Theses Master's

Politics & Aesthetics of Ripristino: A Select Study of the Preservation Work of Antonio Muñoz in Rome

Jaramillo, Aura Maria

When we think about the architectural and urban construction and dismantling that took place in Rome in the first four decades of the twentieth century, the canon includes the likes of Marcello Piacentini, Adalberto Libera, and Gustavo Giovannoni. Yet some of the period’s most important and iconic projects — the master plan of Rome of 1931, the excavations of the Via dell'Impero, the restoration of the Mausoleum of Augustus, and the establishment of the Via Appia as an open-air museum, among others — owe much to the often overlooked Antonio Muñoz. An extensive writer, he published books on Baroque, Medieval, and fascist Rome, as well as Gothic architecture in the Lazio region, Piranesi, and he was an exhaustive chronicler of his own restoration campaigns.

In addition to being a prolific writer, Antonio Muñoz was an official speaker at the First Congress of Architects and Technicians of Historic Monuments in Athens in 1931, which resulted in the seminal Athens Charter for the Restoration of Historic Monuments. He was instrumental to the excavation and restoration efforts of countless projects and was an important consultant to Mussolini on matters of historic preservation, Muñoz was an art historian, amateur architect, and archeologist who served as Superintendent of Monuments of Lazio from 1914 to 1928, Inspector General of Antiquities and Fine Arts of the Governorship of Rome between 1928 and 1944, and finally founder and director of the Museum of Rome.

This thesis — in addition to re-introducing Antonio Muñoz to the English-language preservation community —investigates whether his preservation practice changed methodologically and aesthetically during the fascist regime in order to better understand the complex relationship between political ideology and preservation aesthetics. Muñoz will be considered in this thesis as a conduit for broadening the understanding of the range of preservation modalities through the fascist ventennio.

To achieve these ends, this investigation examines the “liberation” of the Mausoleum of Augustus and the restoration of the fifth-century basilica of Santa Sabina as case studies that represent seemingly opposing poles in the spectrum of Muñoz’s aesthetic legacy. Through a close reading and analysis of these projects, this analysis will juxtapose the idea of preservation as an act of ripristino (to remake pristine) versus preservation as an act of isolation as complementary and opposing concepts employed for political ends under the fascist regime.

Unless otherwise noted, all translations are my own.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Rakatansky, Mark
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 24, 2019