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This is the Villa of Maecenas in Tivoli, near Rome. Maecenas had been one of the greatest Roman patrons of the arts. This made him a subject of great interest to eighteenth-century art collectors.But he was also perceived as the personification of decadent luxury. The ruins of his villa therefore embodied both a high point of classical civilisation and the cause of its collapse. So this poetic landscape held a moral lesson for the contemporary viewer.

May 2007