Friday, 18 June 2010


A paper presented at the First International Meeting of the European Architectural History Network in Guimaraes 17-20 June 2010

Fig 1 M.E.K. Captain J. Douglas Kennedy and Mary K. at the ruins of the temple of Maiden Victory on the Palatine hill, Rome 3.15pm 22 March 1891 (John Rylands University Library, Manchester)

A personal archive of Rome

The John Rylands Library in Manchester contains a deposit of eighteen items from the collection of Captain James Douglass Kennedy of Lancaster, personal records of his engagement with the world of Roman archaeology between 1891 and 1896. (Fig.1) There are two large bound photographic albums, four smaller albums, and then a series of eleven lined notebooks, map books and pocket books, and a single letter. The collection contains commercially available photographs, many still in good condition, but the more intriguing material comprises Kennedy’s notes of his reading, of lectures and field visits he has attended, the comments of his various companions, and hundreds of his own small and often poor quality photographs (their authorship often asserted by the addition of his initials) for which he doggedly provides times, dates and locations. One effect that the volumes have is to reveal how, at this relatively early date, a wealth of photographic material was commercially available, showing the monuments in detail. But they also reveal the process of acquisition and how Kennedy had the means to collect the material and to invest in the large albums, and the leisure and enthusiasm to lay them out and annotate the images.
Kennedy, who was born in 1845, noted in the documents that he and his wife, (referred to in the material as M.E.K.) had previously visited Italy in 1881, 1882 and 1890. His accumulation of material in Italy, and especially in Rome, should be seen as the research of an aspiring writer aiming to provide material for the growing cultural tourism market. At that time the major English author long established in the field was Augustus Hare who noted the effect of his rivals’ publications on the visitors to the city of Rome ‘Their Murray, their Baedeker, and their Bradshaw indicate appalling lists of churches, temples, and villas which ought to be seen, but do not distribute them in a manner which will render their inspection more easy.’ (Hare 1893: 2) Kennedy would appear, from the methodological evidence in his material, to have been engaged in the process of producing his own contribution. The repetition of material and references in different formats suggests a lengthy editing process being conducted, probably during the months spent back at home in Lancashire. (Fig.2)

Fig 2 J. Douglas Kennedy Hand drawn geological map of Rome (John Rylands University Library, Manchester)

The photographic albums, especially the two largest volumes of commercial photographs as well as Kennedy’s own images, represent some kind of definitive collection of the visual material. However, perhaps more intriguing is the small black notebook that could be a mock-up for a proposed small guidebook. The slim notebook of faintly lined paper (obtained from ‘Alexander Thomson, 8 Princess St. Manchester’ as a small yellow label in the red marbled endpapers indicates) includes maps at various scales cropped down and pasted into the book across double page spreads. At the front is a map of the city within the walls, and amended in red pen to create divisions that correspond to the sections of Kennedy’s hand written texts. At the back a map of the ‘Environs of Rome’ is pasted across two pages. On one page a hand drawn plan of the hills precedes the section ‘Site of Rome’. After Kennedy has accounted for his nine divisions a map showing the gridded extensions to the city beyond the walls is pasted in as a double page spread. The text, in very condensed handwriting deals with the history and principal monuments of each of Kennedy’s divisions, in a considerably more concise form than Augustus Hare’s ‘Walks in Rome”, the two volume thirteenth edition of which appeared in 1893, although they too are pocket-size. Despite the non-pblication of this possible book an examination of Kennedy’s material in its raw state reveals much about the social milieu of Roman archaeology towards the end of the nineteenth century. Professional methods were developing but the dilettanti attitudes of early eras had not entirely disappeared and therefore the pattern of the lectures and visits in which Kennedy participated are as significant as much for his personal encounters as they are for the sites he saw and photographed.

