Ichnographia Campi Martii Antiquae Urbis, first page of the Latin text
This large-scale map of the Campus Martius is included in Piranesi's book which describes the history and the present state of the area and shows it restored to a former glory, one of his own creation. He was inspired by details on the marble fragments of the Severan plan of the city, which had been reassembled by Nolli in the 1740s, probably with the assistance of Piranesi when he first arrived in Rome. The plan was dedicated to Robert Adam and Piranesi had worked on it from 1757 (this date appears on plate 5, on the top left medaillon) until the publication of the book in 1762. It started life as a separate map with adjoining bird’s eye views (see Pasquali 2016) and then was incorporated into the volume where it was originally a fold-out plate (plates V-X). It has achieved cult status amongst architectural historians of the Roman 18th century and continues to fascinate architects, topographers, students - and anyone who loves maps - with its profound complexity. Interpretations and analyses abound. Clare Hornsby is currently preparing a study of the streets and houses that can be discerned between the vast monuments that Piranesi depicts, sometimes basing himself on sources both material and written (he relied a lot on the description in Strabo and on the Regionary Catalogues) and sometimes on the pieces of the Marble Plan.
Etching in six joined plates, each plate numbered on top left or top right, or on left or right margins, anti-clockwise: Tab. V, Tab. VI, Tab. VII, Tab. VIII, Tab. IX, Tab. X.
Bibliography Pasquali, S. (2016) ‘Piranesi’s Campo Marzio as described in 1757’, in Nevola, F. (ed) Giovanni Battista Piranesi: predecessori, contemporanei e successori: studi in onore di John Wilton Ely. Roma: Quasar, pp. 179-190. Connors, J. (2011) Piranesi and the Campus Martius, the missing Corso: topography and archaeology in eighteenth-century, Rome. Milano: Jaca Book. Mariani, G. (2017) in Matrici incise, 1761-1765. Vol. 3. Milano: Mazzotta, nos. 103-108, pp. 302-304.
Campus Martius Antiquae Urbis, first page of the Latin text
Several sheets from an unbound copy of the Campus Martius Antiquae Urbis which had both Latin and Italian text are included in this Digital Highlight and the Ichnographia [XL.611.P.13-08_13] comes from that copy. Thomas Ashby mentions that he owned two copies of the volume in his 1918 Burlington Magazine article. The essay begins with Piranesi stating his intention to open a discussion of the extent of the Campus Martius and includes many scholarly references. The decorated initial A for Acturus is made up of composed antique fragments in a familiar manner for Piranesi, including fasces, a helmet and decorated bucranium.
Stylobata columnae cochliodis fromCampus Martius Antiquae Urbis, page 69, at the end of the Italian text
Caption: Stylobata columnae cochliodis Imp. Caes. M. Aurelii Antonini Pii, ex Cavalerio, qui sic ait fuisse antequam a Sixto V. P.M. innovaretur.
Piranesi points the reader to the index of ruins n. 34. This is another sheet from the unbound copy of Campus Martius Antiquae Urbis which Thomas Ashby owned. The BSR bound copy of the Campo Marzio has this text on p. 39 and no picture; the image of the stylobate instead appears at the end of the index of ruins which follows it [XL.611.P.13-03] and on another sheet [XL.611.P.13-51] which is bound into the volume in portrait rather than landscape orientation. This monument no longer existed looking as it does in this print by the time of Piranesi; he states in the essay that he is using a drawing by Giovanni Battista De’ Cavalieri, which appears in his Antiquarium statuarum Urbis Romae of 1585-94. Using the base of the Column of Marcus Aurelius to terminate a page of text is an appropriate metaphor and Piranesi animates the archaeological depiction with his typically agitated figures.
Sepulchrum Mariae Honorij, above Latin dedication to Robert Adam from Campus Martius Antiquae Urbis
Caption: Sepulchrum Mariae Honorij Imp. Uxoris, Stiliconis filiae, ex Syenite Lapide, repertum in Basilica Vaticana, in Cella Regis Galliarum, Paullo III. Summo Pontifice.
