Burning of Rome A.R. 813.

WAG 7733


This is one of a group of drawings by British artist and book illustrator Edward Francis Burney, depicting scenes from Greek and Roman history and mythology. One of the inscriptions on the margin, March No. 4, seems to refer to the month in a calendar for which Burney created this frontispiece drawing. He executed many headpieces of this kind for pocket calendars and memorandum books between 1796 to 1829. [See correspondence between Patricia Crown and Edward Morris, in the docket file] This is a miniature pen and ink drawing of a classical scene in which Emperor Nero (37 - 68 CE) is watching - or ignoring - the city of Rome burning. According to a popular tale, Nero sat before the fire on the top balcony of his palace [in Palatine Hill?], while singing and playing the lyre, as seen here in Burney's illustration. The fire destroyed most of the city, which Nero then had rebuilt to his specifications.