James Anderson Piazza del Popolo, Rome
Medium Salt print from wet plate negative
Mount on original mount
Photo Date 1852 Print Date 1852
Dimensions 11-1/16 x 14-3/8 in. (281 x 365 mm)
Photo Country Italy
Photographer Country United Kingdom (UK)
Contact Alex Novak and Marthe Smith
About This Image
Very rare and early large plate photograph from Anderson. Title written in period ink and Spithover blind stamp on recto of mount. Piazza del Popolo is a large square in Rome, Italy. The name in modern Italian literally means "People's Square", but historically it derives from the poplars (populus in Latin, pioppo in Italian) after which the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in the northeast corner of the piazza, takes its name. The Piazza lies inside the northern gate in the Aurelian Walls, once the Porta Flaminia of ancient Rome, and now called Porta del Popolo. This was the starting point of the Via Flaminia, the road to Ariminum (modern Rimini) and the most important route to the north. At the same time, before the age of railroads, it was the traveller's first view of Rome upon arrival. For centuries, the Piazza del Popolo was a place for public executions, the last of which took place in 1826.
James Anderson was born at Blencarn, Cumberland, U.K., on March 11, 1813 with the name Isaac Atkinson.
He studied painting in Paris where he lived until 1837, specializing in watercolor views. In January 1838 he moved to Rome and with the pseudonym of William Nuget Dunbar he participated in annual exhibitions of the Society Amatory and the Belle's Arti students. There he changed his name to James Anderson. He married a Roman girl, Maria de Mutis, and they had four children together.
The 1845 register of the Caffé Greco has his signature and an address at Fuori Porta del Popolo N. 6, profession photographer. In the same register there is also the signature of the photographer Giacomo Caneva.
In the mid-1840s he became a professional calotype photographer. Later he used albumen on glass negatives, but he generally preferred wet collodion. James Anderson was almost certainly a frequenter of the Photographic Circle of the Caffé Greco and some of his images show the same interpretation of other members of the group. During his first photographic period, when he used calotypes, Anderson doesn't seem to have ever signed his works and his blind-stamp only started to appear around 1855. The attribution to James Anderson of his early work is given by the blind-stamp of Jos. Spithover who sold his prints or by the negative numbers that sometime appear on the photograph.
In November 1855 James Anderson photographed the moon through the great telescope of Merz near the observatory of the College Romano.
A number of his commercial catalogues detailing his work survive. The first currently known was published in 1857. His views are generally well executed and very well printed. His works were on sale from the bookseller Joseph Spithover, who manufactured albums of photographs selected by the customer. For many years Anderson was in direct competition with Robert MacPherson, who was also resident in Rome.
James Anderson participated in a number of international exhibitions, including the Universal Exhibition in Paris (1855), the exhibition of the Scottish Society of the Photo (1857) and the Universal Exhibition in London (1862).
Around 1870 he began to work with his young son Domenico (1854-1938) and together they learned to compete with the growing number of professional photographers in Rome.
James Anderson died February 27, 1877, and Domenico continued the studio and his father's work with notable success.
Shipping and insurance costs will be added to the price and must be paid for by the buyer. Pennsylvania buyers must pay appropriate local sales tax. International clients are responsible for their VAT and other custom's oriented charges.