Old color photographs of Rome, 1890s

These vivid color illustrations show everyday life and the ancient sites of Rome in the 1890s. While transportation and engineering show the first signs of the modern world, the Eternal City still displays its glorious past.

Old photographs depict horse-drawn carriages on the cobblestone streets near the Pantheon, popular attractions such as the Roman Forum or the Trevi Fountain without tourists, people going on with their daily routines.

While the images may look like photographs, they are actually ink-based photolithographs. This process, called photochrome, adds precise gradations of artificial color to black and white photos. Often featuring subjects such as landscape or architecture, prints were either shared as postcards or hung for display.

After the collapse of the Empire in the West, which marked the beginning of the Middle Ages, Rome gradually came under the political control of the Pope, and in the 8th century, it became the capital of the Papal States, which lasted until 1870.

Beginning with the Renaissance, almost all Popes followed a consistent architectural and urban program over four hundred years, with the aim of making the city the artistic and cultural center of the world.

In this way, Rome first became one of the major centers of the Renaissance, and then the birthplace of both the Baroque style and Neoclassicism. Famous artists, painters, sculptors and architects made Rome the center of their activity, creating masterpieces throughout the city.

At the end of the nineteenth century, Rome became a special destination, attracting visitors from all over Europe. Its ruins were a charm that could not but captivate the nostalgic sensibilities of romantics fascinated by the dream, mystery and beauty of the past.

Students and art lovers can get in touch with the original beauties of classical antiquity, while practicing drawing and reproduction. Rome was an open-air museum, a city where ancient ruins were stratified with those from the Christian period as well as those of the modern era.

These wonderful color photographs are part of the Photochrome collection of the Library of Congress and show that Rome's appeal is timeless and long-lasting.

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