Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum is a museum in the Fenway–Kenmore neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts near the Back Bay Fens. It consists of two buildings; the original building, – called Fenway Court during Isabella Stewart Gardner's lifetime – is a Venetian-style palazzo on Fenway built in 1902 and designed by Willard T. Sears; the New Wing building, which sits next to the original building on Evans Way, was completed in 2012 after 2 1/2 years of construction. It was designed by Renzo Piano; the museum houses an art collection of world importance, including significant examples of European and American art, from paintings and sculpture to tapestries and decorative arts. In 1990, thirteen of the museum's works were stolen; the museum was opened in 1903 by Isabella Stewart Gardner, an American art collector and patron of the arts. It is housed in a building designed to emulate a 15th-century Venetian palace, drawing particular inspiration from the Venetian Palazzo Barbaro. Gardner began collecting after she received a large inheritance from her father in 1891.
Her purchase of Vermeer's The Concert at auction in Paris in 1892 was her first major acquisition. In 1894, Bernard Berenson offered his services in helping her acquire a Botticelli. With his help, Gardner became the first American to own a painting by the Renaissance master. Berenson helped acquire nearly 70 works of art for her collection. After her husband John L. Gardner's death in 1898, Isabella Gardner realized their shared dream of building a museum for their treasures, she purchased land in the marshy Fenway area of Boston, hired architect Willard T. Sears to build a museum modeled on the Renaissance palaces of Venice. Gardner was involved in every aspect of the design, leading Sears to quip that he was the structural engineer making Gardner's design possible. After the construction of the building was complete, Gardner spent a year installing her collection in a way that evokes intimate responses to the art, mixing paintings, furniture and objects from different cultures and periods among well-known European paintings and sculpture.
The gallery installations were different than they appear today. The museum opened on January 1, 1903 with a grand celebration featuring a performance by members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and a menu that included champagne and doughnuts. In 1909 the Museum of Fine Arts moved to its new home close by. During Gardner's lifetime, she welcomed artists and scholars to Fenway Court to draw inspiration from the rich collection and dazzling Venetian setting, including John Singer Sargent, Charles Martin Loeffler, Ruth St. Denis, among others. Gardner occasionally hosted artists' exhibitions within Fenway Court, including one of Anna Coleman Ladd. Today, the museum's contemporary artist-in-residence program, courtyard garden displays and innovative education programs continue Isabella Gardner's legacy; when Gardner died in 1924, her will created an endowment of $1 million and outlined stipulations for the support of the museum, including the charge that her collection be permanently exhibited "for the education and enjoyment of the public forever" according to her aesthetic vision and intent.
Gardner appointed her secretary and the former librarian of the Museum of Fine Arts, Morris Carter as the museum's first director. Carter catalogued the entire collection and wrote Gardner's definitive biography, Isabella Stewart Gardner and Fenway Court. George L. Stout was the second director; the father of modern conservation, Stout ensured the long-term preservation of the collection and historic structure. Rollin Van Nostrand Hadley became the third director in 1964. Leaving with a mixed legacy in 1988, Hadley published several catalogues and articles about the collection during his tenure but disposed of much of the museum's Asian artwork in 1971. Anne Hawley was director from 1989 until 2015; the museum's current director is Peggy Fogelman. In the early morning hours of March 18, 1990, a pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers robbed the museum of thirteen works of art worth an estimated $500 million – the greatest known property theft in history. Among the works was The Concert, one of only 34 known by Vermeer and thought to be the most valuable unrecovered painting at over $200 million.
Missing is The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, Rembrandt's only known seascape. Despite efforts by the FBI, the works have not been recovered; the museum offered a reward of $5 million for information leading to recovery of the art, doubled in May 2017 to $10 million. Empty frames hang in the Dutch Room gallery as placeholders for the missing works; the selection of stolen works puzzled experts. According to the FBI, the stolen artwork was moved through the region and offered for sale in Philadelphia during the early 2000s, they believe the thieves were members of a criminal organization based in the mid-Atlantic and New England. Built to evoke a 15th-century Venetian palace, the museum itself provides an atmospheric setting for Gardner's inventive creation. Gardner hired Willard T. Sears to design the building near the marshy Back Bay Fens to house her growing art collection. Inside the museum, three floors of galleries surround a garden courtyard blooming with life in all seasons, it is a common misconception that the building reconstructed.
