A Comparative Analysis of Letarouilly’s Rome- Past and Present

Kevin Hinders,
Associate Professor
University of Illinois Urbana Champaign

This research involves the location, documentation and analysis of buildings, rooms and sculpture depicted by Paul-Marie Letarouilly (1795-1855). Letarouilly had two major publications: Edifices of Modern Rome (Edifices) and The Vatican and Saint Peter’s Bascilica of Rome (Vatican). Professor Kevin Hinders, University of Illinois School of Architecture, has been invited by Museum officials to make personal observations of the Vatican Museum and Gardens, along with accessing the Vatican Photographic Archives, the Vatican Library and the Secret Library during the summer of 2013. The Vatican Museum has agreed to allow access to the Museum and its contents for this photographic comparison. The investigation brings to light the current state of the structures, historic changes and original misrepresentations. This research provides a valuable window into Rome and the Vatican’s changing appearance, creating a comparative analysis which provides lasting insight.

This comparison between the 19th century engravings has several objectives. It will provide enhanced access to Letarouilly and his work which has been a significant source for a multitude of architects practicing in the past century as this work has inspired and assisted generations of architects. It will also provide a more accessible understanding for the general public of the nature of Rome and the Vatican, its rich history and the importance of its architecture and sculpture. The creation of quality urban environments is dependent upon the creation of both good figural and good background buildings. Rome has long been recognized as one of the most influential cities in the world as a design precedent. Understanding its mixture of the overtly planned and the collage of elements is timely as today’s designers seek to create substantial built environments for our time. The documentation of the changes and permanence of the designs is uniquely informative for those seeking to design quality buildings and spaces.


About the Letarouilly Publication: Édifices de Rome Moderne

Letarouilly published Volume I (Plates 1-114) in 1840, followed by Volume 2 (plates 115-231) in 1850, and finally Volume 3 (plates 232-354) published in 1857 two years after Letarouilly’s death (1855). A companion publication, Table of Materials, was published to go with the set in 1857. The engravings were so popular that Volume 1 was substantially upgraded and reprinted in 1851. The enhanced rendering of the perspectives in the 1851 version became the basis for all subsequent versions of the publication.

The three volume set was used by architects worldwide as it was an accurate and relatively extensive set of engravings. These measured drawings were used by offices to create the classical buildings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, including the 1893 Chicago World’s Exposition. The publication was used by American architects and urban designers like Daniel Burnham and Charles F. McKim who executed designs for Chicago, Washington D.C., San Francisco, Denver and other United States metropolitan areas.

About Vatican et la Basilique de Saint- Pierre de Rome:

Letarouilly’s volumes on the Vatican were published in 1882- over 25 years after his death in 1855. His remarkable renderings of the Vatican have inspired a multitude of architects and his compilations of the various projects proposed for St. Peter’s is an important compendium for generations of architects and scholars. Both the Letarouilly works were republished in a smaller format by Princeton Press.

To date Hinders has documented, using digital photography, 130 of the 163 perspective views shown in Édifices de Rome Moderne. Out of the remaining engraved images, 7 structures are verified demolished, 2 were presumed demolished and the remaining views have not been obtained due to accessibility and/or security reasons. Six images need to be updated due to the changing state of the renovations taken since 2006. In 2008, a travelling exhibit, which includes one hundred framed, comparative plates and accompanying text, was created and has toured the United States (57 perspectives are included in the traveling exhibit).