“Vanished Rome” collection

The work which has given notoriety worldwide to Ettore Roesler Franz is undoubtedly the “Vanished Rome”, or rather, quoting his own words, “Rome picturesque / Memories of an era that goes.” They are 120 watercolors (each of about 53 × 75 cm., vertical or horizontal), all made between 1878 and 1896, divided into three series of 40 each. Thanks to this work, nowadays it is possible to have a historical record of urban and suburban views that were disappearing, to be handed down to posterity.

In 1883, Leopoldo Torlonia, Mayor of Rome, bought by the artist the first set of 40 watercolors of “Vanished Rome” collection. They were initially kept in the Palazzo Senatorio at the Capitoline Hill in Rome. On 4 May 1908, a year after the death of the painter, the Mayor Ernesto Nathan bought the remaining 80 watercolors, which made up the second and third sets of “Vanished Rome”, by his brother and heir Adolfo (founder of the famous private bank based in via Condotti, which operated from 1869 until 1936).

Currently the City of Rome owns 119 watercolors because one of them (depicting “Mattei Palace in Lungaretta”, #24 of the second set), has been lost in Cologne (Germany) in 1966, during a touring exhibition and has not been recovered anymore. Here an italian article that tells the story.

The works are at the Museo di Roma in Trastevere (formerly “Folklore Museum”) in Piazza Sant’Egidio and are shown periodically.

The original titles are all given by Ettore Roesler Franz in this document (it refers only to the First and Second Series). The collection has also been studied for some graduation thesis, like the one of Eleonora Drikes, mentioned in Bibliography.

In an essay in English (a sort of “spiritual will”) of 29 March, 1894 Ettore Roesler Franz hoped that “the collection should be placed in a special room with a large topographical map of Rome where I would give indications of where the pictures were taken, and this would facilitate the scholars of next generations to understand how Rome was before these changes”. Here you can read the original in English.

Here you can see the three sets that make up the collection: