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Antiquities Print, Grand Tour Excavation, Marco Carloni, 18th Century


Marco Carloni (1742-96) (engraver)
[Excavation of Antiquities]
Rome [?]: 2nd Half 18th Century
15 x 9.75, image
15.5 x 10.25, platemark
16.75 x 10.75, overall

A landscape scene showing the excavation of antiquities, probably in Italy, in the 18th century. Amidst architectural ruins, a laborer thrusts a shovel into the ground under the supervision of an aristocratic gentleman, finely dressed in knee breeches, a long coat and three-cornered hat. Beside them are large vases and fragments of a marble relief and of a mural or mosaic. In this idealized portrayal of an archaeological dig, the vases are impressively large and mostly intact.

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In the second half of the 18th century, an essential part of the education of a young “aristocratic gentleman” of England was to go on a “Grand Tour” of Europe, often Italy, to explore the great architecture, archeology, and culture of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Grand Tour members loved to participate in theatrical spectacles, and during this era, archaeological “discoveries” were sometimes staged for well-to-do visitors on the Grand Tour to give them a taste of the drama of making a find — perhaps that is what is illustrated here (literally or in concept).Marco Carloni (or Carlone) was an Italian painter and engraver who lived in Rome. He engraved plates for several series, notably Vestiglio delle terme di Tito color interne pitture, 61 plates of the fresco murals of Nero’s Domus Aureus after Franciszek Smugliewicz and Vincenzo Brenna. This print is from an unknown source – possibly a frontispiece for a plate book such as Vestiglio on antiquities or architecture.


Bénézit, E. Dictionnaire critique et documentaire des Peintres, Sculpteurs, Dessinateurs et Graveurs. France: Librairie Gründ, 1966. Vol. 2, p. 319.

“Italy on the Grand Tour: Witness Ceremonies and Theater.” J. Paul Getty Trust. 2001. (14 June 2002).