Piranesi mentions the reference to this tomb that can be found under the letter S [sepolcro] on p. v of the Catalogo delle Opere della Gran Pianta di Campo Marzio - organised alphabetically - in which he cites sources describing the discovery, in a long entry.
The tomb of Maria the wife of the emperor Honorius who died in c. 404 AD is shown on the large Ichnographia, named as such. Lanciani gives a rather romantic account of the discovery of the tomb in 1544 which was apparently spectacular as it was full of treasure, most of which is now missing.
Bibliography Scaloni, G. (2017) in Matrici incise, 1761-1765. Vol. 3. Milano: Mazzotta, no. 134, pp. 321-322. Lanciani, R.A. (1892) Pagan and Christian Rome. London: Macmillan & Co, pp. 203-205. Liverani, P. (1999) La topografia antica del Vaticano. Città del Vaticano: Tipografia Vaticana, no. 60, p. 135.
Labrum aegyptiacum porphyreticum, above Italian dedication to Robert Adam, from Campus Martius Antiquae Urbis
Caption: Labrum aegyptiacum porphyreticum, repertum inter rudera thermarum M. Agrippae, nunc urna Sepulchralis Cinerum S.M. Clementis XII. in Basilica S. Ioannis Lateranensis. Operculum haud efformatum est, quod recens factum, cum Labrum pro urna usurpatum est.
In his caption, Piranesi mentions the find spot of the sarcophagus, in the Baths of Agrippa close to the Pantheon and that it was used for the tomb of Pope Clement XII in the Cappella Corsini of the Papal basilica of S. Giovanni in Laterano, where it still can be seen. It would appear that Robert Adam made good use of the image in this dedication to him, as a set of twelve hall benches he designed for the Marble Hall at Kedleston in Derbyshire are based on this sarcophagus; several of his Roman period drawings - kept in the Sir John Soane Museum in London - show sarcophagi in invented urban landscape settings.
Bibliography Scaloni, G. (2017) in Matrici incise, 1761-1765. Vol. 3. Milano: Mazzotta, no. 152, p. 331. Wilton-Ely, J. (2006) ‘Amazing and ingenious fancies, Piranesi and the Adam brothers’, in Mario Bevilacqua, M., Minor, H.H. and Barry, F. (eds) The serpent and the stylus: essays on G.B. Piranesi. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, p. 229, fig. 15.
Pianta di Roma, from Antichità Romane, volume I, plate II
Caption: Pianta di Roma disegnata colla situazione di tutti i Monumenti antichi, de’ quali in oggi ancora se ne vedono gli avanzi, ed illustrata colli Framm.ti di Marmo della Pianta di Roma antica, scavati, saranno due secoli, nelle Rovine del Tempio di Romolo; ed ora esistenti nel Museo di Campidoglio.
This plate is a statement of intent for the entire Antichità Romane project, using Piranesi’s two preferred sources, the material evidence of the Forma Urbis and ancient written evidence.
The Arabic numerals refer to the fragments of the marble plan with inscriptions on them, the lettering of which follows the Roman monumental capital letters of the Severan plan, which are listed in two pages of indices, plates VI and VII. Following those are 40 printed pages with an index of the 315 numbered points on the plan. This is much more than a list of names, it goes into considerable detail, based on much scholarly research.
