by Maria Teresa Caracciolo & Roselyne de Ayala

Abbeville Press, $185.00, 496 pages

Without a doubt, The History of Rome in Painting, edited by Caracciolo and de Ayala, is the most beautiful, best produced book I’ve ever seen. The book features hundreds of very large, high definition pictures of art from, and about the Eternal City. The accompanying text is illuminating; it discusses Rome from its earliest Etruscan beginnings through to the modern period. The story of Rome is told in its art; it as much myth-building as it is monuments, coliseums, and forums.

Rome remained the center and subject of Mediterranean art for close to two millennia. The papacy, the princes of the Church, and a tremendously wealthy earthly kingdom in its own right, were the inheritors of Rome following its Empire. They built a monumental collection of art in the Vatican City. The names Michaelangelo, Rafael, and Bernini, just to name a few, are eternal, their art sublime and they represent just a small fraction of the magnificence of Rome. As a major world capital, and cultural center of Europe, Rome remains a center for the arts today.

Abbeville Press has reproduced the art of Rome in exquisite detail and quality. Upon reading the book, I genuinely felt like I should have been handling it with kid gloves. The paper is of extremely high quality; the printing is of such high definition that it’s possible to see the individual brush strokes. A very large book, weighing in at close to 14 lbs., this won’t be the book you sit down with on a comfy chair. This book will make an amazing, unforgettable gift for the art lover in your life.

Bradley Wright