It was built from the ground up in Boston out of new materials, incorporating numerous architectural frag
Isabella Stewart Gardner
Isabella Stewart Gardner was a leading American art collector and patron of the arts. She founded the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Gardner possessed a love of travel, she was a friend of noted artists and writers of the day, including John Singer Sargent, James McNeill Whistler, Dennis Miller Bunker, Anders Zorn, Henry James, Okakura Kakuzo and Francis Marion Crawford. Gardner created much fodder for the gossip columns of the day with her reputation for stylish tastes and unconventional behavior; the Boston society pages called her by many names, including "Belle," "Donna Isabella," "Isabella of Boston," and "Mrs. Jack", her surprising appearance at a 1912 concert wearing a white headband emblazoned with "Oh, you Red Sox" was reported at the time to have "almost caused a panic", remains still in Boston one of the most talked about of her eccentricities. Isabella Stewart was born in New York City on April 14, 1840, the daughter of wealthy linen-merchant David Stewart and Adelia Smith Stewart.
Tradition traces her Stewart ancestry to the legendary King Fergus of Dál Riata. She grew up at 10 University Place in Manhattan, sometimes playing at her namesake grandmother Isabella's farm in Jamaica, Long Island. From age five to fifteen she attended a nearby academy for girls where she studied art and dance, as well as French and Italian. Attendance at Grace Church exposed her to religious art and ritual. At age 16, she and her family moved to Paris where Isabella was enrolled in a school for American girls. Classmates included members of the wealthy Gardner family of Boston. In 1857 Isabella was taken to Italy and in Milan viewed Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli's collection of Renaissance art arranged in rooms designed to recall historical eras, she said at the time that if she were to inherit some money, she would have a similar house for people to visit and enjoy. She returned to New York in 1858. Shortly after returning, her former classmate Julia Gardner invited her to Boston, where she met Julia's brother John Lowell "Jack" Gardner.
Three years her senior, he was the son of John L. and Catharine E. Gardner, one of Boston's most eligible bachelors, they married in Grace Church on April 10, 1860, lived in a house that Isabella's father gave them as a wedding gift, at 152 Beacon Street in Boston. They would reside there for the rest of Jack's life. Jack and Isabella had one son, John Lowell Gardner 3rd, born on June 18, 1863, he died from pneumonia on March 15, 1865. A year Isabella suffered a miscarriage and was told she could not bear any more children, her close friend and sister-in-law died about the same time. Gardner became depressed and withdrew from society. On the advice of doctors and Jack traveled to Europe in 1867. Isabella was so ill; the couple spent a year traveling, visiting Scandinavia and Russia but spending most of their time in Paris. The trip became a turning point in her life, it was on this trip. Upon her return, she began to establish her reputation as a high-spirited socialite. In 1875 Jack's brother, Joseph P. Gardner, leaving three young sons.
Jack and Isabella "adopted" and raised the boys. Augustus P. Gardner was 10 years old at the time. Isabella's biographer, Morris Carter, wrote that "in her duty to these boys, she was faithful and conscientious". In 1874, Isabella and Jack Gardner visited Central Europe and Paris. Beginning in the late 1880s, they traveled across America and Asia to discover foreign cultures and expand their knowledge of art around the world. Jack and Isabella would take more than a dozen trips abroad over the years, keeping them out of the country for a total of ten years; the earliest works in the Gardners' collection were accumulated during their trips to Europe especially. In 1891, she started to focus on European fine art after inheriting $1.75 million from her father. One of her first acquisitions was The Concert by Vermeer, purchased at a Paris auction house in 1892, she collected from other places abroad such as Egypt and the Far East. The Gardners began to collect in earnest in the late 1890s building a world-class collection of paintings and statues, but tapestries, silver and manuscripts, architectural elements such as doors, stained glass, mantelpieces.
