You are here

Background and aims

Why Rome?
Why Dutch?

Why Hadrianus?

 

HADRIANVS aims to provide an interactive platform that discloses all traces of Dutch art and culture in Rome. Since the start of the twentieth century, much research has been done on the importance of Rome in Dutch history and the impact of Dutchmen in Rome through the ages, but the results of this research are highly dispersed and often difficult to access. HADRIANVS offers the digital environment in which all knowledge about the Dutch presence in Rome can be collected, divulged and explored, by researchers and the general public alike.

Two issues are central in HADRIANVS: the role of Dutchmen in the historical representation of Rome, and, vice versa, the role of Rome in the development of a Dutch cultural identity. Since antiquity, Rome has  been regarded as the Eternal City, as the timeless capital of Western civilization. How have Dutch visitors contributed to this image of Rome? Which sights did they visit, paint, and write about? And to what extent has this confrontation with Rome fashioned a Dutch identity? In recent years, much is being said about the development of a national Dutch identity, yet mostly from an internal perspective, looking at the Netherlands from within. But how does Dutch culture look from a distance? Moving the focus to Rome, HADRIANVS takes an explicitly external and international perspective, examining Dutch identity sub specie aeternitatis.

 

 

Why Rome?

Rome occupies a special place in the Western imagination. As a centre of culture and power, it has always played a pivotal part in European history, attracting visitors from abroad coming to contemplate the city's antiquities, to study its collections and libraries, to visit its churches and museums - or simply, to fight in Rome's armies. As a caput mundi or communis patria, Rome is by definition an international city, where different peoples and national communities have always found refuge and inspiration. No other city in the world knows such a long history of continuous foreign presences. Therefore, Rome is the ideal location for a diachronic and comparative study of Dutch art and culture. The focus on Rome makes it possible to reveal the continuities and discontinuities in the longue durée development of Dutch identity within its international context.

 

 

Why Dutch?

Throughout history people from the Netherlands have been among the most important visitors to the Eternal City. In the days of Nero, soldiers from Batavian origin moved to Rome as members of the imperial bodyguard, and their funerary monuments still testify to the development of a distinctive Batavian ethnic identity. Later visitors from the Low Countries also established their own communities, from the pilgrim churches of Santa Maria dell'Anima and Santi Michele e Magno to the painter societies of the Bentvueghels and the Bamboccianti and the military regiments of the Zuavi Pontifici. Some Dutchmen visited Rome only once, such as Erasmus, appaled by the pomp and decadence of Roman life; others, like the writer Couperus, could not resist the city's temptations and came back over and over again. Some Dutchmen enjoyed much success in Rome but left after a few years, taking Italian knowledge and inspiration north, like Maarten van Heemskerck and Gerrit van Honthorst. Others would stay in Rome for good and eventually lost their northern roots, Italianizing even their names, such as Giovanni Vasanzio and Gaspare Vanvitelli. The history of Dutch art and culture in Rome is not a uniform history with a single, clear-cut storyline. It is a history of differences and ambiguities, with the Eternal City itself as the only constant factor.

HADRIANVS looks at Dutch art and culture in Rome, and this requires a working definition of what 'Dutch' actually means. We have chosen for an approach that includes all visitors from the geographical area of the Low Countries until the birth of the Dutch Republic around 1580, the polity that lies at the basis of the modern-day Netherlands. After 1580, we only include people from that specific area. Thus, the Flemish painter Michiel Cocxie, born in Mechelen in 1499, is part of the project, but the Flemish sculptor Pieter Antoon Verschaffelt, born in Ghent in 1710, is not. The dividing line between North and South is, of course, a gradual and flexible one: throughout the seventeenth century, all people from the Low Countries in Rome were simply known as Fiamminghi. But HADRIANVS aims to study the development of a specifically Dutch identity, and therefore our approach is more restricted. The turning point, we think, is represented by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640): certainly an important presence in Rome, but no protagonist in Dutch history.

 

Why Hadrianus?

There was one Dutchmen who once ruled the Eternal City: pope Adrian VI, known in Latin as Hadrianus VI. Elected pope in 1522, Adrian tried to leave his mark, but largely in vain: he died in office a year later, scorned by the Romans as a 'barbarian', and his overall impact was nothing but ephemeral. His example shows that HADRIANVS is not merely about success stories. Instead, HADRIANVS aims to give a comprehensive overview of the confrontation between Rome and the Netherlands, including all the tragedies and farces that define the course of history. (AW)

Caspar van Wittel, Arch of Titus, 1710

 

 

 Gerard ter Borch the elder, Ponte Rotto over the Tiber, 1609

 

 

 

 Antonie Sminck Pitloo, San Giorgio in Velabro, 1820

 

 

M.C. Escher, Inside St Peter's, 1935

Share