Does Robert Hughes care about photography?

From time to time I would like to share books that I am reading, want to read, or which have arrived and am about to begin reading. It is that last case I’d like to start with–a first impression of one that came today.

Having spent some time in Rome this summer I was pleased to see that Robert Hughes has written a book on Rome, its history, its art, and his personal experiences in the city.

But now that I see the book, now that I hold it in my hand, I have mixed feelings. While I look forward to reading the text itself the photographs which are inserted in the book are a letdown. Low quality, poorly color corrected and dull. Saint Theresa at Santa Maria della Vittoria is made from a peach-pink colored marble? Not when I was there.

The biggest surprise is the image of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It is so monochrome in its browns that at first I thought it was a toned black and white image. But, no. It appears to be merely an image from before the restoration of the ceiling. Does the publication of this older image of the ceiling indicate that Hughes disapproves of the restoration? A quick check of the text shows just the opposite–he strongly favors the cleaned version of Michelangelo’s work.

So is this just sloppiness on the part of the publisher (the publisher is Knopf, the image source is Art Resource, NY)? Or do the quality of the photographs not matter?


Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History, by Robert Hughes, at