In the early years of the 20th Century, Isabella traveled with friend and Boston architect Edmund March Wheelwright to collect for the Harvard Lampoon Building called "Lampoon Castle", a faux Flemish castle in Harvard Square. Isabella donated many pieces of art to the castle over her years of collecting; the value of this collection is due to the secret nature of the Lampoon. Nearly 70 works of art in her collection were acquired with the help of dealer Bernard Berenson. Among the collectors with whom she competed was Edward Perry Warren, who supplied a number of works to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; the Gardner collection includes work by some of Europe's most important artists, such as Botticelli's Madonna and Child with an Angel, Titian's Europa, Raphael's The Colonna Altarpiece, Diego Velázquez. She purchased some of her collection on her own, but asked for male colleagues, such as her business partner, to purchase on her behalf as it was uncommon for women to participate in art collecting.
Isabella Stewart Gardner’s favorite foreig
The Sistine Chapel is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the pope, in Vatican City. Known as the Cappella Magna, the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who restored it between 1477 and 1480. Since that time, the chapel has served as a place of both functionary papal activity. Today, it is the site of the process by which a new pope is selected; the fame of the Sistine Chapel lies in the frescos that decorate the interior, most the Sistine Chapel ceiling and The Last Judgment by Michelangelo. During the reign of Sixtus IV, a team of Renaissance painters that included Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli, created a series of frescos depicting the Life of Moses and the Life of Christ, offset by papal portraits above and trompe-l'œil drapery below; these paintings were completed in 1482, on 15 August 1483 Sixtus IV celebrated the first mass in the Sistine Chapel for the Feast of the Assumption, at which ceremony the chapel was consecrated and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Between 1508 and 1512, under the patronage of Pope Julius II, Michelangelo painted the chapel's ceiling, a project which changed the course of Western art and is regarded as one of the major artistic accomplishments of human civilization. In a different climate, after the Sack of Rome, he returned and, between 1535 and 1541, painted The Last Judgment for Popes Clement VII and Paul III; the fame of Michelangelo's paintings has drawn multitudes of visitors to the chapel since they were revealed five hundred years ago. While known as the location of Papal conclaves, the primary function of the Sistine Chapel is as the chapel of the Papal Chapel, one of the two bodies of the Papal household, called until 1968 the Papal Court. At the time of Pope Sixtus IV in the late 15th century, the Papal Chapel comprised about 200 people, including clerics, officials of the Vatican and distinguished laity. There were 50 occasions during the year on which it was prescribed by the Papal Calendar that the whole Papal Chapel should meet.
Of these 50 occasions, 35 were masses, of which 8 were held in Basilicas, in general St. Peter's, were attended by large congregations; these included the Christmas Easter masses, at which the Pope himself was the celebrant. The other 27 masses could be held in a smaller, less public space, for which the Cappella Maggiore was used before it was rebuilt on the same site as the Sistine Chapel; the Cappella Maggiore derived its name, the Greater Chapel, from the fact that there was another chapel in use by the Pope and his retinue for daily worship. At the time of Pope Sixtus IV, this was the Chapel of Pope Nicholas V, decorated by Fra Angelico; the Cappella Maggiore is recorded as existing in 1368. According to a communication from Andreas of Trebizond to Pope Sixtus IV, by the time of its demolition to make way for the present chapel, the Cappella Maggiore was in a ruinous state with its walls leaning; the present chapel, on the site of the Cappella Maggiore, was designed by Baccio Pontelli for Pope Sixtus IV, for whom it is named, built under the supervision of Giovannino de Dolci between 1473 and 1481.
The proportions of the present chapel appear to follow those of the original. After its completion, the chapel was decorated with frescoes by a number of the most famous artists of the High Renaissance, including Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pietro Perugino, Michelangelo; the first mass in the Sistine Chapel was celebrated on 15 August 1483, the Feast of the Assumption, at which ceremony the chapel was consecrated and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The Sistine Chapel has maintained its function to the present day, continues to host the important services of the Papal Calendar, unless the Pope is travelling. There is a permanent choir, the Sistine Chapel Choir, for whom much original music has been written, the most famous piece being Gregorio Allegri's Miserere. One of the functions of the Sistine Chapel is as a venue for the election of each successive pope in a conclave of the College of Cardinals. On the occasion of a conclave, a chimney is installed in the roof of the chapel, from which smoke arises as a signal.