He presents a new way of looking at the city in a “leap back in time”, over the Nolli map - while retaining much of its rational approach and graphic conventions - and over the Renaissance and medieval city, to a Rome that might have been. The methodology of juxtaposing his own words with the ancient words and the arrangement of the fragments crowding around the walls (which seem animated, as if they are trying to break into the city to get to their places on the plan) reveal Piranesi’s material and mental processes echoing each other. The publication of the Antichità Romane was a Europe wide event and earned Piranesi fame, he had orders for volumes from as far as Russia and it helped him to gain fellowship of the Society of Antiquaries of London. The publication also represented a popular shift in the perception of archaeology in this particular moment, inspired in part by the continued interest in the excavations at Herculaneum and Pompeii (the former of which Piranesi had himself visited in the 1740s); a full understanding of a monument could no longer be reached by a study of its remaining exterior form, but required a careful combination of section drawing, plans and elevations with examination of the materials of which it was formed. All of these analyses were framed by constant comparison with the ancient sources, such as the Severan Marble Plan, which acted as a definitive reference point for the differences of topography between ancient and modern Rome. No doubt this project was designed for an antiquarian readership, yet its complexity and idiosyncrasy communicate an air of private meditation by the artist on the ancient city, his lifelong study.
Frontispiece to Antichità Romane, volume II, with the ancient intersection of the Via Appia and Via Ardeatina
Perhaps one of Piranesi’s best-known images, this plate - the frontispiece to volume II of the AntichitàRomane - depicts the junction of the ancient via Appia with the via Ardeatina, hyperbolically populated with imaginary funerary monuments and tomb structures. Ash altars, cineraria, funerary temples, dedicatory busts and milestones, are piled up on top of each other lining each side of the via Appia Antica, dwarfing completely the minute human figures that stand, barely visible, in the foreground. The antiquities are arranged so as to create maximum visual impact, highlighting the dominance of ancient architectural achievements over contemporary man. The print reveals Piranesi’s awareness of the rich diversity of ornament and design from the ancient world, as well as the extent of his creative reimagining of the ancient landscape. Although Piranesi’s work is clearly a fantasy reconstruction of the lost monuments of the via Appia - and one that was criticised by figures such as William Chambers, who described such fantasies as “grotesque” - the details and ornament of the varied sepulchral monuments, their differing forms and functions, could all be found in the pages that followed, in the images of the individual artefacts that fill the pages of volume II. Far from being fantasy or hyperbole, Piranesi’s print of the “imagined” via Appia Antica was rather a factual record of the sheer diversity of ornament that existed in ancient Rome’s repertoire. The print was an inspired assemblage of the archaeological record that Piranesi had, by this point in the mid-18th century, amassed both physically in his workshop and in the studies made for the volumes of the Antichità Romane.
The via Appia print also reveals Piranesi’s close relationship with the world of British architects, artists and antiquarians. Just to the right of the centre of the page, above a milestone inscribed with “II via Appia”, is a funerary stele with an invented inscription dedicating it to the Scottish painter Allan Ramsay. On the left-hand side of the print, next to a freestanding sculpture of Romulus, Remus and the She-Wolf, a cinerarium contains a dedication to the Scots architect Robert Adam: Dis Manib Roberti Adam Scot Architecti Praestantiss I.B.P. Fac Coeravit. Having been introduced to Robert Adam in 1755, Piranesi had developed a close relationship with him, due largely to Adam’s recognition of the significant contribution Piranesi’s attention to the archaeological record made to contemporary knowledge of ancient ornamentation. Together with Allan Ramsay, they made several expeditions together to Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli, to the Baths of Caracalla and along the Appia Antica itself. An inscription towering over that invented for Ramsay in the plate provocatively attests to James Caulfield, 1st Earl of Charlemont’s original patronage of Piranesi’s project, but it is the inclusion of Adam that reveals the key point about his British associations. It was Adam who understood that the plates of the volume constituted not only an inspirational record of antiquity for architects and antiquarians alike, but that they also contributed to Piranesi’s developing argument in defence of Roman inventiveness and architectural innovation, that was to become so significant in the spread of a ‘roman’ decorative language across Europe and beyond.
Bibliography Scaloni, G. (2014) in Matrici incise, 1761-1765. Vol. 2. Milano: Mazzotta, no. 80, pp. 216-217. Wilton-Ely, J. (1978) The mind and art of Giovanni Battista Piranesi. London: Thames and Hudson, pp. 52-64. Bevilacqua, M. (2012) ‘Piranesi e la Via Appia’, in Salvagni, I. and Fratarcangeli, M. (eds) Oltre Roma: nei Colli Albani e Prenestini al tempo del Grand Tour. Roma: De Luca, pp. 152-162.
