Bartholomeus Breenbergh created a series of prints of ruins within Rome, and beyond, well after he returned in 1629 from his 10-year sojourn in Italy. Based on sketches he made on location, the artist is less concerned with close visual descriptions of the specific sites he saw there than with conveying a sense of the Roman ruins’ strangeness and wonder. Remarkable for its delicate use of line and intense contrasts of light and shadow, the series is also noteworthy for its diminutive scale, which encouraged the viewer to engage in close looking and to actively participate in the sense of discovering another mysterious and foreign world. Bartholomeus Breenbergh (Dutch, 1598–1657), plate from the series Verscheyden vervallen gebouwē soo binnen als buyten Romen (Various Ruined Buildings Within and Beyond Rome); etchings, 1640. NYPL, Wallach Division, Print Collection

 
 

Light from a bright waning gibbous moon, such as this one, illuminated Mary Shelley’s bedroom window on the night of her “waking dream” that was the origin of Frankenstein. Photo courtesy Anthony Ayiomamatis

 
 
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Another view of the moon above Villa Diodati. Photo courtesy Russell Doescher

 
 
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Although the overarching theme of Tiepolo’s Scherzi — literally, “jokes” in Italian — deals with magic, scholars have failed to determine the exact iconography of the series. In this plate, a bearded magician in long robes and a rabbinical-looking cap gazes upon a pile of objects heaped in the foreground, including animal skulls, a book, a musical instrument, an antique urn, and the fragment of an ancient frieze. Together they constitute a sort of memento mori, or reminder of man’s mortality, a topic with which the Scherzi di Fantasia seems also to be engaged. Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (Italian, 1696–1770), “Seated Magician Watching Three Skulls,” from the seriesScherzi di Fantasia; etching, 1743–57. NYPL, Wallach Division, Print Collection

 
 
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The Texas State group photographed a waxing gibbous moon rising into the late afternoon sky above Villa Diodati. Photo courtesy Russell Doescher

 
 
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Villa Diodati and the moon, reflected in Lake Geneva, appear in this hand-colored engraving, ca. 1833, by Edward Francis Finden (1791–1857) after a drawing by William Purser (ca. 1790–ca. 1852). Image courtesy Donald Olson

 
 
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A photograph of the same spot, taken in August 2010, shows that little has changed since Lord Byron's tenancy. Photo courtesy Donald Olson

 
 
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This vintage postcard, ca. 1900, shows Villa Diodati — the white house with the orange roof, just left of center — on a steep slope overlooking Lake Geneva. This location allows relatively clear views to the west, but the eastern sky is partially blocked by the hill. Image courtesy Donald Olson

 
 
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The sorceress Circe was a favorite theme of the 17th-century Genoese painter and printmaker Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione. The story depicted here derives from Homer’s Odyssey (ca. 8th century BCE) and describes Circe’s transformation of Ulysses’s crew into animals. Castiglione shows the enchantress, wand in hand, framed by the ruined architectural setting she inhabits. A pile of military paraphernalia in front of her belongs to the men she has turned into the sheep, dog, stag, and peacock at the right. The artist exploited the subject for the possibilities it presented to connect ancient ruins with ideas about magic and metamorphosis. Giovanni Benedetto Castiglione (Italian, 1609–1665), Circe with Companions of Ulysses Changed into Animals; etching, 1650–51. NYPL, Wallach Division, Print Collection

 
 
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Printmakers found stimulation in documenting the decay of important classical monuments and other remains well into the Romantic period, drawing inspiration from a variety of fragments, including ancient buildings, statues, vases, sarcophagi, friezes, and, as here, temples. Jean-Jacques de Boissieu (French, 1736–1810) Temple de la Sibylle Tiburtine a Tivoli (Temple of the Tiburtine Sibyl at Tivoli); etching, 1809. NYPL, Wallach Division, Print Collection

 
 
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