If white smoke,which is created by burning the ballots of the election, appears, a new Pope has been elected. If a candidate receives less than a two-thirds vote, the cardinals send up black smoke—created by burning the ballots along with wet straw and chemical additives—it means that no successful election has yet occurred; the first papal conclave to be held on the Sistine Chapel was the conclave of 1492, which took place from August 6 from August 11 of the same year and in which Pope Alexander VI known as Rodrigo Borja, was elected. The conclave provided for the cardinals a space in which they could hear mass, in which they could eat and pass time attended by servants. From 1455, conclaves have been held in the Vatican. Since 1996, John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici gregis requires the cardinals to be lodged in the Domus Sanctae Marthae during a papal conclave, but to continue to vote in the Sistine Chapel. Canopies for each cardinal-elector were once used during conclaves—a sign of equal dignity.
After the new Pope accepts his election, he would give his new name. Until reforms instituted by Saint Pius X, the canopies were of different colours to designate which Cardinals had been appointed by which Pope. Paul
Italy the Italian Republic, is a country in Southern Europe. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Italy shares open land borders with France, Austria and the enclaved microstates San Marino and Vatican City. Italy covers an area of 301,340 km2 and has a temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. With around 61 million inhabitants, it is the fourth-most populous EU member state and the most populous country in Southern Europe. Due to its central geographic location in Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, Italy has been home to a myriad of peoples and cultures. In addition to the various ancient peoples dispersed throughout modern-day Italy, the most famous of which being the Indo-European Italics who gave the peninsula its name, beginning from the classical era and Carthaginians founded colonies in insular Italy and Genoa, Greeks established settlements in the so-called Magna Graecia, while Etruscans and Celts inhabited central and northern Italy respectively; the Italic tribe known as the Latins formed the Roman Kingdom in the 8th century BC, which became a republic with a government of the Senate and the People.
The Roman Republic conquered and assimilated its neighbours on the peninsula, in some cases through the establishment of federations, the Republic expanded and conquered parts of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. By the first century BC, the Roman Empire emerged as the dominant power in the Mediterranean Basin and became the leading cultural and religious centre of Western civilisation, inaugurating the Pax Romana, a period of more than 200 years during which Italy's technology, economy and literature flourished. Italy remained the metropole of the Roman Empire; the legacy of the Roman Empire endured its fall and can be observed in the global distribution of culture, governments and the Latin script. During the Early Middle Ages, Italy endured sociopolitical collapse and barbarian invasions, but by the 11th century, numerous rival city-states and maritime republics in the northern and central regions of Italy, rose to great prosperity through shipping and banking, laying the groundwork for modern capitalism.
These independent statelets served as Europe's main trading hubs with Asia and the Near East enjoying a greater degree of democracy than the larger feudal monarchies that were consolidating throughout Europe. The Renaissance began in Italy and spread to the rest of Europe, bringing a renewed interest in humanism, science and art. Italian culture flourished, producing famous scholars and polymaths such as Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Machiavelli. During the Middle Ages, Italian explorers such as Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, Amerigo Vespucci, John Cabot and Giovanni da Verrazzano discovered new routes to the Far East and the New World, helping to usher in the European Age of Discovery. Italy's commercial and political power waned with the opening of trade routes that bypassed the Mediterranean. Centuries of infighting between the Italian city-states, such as the Italian Wars of the 15th and 16th centuries, left the region fragmented, it was subsequently conquered and further divided by European powers such as France and Austria.