A day’s photographic excursion

Although his albums are organised largely around year or location, Kennedy’s perennial habit of recording precise dates and times for his photographs makes it possible by cross-referencing to reassemble his experiences chronologically. Kennedy’s tenacity to record everything he visited is emphasised by the rapidity with which he attempted to appropriate much of the city photographically in a single day during his first year as a member of the British and American Archaeological Society of Rome. Although the elements of his itinerary are pasted into his photographic albums by subject one is able to reconstruct the frenetic pace of a day such as Wednesday 25 March 1891. This first of what was to become an annual series of excursions was nearing its end and Kennedy seized the opportunity of a bright and clear spring day to travel all over the city. As well as the early spring sunshine, the date of this dedicated photographic expedition was probably prompted by Kennedy gaining a permesso from the Direzione Generale delle Antichita e Belle Arti signed and sealed two days before allowing him to take ‘fotografie dei varii monumenti di Roma e provincia.’ Although the permit was valid for two months, Kennedy was obviously keen to take advantage of the privileges he had been afforded and eventually pasted it as a trophy into one of his albums.
The sequence of images recorded on that day begins at 9.30am with a partial photograph of the facade of Santa Maria Maggiore which Kennedy records as ‘taken from a cab’ – presumably hired for the day given the distance he and his camera were to travel. At 9.45 he is outside the Porta Maggiore, a wagon of hay providing a picturesque addition to the scene he captures at this busy entry point into the city. Thirty minutes later he is at the Amphitheatrum Castrense and at 10.30 at the Lateran basilica looking over open ground back towards Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. Kennedy had therefore visited three of the seven major basilicas, the sette chiese, in the first hour of his own secular pilgrimage.
The next group of photographs in the sequence cover the Baths of Caracalla recorded punctiliously by Kennedy as being taken at 11.00am, 11.05, 11.15 and 11.30. At 11.45 his cab returned towards the city via the Celian hill and he photographed the picaresque scene of resting soldiers outside the portico of Santa Maria in Domnica, their sergeant noted as sitting ‘in the boat’, the ancient ship-shaped basin which gives the church its alternative name of Santa Maria alla Navicella.
Kennedy’s route then proceeded to the ‘Coliseum’ where following a view of the Arch of Titus and the distant Capitol at noon, ten minutes later he photographs the west side of the amphitheatre’s exterior, including a passing troop of soldiers ‘at the double’. For the retired military man this was no doubt a more approved activity than his previous military encounter. This incident is followed in the reconstructed sequence at 12.15 by a photograph of the interior of the amphitheatre showing the lower part looking east.
At this point in the excursion it would appear that a long lunch was taken, as there is nothing recorded for over two hours. At 2.20pm Kennedy photographed the live Capitoline wolf in its captivity by the cordonata of the Campidoglio. In 1872 the Comune di Roma had decided to display a simulacrum of the city’s symbolic mother in a caged cave within the Capitoline hill, (a curiosity which was maintained until 1975). Five minutes later a general view of Piazza Campidoglio follows in the sequence with the ancient statue of Marcus Aurelius at the centre of the photograph.
Having crossed the Capitoline hill the next photograph is an elevated view of the portico of the Temple of Saturn, timed at 2.28pm, followed at 2.30 by a more general photograph of its setting in the Forum Romanum. At 3.5 (presumably 3.05) Kennedy recorded that he now had company on his expedition, his companions having perhaps only joined him at lunchtime, as the next image in the sequence is a photograph of the ‘Basilica Constantini with Lady Dean, M.E.K. and Mary K. in Via Sacra’. The three ladies stand in the middle distance dwarfed by the immense arches, one of the darkly-clad ladies sheltering from the sun under an umbrella. After this brief appearance companions do not feature in the photographs until the end of the day, and Kennedy took advantage of his cab to visit further outlying monuments. But before those visits at 3.10 the interior of the Arch of Titus is photographed, Kennedy taking the opportunity of the strong light to capture the scene of triumph carved on the arch’s reveal. At 3.35 another photograph of the Colosseum is recorded taken from just above the Arch of Titus, followed by an excursion to the Aventine hill.
At 4.00 Kennedy photographed the Servian Wall on the Aventine hill in the Vigna Torlonia. From here, precisely half an hour later, Kennedy recorded a panoramic view of Trastevere in three frames from ‘the garden terrace of Il Priorato’ and five minutes later he captured Piranesi’s screen wall around the piazza adjacent to the church and priory of the Knights of Malta. At 4.45 he recorded the view of the Palatine hill as he descended the Aventine hill, noting the ‘Palace of Commodus’. A further five minutes later, hurrying presumably because of fading daylight Kennedy photographed the circular Temple of Hercules from the recently constructed Tiber Embankment, and at 4.52 he concluded the day’s photography with a candid image of two unnamed women. Both are hatless and their dress does not suggest that they are Kennedy’s earlier companions (although the younger one is possibly Mary K). The northern corner of the Temple of Portumnus is in the background and behind that a multi-storey building with numerous lines of washing hung from the windows. One suspects that this photograph, given the lack of names (an unusual aberration) was an attempt by Kennedy to capture some local Roman ‘colour’.
The following day Kennedy had an excursion to Tivoli. Although no other permit survives in the Rylands holdings it would appear that the itinerary of 25 March 1891 provided Kennedy with much significant material as he returned to its locations, particularly the Forum Romanum over and over again in subsequent years with various of his scholarly acquaintances or others, such as when he photographed ‘M.E.K. at the base of the Column of Phocas – Gathering ferns’ unsentimentally timed and dated 11.10am 24 February 1894.


Capt. Douglass Kennedy was recorded as a member of the British and American Archaeological Society of Rome in their journal for the five sessions from 1891-92 until 1895-96. In Volume II Number 7 1896-97 in the Annual Report (376) his death was noted. Kennedy’s name was not even correctly recorded, suggesting a certain degree of disdain for this marginal figure. With his obsession with precision one can only imagine how the late Captain would have reacted to such posthumous disregard.
Kennedy’s precise purpose in accumulating his material might never be defined for certain. His researches border on the exhaustive but remain without a clear theme other than the desire to catalogue and account for every experience in some kind of way, as part of a broader pattern. He could not be compared to the significant archaeological figures he encountered, Rodolfo Lanciani (1901) and Thomas Ashby (Hodges 2000), or even to a possible acquaintance and more obscure scholar such as Peter Paul Mackey (Coates-Stephens 2009) but his documents do indicate the dedication with which a dilettante might attempt to understand Rome.

Selected Bibliography
COATES-STEPHENS, Robert Immagini e memoria Rome in the photographs of Father Peter Paul Mackey 1890-1901 London: British School at Rome / Sir John Soane’s Museum 2009
HARE, Augustus J.C. Walks in Rome London and Orpington: George Allen 1893 (2 vols. Revised Thirteenth Edition)
HODGES, Richard Visions of Rome: Thomas Ashby, Archaeologist London: British School at Rome 2000
LANCIANI, Rodolfo Forma Urbis Romae Milan: Ulrico Hoepli 1901
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