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Architectural, Art, Alessandro Specchi, St. Peter’s Basilica, Antique Print, Rome, 1703


Alessandro Specchi (1668-1729) (artist and engraver)
Lorenzo Filippo de’ Rossi (1683-after 1735) (dedication)
Veduta Esteriore del Fianco della Gran Basilica Vaticana dalla Parte di Mezzogiorno, Architettura di Michel Angelo Buonarroti
[Exterior of the Great St Peter’s Basilica on the Southern Side, Architecture of Michelangelo Buonarroti]

Domenico de’ Rossi, Rome: c. 1703
18.25 x 27 inches, plate mark
19h x 27.25 inches, overall
28 x 36.5 inches, gold leaf custom frame

This representation of St. Peter’s Basilica is rendered from an architectural point of view by the renowned Italian architect and engraver Alessandro Specchi. There are horizontal and diagonal scales on the left hand side of the elevation showing the dimensions of the church. There are no people, clouds or backdrop. This engraving was issued by the prolific publisher Domenico de’ Rossi, and dedicated in the extensive title by his son and heir to his firm, Lorenzo Filippo de’ Rossi.

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Alessandro Specchi was an Italian architect, urban planner and engraver. He studied architecture in the studio of Carol Fontana. He was the principal architect of the Farnese Piazza, the Bank of Rome, the Via del Corso and the famous Spanish Steps. Specchi began producing sets of architectural engravings from at least 1684, many of which were published by Giovanni Giacomo de’ Rossi (1626-1691), and his son Domenico de’ Rossi (act. 1684-1721). He composed 52 etchings for Quarto Libro del Nuovo Teatro di Palazzi di Roma (1699), a series of architectural studies of famous buildings in and around Rome. Also notable are 286 plates he did for Domenico de’ Rossi’s Studio d’Architettura Civile (1702-21), an architectural record of the city of Rome. The Calcografia Nazionale in Rome has some of the original plates from Nuovo Teatro in its collection.

Domenico de’ Rossi (1659-1730) was a publisher in Rome. Born Domenico Freddiani, he was adopted in 1679 by Giovanni Giacomo de’ Rossi, the most influential publisher in Rome in the second half of the 17th century, who made him his heir. Domenico ran the publishing house from about 1691. His first major work was the fourth volume of Nuovi Disegni delle Architetture e Piante dei Palazzi di Roma (1699), a continuation of one of Giovanni’s important works on Roman architecture. Subsequently he published the three-volume work for which he is best known, Studio d’Architettura Civile (1702-1721) a major study of recent architecture in Rome. That work proved highly influential, facilitating the development of an international Baroque style by introducing architects in other regions of Italy and abroad to Roman Baroque architecture. De’ Rossi also published other volumes documenting art, architecture and architectural decorations such as frescoes, including Raccolta di Statue Antiche e Moderne (1704), Disegni di Vari Altari e Cappelle nelle Chiese di Roma (1713) and Picturae Raphaelis Sanctii Urbinatis (1722). Around 1720, de’ Rossi turned management of the firm over to his son Lorenzo Filippo (1683-after 1735). In 1738, the family sold the publishing business to the Pope.

Additional Publication Information: Alessandro Specchi, Architetto, disegnò et intaglio. Data in luce da Domenico de Rossi in Roma à S. Maria della Pace con privilegio del sommo Pontefice, e Licenza dè Sup. l’An. 1703. [Alessandro Specchi, Architect, drawing and engraving. Date highlighted by Domenico de Rossi in Rome at Our Lady of Peace with the privilege of the Supreme Pontiff…Licensed in the Year 1703.]

Dedication: All’Ill’mo, e Rev’mo Sig’re e Pron Col’mo Il Sig’r Cavaliere Filippo Melchiorre Maggio Patrizio Urbinate, e Canonico della med’ma Basilica. Esce dalle mie stampe il maraviglioso prospetto esteriore d’uno dè fianchi della Basilica Vaticana, e benche non si sia mancato ad ogni più diligente cura per darne un saggio, che sia al possibile vicino al suo originale, rimane sempre tutta volta di gran lunga minore al pregio che la fà considerare la maggiore trà tutte le maraviglie del mondo. L’offro per tanto a V.S. Ill’ma a fin che sotto un si valevole, et accreditato patrocinio s’accresca valore à questa opera, e dal suo nome si dia alla medesima honore, estima maggiore, rimanendo io intanto inalterabilmente, Di V.S. Ill’ma, e Rev’ma. Hum’mo Dev’mo Obl’mo Servo Lorenzo Filippo de Rossi.

[Rough translation: To the illustrious and revered Signore…the Knight Filippo Melchiorre Maggio Patrizio Urbinate, and Canon of the Basilica. From my press issues the marvelous prospect exterior of one of the sides of the Vatican Basilica, and although one has not failed to fulfill even the most diligent care to give an assessment, which is to come as close as possible to the original, yet it remains far less the quality that makes her considered among the greater of all the wonders of the world…while I remain unalterably…your Very Humble, Very Devoted, Very Obliged Servant Lorenzo Filippo de Rossi.]

Condition: Generally very good, on laid rag paper, with the usual overall light toning, wear, handing. Minor foxing spot far lower right corner near margin. Margins a bit short and irregular, but still beyond (including) plate mark. Elaborate custom gold leaf frame with minor wear.


“Alessandro Specchi.” The Grove Dictionary of Art.New York: Macmillan. 2000. (23 August 2005).

Grönert, Alexander. “Domenico De’ Rossi” in Evers, Berndt, ed. Architectural Theory from the Renaissance to the Present. Cologne: Taschen, 2003. pp. 148-150. Online at Google Books: (26 August 2013).

Piperno, Roberto and Moore, Rosamie. “Piazza Barberini.” Baroque Rome in the etchings of Giuseppe Vasi. 1999-2003. (23 August 2005).

Additional information


18th Century