Catalog of the Fine Arts Collection
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This remarkable mosaic plaque documents a transitional moment in the history of modern archaeology. The view shown here, taken from the western end of Rome's ancient city center, or forum, offers a sense of the site before extensive excavations were undertaken at the turn of the twentieth century that revealed the area's lower strata as they are known today. Even the three sites featured prominently in the foreground—from left to right, the Arch of Septimius Severus, the Temple of Vespasian, and the Temple of Saturn—were relatively recent excavations, having only been cleared by the pioneering Italian archaeologist Carlo Fea in the first decades of the nineteenth century. The site was nevertheless already a significant tourist attraction, as the couple shown at the lower right suggests.