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Robert Macpherson (1811–1872)
Temple of the Sibyl                                                                             
Italy, Tivoli, c. 1858
Albumin print, mounted on cardboard, 37,2 x 31,2 cm
Blindstamp „R. Macpherson Rome” in the lower margin, pencil inscription „115"

Before he relocated to Rome in 1840 and devoted himself to painting and art dealership, Scottish born Robert Macpherson worked as a trained surgeon. In 1851 he learned the new wet Collodion process with glass negatives in the format 12x16inch and soon became greatly skilled at it. Especially his vedutas of attractions from antiquity were recognised by the educated, bourgeois tourists of Rome.

The subject of the so called temple of the Sybil on the antique Acropolis in Tivoli was a theme popular with the classicist artists, like Giovanni Piranesi, especially from a greater distance, showing the round temple ruins in their spectacular environment with the cascading gorges and waterfalls. In a printed catalogue Macpherson published in 1858, he shows 4 different views of the temple.

Macpherson's tight cropping of the architectural motif reduces the sterometric qualities of a subject matter that usually is characterised by its three dimensionality - the volume of the round temple in the cliffy topography of the terrain. Many photographs of the temple that were published on postcards in the following years, are taken from a similar angle, but the three-dimensional qualities were put into focus again by taking more sky and terrain into the image.

When in the 1860s it became popular to sell Roman cityscapes Macpherson kept his exclusivity and refused to sell his images on the mass market.

Marie Röbl, © WestLicht



Lit.: Therese Mulligan and David Wooters, Photography from 1839 to today, George Eastman House Collection, Rochester, NY. / Cologne 1999, p. 144.

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