By the mid-19th century, rising Italian nationalism and calls for independence from foreign control led to a period of revolutionary political upheaval. After centuries of foreign domination and political division, Italy was entirely unified in 1871, establishing the Kingdom of Italy as a great power. From the late 19th century to the early 20th century, Italy industrialised, namely in the north, acquired a colonial empire, while the south remained impoverished and excluded from industrialisation, fuelling a large and influential diaspora. Despite being one of the main victors in World War I, Italy entered a period of economic crisis and social turmoil, leading to the rise of a fascist dictatorship in 1922. Participation in World War II on the Axis side ended in military defeat, economic destruction and the Italian Civil War. Following the liberation of Italy and the rise of the resistance, the country abolished the monarchy, reinstated democracy, enjoyed a prolonged economic boom and, despite periods of sociopolitical turmoil became a developed country.
Today, Italy is considered to be one of the world's most culturally and economically advanced countries, with the sixth-largest worldwide national wealth. Its advanced economy ranks eighth-largest in the world and third in the Eurozone by nominal GDP. Italy owns the third-largest central bank gold reserve, it has a high level of human development, it stands among the top countries for life expectancy. The country plays a prominent role in regional and global economic, military and diplomatic affairs. Italy is a founding and leading member of the European Union and a member of numerous international institutions, including the UN, NATO, the OECD, the OSCE, the WTO, the G7, the G20, the Union for the Mediterranean, the Council of Europe, Uniting for Consensus, the Schengen Area and many more; as a reflection
A cassone or marriage chest is a rich and showy Italian type of chest, which may be inlaid or carved, prepared with gesso ground painted and gilded. Pastiglia was decoration in low relief carved or moulded in gesso, was widely used; the cassone was one of the trophy furnishings of rich merchants and aristocrats in Italian culture, from the Late Middle Ages onward. The cassone was the most important piece of furniture of that time, it was placed in the bridal suite. It would be given to the bride during the wedding, it was the bride's parents' contribution to the wedding. There are in fact a variety of different terms used in contemporary records for chests, the attempts by modern scholars to distinguish between them remain speculative, all decorated chests are today called cassoni, not the case at the time. For example, a forziere denoted a decorated chest with a lock. Since a cassone contained the personal goods of the bride, it was a natural vehicle for painted decoration commemorating the marriage in heraldry and, when figural painted panels began to be included in the decor from the early quattrocento, flattering allegory.
The side panels offered a flat surface for a suitable painting, with subjects drawn from courtly romance or, much less religious subjects. By the 15th century subjects from classical mythology or history became the most popular. Great Florentine artists of the 15th century were called upon to decorate cassoni, though as Vasari complains, by his time in the 16th century, artists thought such work beneath them; some Tuscan artists in Siena and Florence specialized in such cassone panels, which were preserved as autonomous works of art by 19th century collectors and dealers, who sometimes discarded the cassone itself. From the late 1850s, neo-Renaissance cassoni were confected for dealers like William Blundell Spence, Stefano Bardini or Elia Volpi in order to present surviving cassone panels to clients in a more "authentic" and glamorous presentation. A typical place for such a cassone was in a chamber at the foot of a bed, enclosed in curtains; such a situation is a familiar setting for depictions of the Annunciation or the Visitation of St. Anne to the Virgin Mary.
A cassone was immovable. In a culture where chairs were reserved for important personages pillows scattered upon the floor of a chamber provided informal seating, a cassone could provide both a backrest and a table surface; the symbolic "humility" that modern scholars read into Annunciations where the Virgin sits reading upon the floor underestimates this familiar mode of seating. At the end of the 15th century, a new classicising style arose, early Renaissance cassoni of central and northern Italy were carved and gilded, given classical décor, with panels flanked by fluted corner pilasters, under friezes and cornices, or with sculptural panels in high or low relief; some early to mid-sixteenth-century cassoni drew their inspiration from Roman sarcophagi. By the mid-sixteenth century Giorgio Vasari could remark on the old-fashioned cassoni with painted scenes, examples of which could be seen in the palazzi of Florentine families. A cassone, provided with a high panelled back and sometimes a footrest, for both hieratic and practical reasons, becomes a cassapanca.