Frontispiece to Antichità Romane, volume III, plate II
Title on milestone at the lower right: Antiquus Circi Martial. cum monum. adiacentii. prospectus ad viam Appiam.
This famous image is one of the most spectacular of Piranesian fantasies in which, as John Wilton-Ely has pointed out, all the ancient Roman circuses are in a certain sense fused. His inspiration is likely to have been the Circus Maximus and he elaborated the concept further in the bird’s eye view second frontispiece of the Campo Marzio, where the structure, purporting to be the Circus of Nero, is relocated near the Mausoleum of Hadrian. The concatenation of architectonic elements in the “spina” of the circus is framed by a crowded display of sculptural fragments. At the centre appears the cancelled dedication to Lord Charlemont, the quondam patron of the Antichità Romane. Tiny humans can be discerned walking along the track which stretches to a vast distance. The narrative in this volume which focuses on tombs and funerary monuments is carried along by the images; Piranesi provides a view and follows this by details or plans of the tombs, the captions of which give the authorial voice.
Le rovine del castello dell'Acqua Giulia..., page 21 with decorated letter “U”
Title on the page: Delle cautele usate dagli antichi nella concessione e distribuzione delle Acque.
This vignette depicts the Roman square capital form (capitalis monumentalis) of the letter “U”, formed of two inscribed lead pipes. It is taken from the Le rovine del castello dell’Acqua Giulia, in which Piranesi describes the Roman aqueducts that he had studied in preparation for the Antichità Romane, working out which ruins belonged to which system of moving water into the city of Rome. Aqueducts had been introduced to the city in 312 BC by the censor Appius Claudius, who brought the Aqua Appia into the city from the Alban hills. Successive aqueducts followed, providing water to further areas of the city, and their construction was undertaken by the imperial system in the 1st century AD. The two lead pipes depicted in Piranesi’s vignette record work on the water supply to Rome under the emperors Trajan (left pipe) and Hadrian (right pipe). The pipe on the left had been discovered in 1735 in the foundations of S. Apollinare in Rome; the inscription on it (CIL 15, 7513) states that the work had been done in the name of the emperor Trajan by an imperial freedman, Dioscorus, who appears to have worked in the administration of the patrimonium, or the imperial estates. The inscription on the lead pipe on the right appears to display the same text as one excavated from Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli in 1756 (CIL 14, 3698), and records restoration work done to the aqueduct that brought water to the palace, again undertaken by imperial freedmen who worked in the office of the procurator aquarum. This latter example had been discovered with three other inscribed lead pipes at Hadrian’s Villa, all of which had been moved to the library of the Jesuits’ Novitiate, with the example presented in Piranesi’s plate installed in the Museo Kircheriano at the Collegio Romano, which Piranesi acknowledges at the bottom of the image. These lead pipes were not antiquities of significant monetary or artistic value, but they are indicative of how up-to-date Piranesi’s knowledge of and access to archaeological material was; both pipes had been excavated within the last twenty years, and neither contained information in their texts that would designate them ‘important’ finds, certainly by comparison with some of the more monumental inscriptions that had come to light in the same period. The lead water pipes and their inscriptions were small, functional objects which contributed to Piranesi’s encyclopedic understanding of the ancient world, and how it operated.
Bibliography Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 15, 7315. Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 14, 3698. Bruun, C. (1991) The water supply of ancient Rome: a study of Roman imperial administration. Helsinki: Societas Scientiarum Fennica, p. 258.
