Google the relevant art works and you should follow Hughes' whirlwind tour of the ...more
In his first chapter, Hughes tells the story of Giordano Bruno, a heretic who was burned at the stake in 1600 for believing, among other things, the sun was just one of many stars in a vast universe. Bruno told the priests “Maiore forsan cum timore sententiam in me ...more
Hughes, Robert. Rome: A Cultural, Visual, Personal History, Alfred A. Knopf, New York (498pp.$35)
On the 8th of the Jewish month of Ab in A.D. 70, the armies of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, commanded by his son and heir Titus and numbering some 60,000, were camped before the walls of Jerusalem. Inside the walls, perhaps half a million starving Jews survived the diabolical conditions and were still, mostly defi ...more
An entertaining and informative read for anyone who knows and loves Rome, or wants an account of the city weighted towards its aesthetic history -- particularly its art and architecture. Hughes is best when discussing the art of the Renaissance and thereafter, and there are especially rich sections on Baroque Rome and the 20th c. avant garde, particularly Futurism, and its links to Mussolini's brand of fascism. However the book is marred by a few avoidable errors in its recounting ...more
Hughes's formidable intellect, the depth of his expertise, his refusal to mince words, particularly as concerns (post) modern art (he doesn't like it), and the sheer force of his writing make him an magnificent guide to Rome. I've never read a book that made ...more
L’anno prima della maturità uno dei miei figli andò per 6 settimane a Melbourne per uno scambio culturale organizzato dalla scuola. A cavallo delle vacanze invernali, per ricambiare, ospitammo per 6 settimane il ragazzo, suo coetaneo, della famiglia dove era stato mio figlio. Fu subito ribattezzato «’a mumma», come il protagonista di uno dei film de paura di Corrado Guzz ...more
"For a time in my adolescence - not knowing Rome in any but the sketchiest way - I longed to be a Roman expatriate ... I was nuts about the idea of Rome ..."
Most of all - and this is something that Rome has in quantities that my particular loves can only dream of - he fell in love with art:
[An elderly Jesuit from his school in Australia, who tr ...more
Hughes does a great job narrating history so that it’s almost always an interesting story. This means, though, that there’s not always recognizable logic. Sometimes the focus is on the papacy, sometimes on art, ...more
Some absences startled me, though. What happened with Trajano, Adriano and Marcus Aurelius?, these great emperors are barely mentioned.
As this book will deal a big deal with christianity, is understandable that the confused and confusing Constantine occupies as much space as Julius Cesar and Augustus, but then right after his death, the author jumps, in a very few pages, from IV century to XI century, not even mentioning the sack of Rome of 410! (is this a deci ...more
A dear friend who is an aficionado of Rome recommended this book to read before my return to the Eternal City after a 37 year hiatus. I was pleasantly surprised at how perfect this was for me. Just the right amount of history, both ancient and art, memoir and commentary. I particularly noticed the "secular" tinge when covering the Catholic Church. I found this perspective refreshing because it describes the forces in play that more often than not appear to be contradictory and at time hypocriti ...more