Vetera monumenta quae in hortis Caelimontanis et in aedibus Matthaeiorum adservantur nunc primum in unum collecta et annotationibus illustrata.
Roma, Venanzio Monaldini 1779, 1776, 1778.
Large folio. 3 vols. Engraved title leaf, engraved dedication leaf, approbation leaf, lxiv + 115 + (1)pp, 106 engraved plates numbered I-CVI (plate CIV carries two separate engraved illustrations) ; engraved title leaf, (4) (numbered v-viii) + 109 + (1)pp, 90 engraved plates numbered I-XC (of which 30 carry two separate engraved illustrations) ; engraved title leaf, (3) (numbered v-vii) + (1) + 193 + (1)pp, 74 engraved plates numbered I-LXXIV (no plate XXXII but plate XLII bound in twice, and 17 of the plates carrying two separate engraved illustrations). Contemporary full panelled vellum, gilt spines. An old stain at the foot of the title leaf and pp v-vi of Vol.II, and faint old stains on the blank lower margins of some subsequent leaves of Vol.II, but otherwise a good, clean, uniform set of all three volumes. Pencil notes in English on some of the plates in a late eighteenth century or very early nineteenth century handwriting, indicating the subsequent ownership of the sculptures illustrated.
A good set of these scarce and impressively large volumes recording the very substantial collection of Hellenistic and ancient Roman sculpture formed in the late sixteenth century and early seventeenth century by the Roman aristocrat and art collector Ciriaco Mattei (1545-1614) and still in the possession of the Mattei family in the middle years of the eighteenth century. The sculpture collection was partly kept in the Villa Mattei and in its grounds on Rome’s Celian hill, and partly in the family’s Palazzo Mattei in the centre of the city. In 1740 the then head of the Mattei family, Giuseppe Mattei, Duca di Giove, commissioned an artist named Francesco Mattei (no relation) to prepare a set of drawings that would record all the sculptures in the collection, and after the set of drawings had been completed in the early 1750s two Roman scholars, Ridolfino Venuti and G.C.Amaduzzi, were commissioned to prepare a publishable catalogue of the collection, combining textual descriptions and engraved illustrations of each of the items in it. As it happened, Venuti, the more experienced of the two intended authors, died as early as 1763, before the text for the first of the three volumes had been completed, and it was left to Amaduzzi to complete the text and supervise the engraving of the 270 plates. For help with the text he was able to recruit the help of the antiquary Giovanni Battista Visconti and of Visconti’s promising son, the then youthful Ennio Quirino Visconti, but the task was a lengthy one, and by the time of the volumes’ publication the Mattei family were in financial difficulties and the cream of the sculpture collection had been dispersed, in part by private sale to Pope Clement XIV and in part by a more overt commercial transaction with Thomas Jenkins, Rome’s leading dealer in antiquities and works of art. This makes the present volumes a particularly valuable record of the collection as it had been before sales from it had begun, and although the artistic quality of the engravings came in for criticism from the moment of the volumes’ publication, their importance for research into the provenances of items of classical sculpture known today has been a continuing one. It should also be recorded that Amaduzzi’s introduction to the first volume contains a good overview of collections of sculptures formed by Roman cardinals and aristocratic families from the Renaissance period onwards.A feature of particular interest about the present set is that a number of the plates carry pencil notes in English, noting the subsequent ownership of items illustrated. The majority of the items involved are sculptures purchased by the English Roman Catholic art collector Henry Blundell for his collection at Ince Blundell in Lancashire (eight in the first volume, thirteen in the second volume, sixteen in the third volume), but the annotator also identifies acquisitions by the collectors John Smith Barry (two items), Thomas Mansel Talbot (one item), Welbore Ellis (one item), Charles Townley (five items) and the Marquess of Buckingham (one item, via Jenkins), as well as half a dozen items acquired by the Vatican, two items acquired by the Roman dealer and sculpture restorer Cavaceppi and one item acquired by Count Schouvaloff. It is interesting that the annotator was knowledgeable enough to record, in relation to Vol.I, plate LXXVI, “bought by Cavaceppi now in the Vatican with a head of Nerva placed upon it”. The annotations may well predate 1794, when Welbore Ellis was created a peer, and must in any case be of late eighteenth century or very early nineteenth century date. Cicognara 3898 ; Olschki, Choix 18220 ; not in Berlin Cat.