Veduta degli avanzi sopra terra dell’antico Ustrino, from Antichità Romane, volume III, plate VI
Caption: Veduta degli Avanzi sopra terra dell’antico Ustrino; e delle Fabbriche pertinenti al medesimo. 1 La grand’Area dell’Ustrino. 2 Muraglia costruita di corsi di grossi Peperini, la quale circondava la grand Area. 3 Altra parte di Muraglia quasi del tutto rovinata. 4 Avanzi dei Portici dinanzi all’Ustrino. 5 Rovine, e framm.ti di Fabbrica, contigua alla Muraglia dell’Ustrino; la qual Fabbrica serviva di abitazione a’ Custodi, et ad altri ministri. 6 Torricella moderna, fabbricata sulle rovine dell’Ustrino. 7 Rovine di un Sepolcro antico.
This plate shows the landscape surrounding the ruins of this site of cremation, which Piranesi places near the Villa dei Quintili along the via Appia and is one of three plates relating to it in the third volume of the Antichità Romane. As a composition, this view compares well with the Temple of the Dioscuri from the Antichità di Cora where the ancient building in its landscape setting is depicted in a manner very close to Piranesi’s veduta repertoire of compositions. The distant hills and the middle ground, depicted as rugged and unkempt, and his usual staffage of figures are the backdrop to the heavily shaded ruined structure, of which the ancient brickwork and the foliage are examined with equal interest.
Caption: Il tempio di Giove Tonante alle radici del Monte Capitolino fu da Ottaviano Augusto fabbricato per voto, e poscia dopo aver sofferto incendio con altre Fabbriche del vicino Campid.o fu restituito dall’Imp.re Adriano. Per ciò, che si scopre in questo insigne Avanzo dell’Ambulacro esterno, tanto per la esquisita delicatezza e disposizione degl’intagli, quanto per la sodezza, e maestà della Fabbrica, egli può meritam.te annoverarsi tra i più cospicui ornati edifici, che sono stati innalzati in quel secolo felice. 1 Colonne di marmo greco, di gran mole, e di un solo pezzo, in gran parte sepolte nel terreno. 2 Fianco del moderno Campidoglio, piantato sopra l’antico Tabulario, segnato 3.
This lengthy caption is for the most part inaccurate: the structure is not the temple of Jupiter Tonans - it was not erected by Augustus, nor did it burn in the fire of 64 A.D., and it was not restored by Hadrian; rather it is the temple of Vespasian and Titus erected by Domitian in either 79 or 94 A.D. according to conflicting sources and restored by Septimus Severus. However, for his time, Piranesi was correct. In a common trope, he exaggerates the size of the remnant of the temple that appears above ground, the staffage below helps focus the eye of the viewer on the grandeur and scale of the ruin and on the details of the sculpted frieze, which accurately shows objects related to priestly sacrifice - patera and knife amongst them. A herdsman with his cattle in the right foreground - a motif supporting the contemporary designation of the Forum as Campo Vaccino - provides a contrast in mood with the Tiepolo-esque figures gathered around the ancient temple ruins, two of whose seem to be engaged in a discussion, perhaps antiquarian in nature.
Bibliography Weinstein, A.G. (1990) in Piranesi, Rome recorded: a complete edition of Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Vedute di Roma from the collection of the Arthur Ross Foundation. 2nd edn. Rome: American Academy in Rome, no. 37, pp. 70-71. Bevilacqua, M. and Gori Sassoli, M. (2006) La Roma di Piranesi: la città delSettecento nelle grandi vedute. Roma: Artemide.
Capriccio of ruins with statue of Minerva, frontispiece to the Vedute di Roma
This image bears little connection to the concept of the view of Rome, as exemplified by Piranesi’s first series of small Vedute and is very far from the manner of the prints of Giuseppe Vasi whose views were published between 1747 and 1761. Vasi’s ten books of etchings - Delle magnificenze di Roma antica e moderna - were much collected by visitors to the city and Piranesi had undergone a brief period of training in the Sicilian artist’s studio when he first came to the city.
