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Allegory of History, 1782
After Francisco Javier Ramos y Albertos' drawing after Anton Raphael Mengs' fresco
Engraving. 579 x 366 mm
Inventory number: E475
Works, relating to this work: Anton Raphael Mengs, Allegory of History, c. 1776, fresco, ceiling of Camera dei Papiri, The VaticanEnlarge photo
Four figures are placed in such a way as to form a cross, the cruciform layout suggesting the room’s Christian association. Clio, the muse of history is sitting at the centre. She is writing in a book supported on the back of Saturn, the symbol of time. A genius is bringing scrolls to Clio, and the two-faced Roman god Janus is telling her what to write. One of Janus’s faces is looking back and the other forward in time. With his right hand, Janus is directing attention to the open door leading into the then recently founded museum, the Museo Pio Clementino in the Vatican. Fame hovers above them all. She is the goddess of rumour and is blowing her horn to spread news of the papal court. Each of the individual figures contributes to a visual, allegorical presentation of history.
In 1772, Pope Clement the Fourteenth (1705-74) gave the German artist Anton Raphael Mengs (1728-79) the task of decorating the ceiling in the Camera dei Papiri in the Vatican. This was the home of the Vatican collection of manuscripts. Mengs was in his day considered to be one of the most important artists in Europe. And taking the purpose of the place as his starting point, he made the fresco reproduced in this print.