Cassapanche were immovably fixed in the main public room of the sala or salone. They were part of the immobili even more than the removable glazed window casements, might be left in place if the palazzo passed to another family. Wilhelm von Bode, Italian Renaissance Furniture Civilta del legno: mobili dalle collezioni di Palazzo Bianco e del Museo degli Ospedali di S. Martino, Palazzo Bianco, 1985. Exhibition catalogue ISBN 88-7058-149-7 Heinrich Kreisel, Die Kunst des deutschen Möbels vol. I, "Von der Änfangen bis zum Hochbarock" 1968. Comparable German kast. Frida Schottmüller, Wohnungskultur and Möbel der Italienischen Renaissance, 1921. Interior decoration and furniture of the Italian Renaissance. Still indispensable. Paul Schubring, Truhen und Truhenbilder der italienischen frührenaissance 1914, Supplement, 1923. An unequalled photo repertory of cassoni and cassone panels given unrealistically early dates. Peter Thornton, The Italian Renaissance Interior 1400–1600. 1991 "Cassone - Italian Renaissance Marriage Chest" in Eclectique, 23 September 2009.
Helen Webberley, "Marriage and courtly love in Renaissance Italy: cassone" in Art and Architecture 1 February 2011 Helen Webberley, Love and family wealth in Florence in Art and Architecture 25 June 2013 Dr Susan Grange,'The cassone - the Renaissance "bottom drawer", in Cassone: The International Online Magazine of Art and Art Books, June 2011 http://www.cassone-art.com Medieval & Renaissance Chests and Trunks Includes cassoni of the 14th-16th centuries
Temptations of Christ (Botticelli)
The Temptations of Christ is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli, executed in 1480–1482 and located in the Sistine Chapel, Rome. On 27 October 1480 Botticelli, together with other Florentine painters, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli, left for Rome, where he had been called as part of the reconciliation project between Lorenzo de' Medici, the de facto ruler of Florence, Pope Sixtus IV; the Florentines started to work in the Sistine Chapel as early as the Spring of 1481, along with Pietro Perugino, there. The theme of the decoration was a parallel between the Stories of Moses and those of Christ, as a sign of continuity between the Old and the New Testament. A continuity between the divine law of the Tables and the message of Jesus, who, in turn, chose Peter as his successor: this would result in a legitimation of the latter's successors, the popes of Rome. Botticelli, helped by numerous assistants, painted three scenes. On 17 February 1482 his contract was renovated, including the other scenes to complete the chapel's decoration.
However, on 20 February, his father died: he returned to Florence. The Temptations of Christ depicts three episodes from the gospels, in parallel with the painting on the opposite wall by Botticelli, showing the Trials of Moses. A frieze, similar to that beneath the other frescos, has the inscription TEMPTATIO IESU CHRISTI LATORIS EVANGELICAE LEGIS; the subject of the title takes place in three scenes in the upper section of the fresco. On the left, fasting, is tempted by the Devil, in the guise of a hermit, to turn stones into bread. In the second scene of temptation, at the upper centre of the picture, the Devil has carried Jesus to the top of the temple of Jerusalem, represented by the facade of the Chapel of Santa Maria in Traspontina of the Church of Santo Spirito in Sassia in Rome; the Devil tempts Jesus to challenge God's promise that he will be protected by angels, by throwing himself down. In the third temptation, to the upper right, the Devil has taken Jesus to a high mountain where he shows him the beauties of the Earth.
The Devil promises Jesus power over this domain, if he will bow down to the Devil. Jesus sends the Devil away from him. In the foreground, a man whom Jesus has healed of leprosy presents himself to the High Priest at the temple, so that he may be pronounced clean; the young man carries a basin of water, in, a bough of hyssop. A woman brings two fowls for sacrifice and another woman brings cedar wood; these three ingredients were part of the ritual of cleansing of a leper. The high priest may symbolize Moses, who transmitted the Law, the young man may symbolically represent Christ, according to the Gospels, was wounded and slain for the benefit of mankind, healed through the Resurrection so that mankind might be made spiritually clean, receive salvation. In Christian symbolism, many stories, such as the healing of the leper, are perceived to prefigure the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, or other events in his life. Santi, Bruno. "Botticelli". I protagonisti dell'arte italiana. Florence: Scala
The Roman Forum known by its Latin name Forum Romanum, is a rectangular forum surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this space a marketplace, as the Forum Magnum, or the Forum. For centuries the Forum was the center of day-to-day life in Rome: the site of triumphal processions and elections. Here statues and monuments commemorated the city's great men; the teeming heart of ancient Rome, it has been called the most celebrated meeting place in the world, in all history. Located in the small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, the Forum today is a sprawling ruin of architectural fragments and intermittent archaeological excavations attracting 4.5 million or more sightseers yearly. Many of the oldest and most important structures of the ancient city were located on or near the Forum; the Roman Kingdom's earliest shrines and temples were located on the southeastern edge. These included the ancient former royal residence, the Regia, the Temple of Vesta, as well as the surrounding complex of the Vestal Virgins, all of which were rebuilt after the rise of imperial Rome.
