'It was at Rome, on the fifteenth of October 1764, as I sat musing amidst the ruins of the Capitol, while the barefooted fryars were singing vespers in the temple of Jupiter, that the idea of writing the decline and fall of the City first started to my mind.'
So wrote Edward Gibbon (1737-94), author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, of what he described as his 'Capitoline Vision'. Gibbon's magnum opus was published in six volumes between 1776 and 1788.
We get a good idea of the Rome Gibbon would have seen in a set of five paintings that the Venetian artist Canaletto (1697-1768) executed in 1742. The paintings are now in the Royal Collection in London.
My name is David Lown and I am an art historian from Cambridge, England. Since 2001 I have lived in Italy, where I run private walking tours of Rome.
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