The Museum’s collection of paintings is made up of works from the late XVIIIth and XIXth centuries, arranged by theme. They illustrate various aspects of social life in Rome. Most of the works come from the Museo di Roma.
The artists are Italian painters, such as Ippolito Caffi and Vincenzo Morani, and foreigners, such as Salomon Corrodi, Adolphe Roger and Teodor Aerni, who painted episodes from popular life with felicitous grace, combined with a degree of sensibility which enabled them to immerse themselves in a world now lost.
An outstanding part of the collection are the watercolours of the Vanished Rome series by Ettore Roesler Franz (1845-1907) showing piazzas, palazzi, courtyards, and the banks of the Tiber, places and aspects of popular Roman life that were disappearing due to the new urban development of the Rome as the capital of Italy after 1870.
In the XIXth century many Europeans and Americans, both artists and people of culture, stayed in Rome; such tours were considered a dazzling experience and an opportunity to get to know sublime examples of ancient and modern art. The visitors retraced the illustrious monuments of the city, but, at the same time, took an interest in the events and people of the working classes. They painted canvases, which were highly prized by the foreigners who bought them, and which are now displayed in numerous European and American museums.
Several themes are represented in the works: the traditional costumes, popular devotion, the festivals and spectacles such as carnival, nocturnal light displays, dance and in particular the saltarello – and aspects of daily life such as the crafts and the activities that could be seen in the city: barbers, washerwomen, carters…
The paintings form a visual counterpoint to the Roman scenes and, partly because of their sheer numbers, make it possible to imagine popular life in Nineteenth century Rome, as it was codified by the tastes and sensibilities of the artists who took inspiration from it and by the museographers who, in the first half of the Twentieth century, wanted to create it “in scene”.