Other archaic shrines to the northwest, such as the Umbilicus Urbis and the Vulcanal, developed into the Republic's formal Comitium. This is; the Senate House, government offices, temples and statues cluttered the area. Over time the archaic Comitium was replaced by the larger adjacent Forum and the focus of judicial activity moved to the new Basilica Aemilia; some 130 years Julius Caesar built the Basilica Julia, along with the new Curia Julia, refocusing both the judicial offices and the Senate itself. This new Forum, in what proved to be its final form served as a revitalized city square where the people of Rome could gather for commercial, political and religious pursuits in greater numbers. Much economic and judicial business would transfer away from the Forum Romanum to the larger and more extravagant structures to the north; the reign of Constantine the Great saw the construction of the last major expansion of the Forum complex—the Basilica of Maxentius. This returned the political center to the Forum until the fall of the Western Roman Empire two centuries later.
Unlike the imperial fora in Rome—which were self-consciously modelled on the ancient Greek plateia public plaza or town square—the Roman Forum developed organically, piecemeal over many centuries. This is the case despite attempts, with some success, to impose some order there, by Sulla, Julius Caesar and others. By the Imperial period, the large public buildings that crowded around the central square had reduced the open area to a rectangle of about 130 by 50 meters, its long dimension was oriented northwest to southeast and extended from the foot of the Capitoline Hill to that of the Velian Hill. The Forum's basilicas during the Imperial period—the Basilica Aemilia on the north and the Basilica Julia on the south—defined its long sides and its final form; the Forum proper included this square, the buildings facing it and, sometimes, an additional area extending southeast as far as the Arch of Titus. The site of the Forum had been a marshy lake where waters from the surrounding hills drained.
This was drained by the Tarquins with the Cloaca Maxima. Because of its location, sediments from both the flooding of the Tiber and the erosion of the surrounding hills have been raising the level of the Forum floor for centuries. Excavated sequences of remains of paving show that sediment eroded from the surrounding hills was raising the level in early Republican times; as the ground around buildings rose, residents paved over the debris, too much to remove. Its final travertine paving, still visible, dates from the reign of Augustus. Excavations in the 19th century revealed one layer on top of another; the deepest level excavated was 3.60 meters above sea level. Archaeological finds show human activity at that level with the discovery of carbonized wood. An important function of the Forum, during both Republican and Imperial times, was to serve as the culminating venue for the celebratory military processions known as Triumphs. Victorious generals entered the city by the western Triumphal Gate and circumnavigated the Palatine Hill before proceeding from the Velian Hill down the Via Sacra and into the Forum.
From here they would mount the Capitoline Rise up to the Temple of Jupiter Optimus Maximus on the summit of the Capitol. Lavish public banquets ensued back down on the Forum; the original, low-lying, grassy wetland of the Forum was drained in the 7th century BC with the building of the Cloaca Maxima, a large covered sewer system that emptied into the Tiber, as more people began to settle between the two hills. According to tradition, the Forum's beginnings are connected with the alliance between Romulus, the first king of Rome controlling the Palatine Hill, his rival, Titus Tatius, who occupied the Capitoline Hill. An alliance formed after combat had been halted by the cries of the Sabine women; because the valley lay between the two settlements, it was the designated place for th