• All the King's Horses: Vitruvius in an Age of Princes
    Indra Kagis McEwen
    MIT Press, 2023
    Indra Kagis McEwen

Vitruvius, “M.L. Vitruvio Pollione Di architettura : dal vero esemplare latino Venice,” 1535. Frontispiece, wood engraving, 8 x 11 inches. Courtesy Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal

In the author’s previous book, Vitruvius: Writing the Body of Architecture (MIT Press, 2003), she concludes that Vitruvius wrote De architectura for Augustus Caesar in ca. 25 BCE as an argument for the necessary role of architecture in the imperial Roman project of world dominion. All the King’s Horses: Vitruvius in an Age of Princes is its sequel. De architectura was not widely read in antiquity. A millennium and half later, it acquired virtually unchallenged authority among all who were interested in reviving the ancient art of building. and much else besides. Key among the reasons for Vitruvius’s appeal was his relevance to the politics of this “age of princes” (mid fourteenth to late fifteenth centuries) when ambitious warlords throughout Italy were taking control of cities that had governed themselves as free independent communes during the two hundred years preceding their takeover. Vitruvius’s role in the fulfillment of that autocratic agenda is the focus of the book.

Indra Kagis McEwen is an architect, historian, and affiliate professor of art history at Concordia University, Montreal. She has taught at several different universities as well as, for thirteen years, in the scenography department at the National Theatre School of Canada. She holds an honors bachelor’s in English and philosophy from Queen’s University, Canada, as well as a professional degree in architecture, a master’s in architectural history and theory and a doctorate in art history from McGill University. In addition to many articles, her publications include Socrates’ Ancestor: An Essay on Architectural Beginnings (MIT Press, 1993), Vitruvius: Writing the Body of Architecture (MIT Press, 2003), and Ordonnance for the Five Kinds of Columns, a translation from the French of Claude Perrault’s seventeenth-century treatise on architecture, published with an introduction by Alberto Pérez-Gómez (The Getty Center, 1994). A new book called All the King’s Horses: Vitruvius in an Age of Princes is forthcoming (MIT Press, 2023).