Leonardo Bufalini’s Plan of Rome (1551)
Leonardo Bufalini’s groundbreaking map of Rome was the sequel to Alberti’s and Raphael’s projects, for it resulted from related methods and cultural impetus. A horizontal ground plan or “ichnography,” it was the first measured portrayal of the entire urban fabric—including its architecture, streets, and topography—meant as a grand public statement. Bufalini was an engineer who participated in the papal campaign to improve Rome’s fortifications in the 1530s and 1540s. Like many of his colleagues, he nurtured a passion for antiquity. His plan reflects this background, for in it Bufalini reconstructed invisible ruins even as he accurately mapped the latest urban changes, in a deliberate conflation of classical and Christian, imagination and reality. Published by Antonio Blado, an important figure in the early professionalization of the Roman print industry, Bufalini’s plan inspired few imitations, but it had a profound impact on pictorial views that appropriated its measured information for the sake of topographical accuracy. These works, too, show an increasing emphasis on exactitude, even as they signal a preference for vividly illusionistic views of the city. Bufalini’s urban diagram simply does not seem to have resonated with viewers.
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