Yet it is Piranesi’s Venetian influences, Tiepolo principally, and the theatre design of the Bibbiena tradition which helped him to develop a much more painterly approach to drawing for the etched plate. This image connects in manner and also in some parts of the composition to his Grottesche, made in the late 1740s, especially in elements such as the leaning palm tree that appears behind the clouds of smoke emerging from the incense burner placed on an altar. The intense exploration of light and shade effects and the inclusion of fantastic architectural elements - the historiated columns in spiral bas relief, part of a ruined temple colonnade, with no precedent in antiquity - create a visual complexity that evokes the overabundance of riches of ancient Rome.
The image is populated with inscriptions, some of which are genuine ancient texts, others are invented by Piranesi. In the top left of the print several inscriptions are piled on top of each other; the top inscription appears to be a jovial dedication to the Sabine people, invented by Piranesi, perhaps directed at a personal acquaintance from that area. Beneath it are the fragmentary blocks that contain an ancient text, although not epigraphic in origin; these lines are modified from Book VII.97 of Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, which record the military achievements of Pompey the Great, listing the number of people slain, the towns and places captured, and the geographic extent of his exploits, ranging from the Maeotian Marshes (close to the northern Black Sea) to the Red Sea. The ruined nature of the blocks on which Piranesi has placed the text is portrayed in comparison with the scale of military achievement described, emphasising the temporary nature of life and the vulnerability of seemingly permanent monuments. Two tiny figures stand on the archway reading a further inscription, set up beneath the dedication by Pompey; this is a genuinely ancient inscription dedicated to the imperial cult of Augustus and his adopted father, Julius Caesar, at Pola, on the Istrian coast and close to the area from which Piranesi’s family originated. The plate is characteristic of Piranesi’s approach to the ancient world, combining references to specific periods of ancient history, which are supported by genuine material evidence, with his own imaginative, playful and personal associations.
Bibliography Wilton-Ely (1994) general bibliography on the Vedute in Giovanni Battista Piranesi: the complete etchings. Vol. 1. San Francisco, CA: Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, p. 176. Campbell, M. (1990) in Piranesi, Rome recorded: a complete edition of Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Vedute di Roma from the collection of the Arthur Ross Foundation. 2nd edn. Rome: American Academy in Rome, no. 2, pp. 43-44. Bevilacqua, M. and Gori Sassoli, M. (2006) La Roma di Piranesi: la città delSettecento nelle grandi vedute. Roma: Artemide. Bevilacqua, M., Minor, H.H. and Barry, F. (eds) (2006) The serpent and the stylus: essays on G.B. Piranesi. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.
Caption: 1. Dogana grande. 2. Dogana del passo. 3. Arsenale. 4. Granari dell’Annona. 5. Ospizio Apostolico di S. Michele, e Casa degl’Invalidi, e di educazione nelle arti e correzione de’ Fanciulli, e di condanna delle Donne delinquenti. 6. Avanzi di un una delle pile dell’antico Ponte Sublicio, già di Legno, e rifatto poscia di pietra da Emilio, e ristorato dai Cesari. 7. Avanzi delle Saline antiche. 8. Avanzi di muri de’ tempi bassi, falsamente supposti del detto Ponte Sublicio.
In an earlier state of this print there was a large mass of boats covering the water in the centre ground, turning the river almost into a roadway. Piranesi here has eliminated a large raft or barge loaded with wood that filled the area, allowing the water to be seen. Arguably we find here the greatest number of people in any of the prints of Piranesi: they line the embankment wall and the wharves, clamber in the boats, climb the rigging. The human activity is almost unnoticeable amongst all the crowded verticals and diagonals of the mast spars, yet even if the viewer doesn’t see the people, Piranesi includes them; not only are they part of normal port activity but also they reflect his particular and idiosyncratic vision of the contemporary city, wherein his figures often seem like insects crawling over the structures and ruins. The cliff of the Aventine Hill on the left and the plain facade of the buildings of the hospital and the correctional institutions of San Michele on the right create dark canyon walls to frame the image and the river leads a clear, light path between them, heading to the sea.
Bibliography Wojtowicz, R. (1990) in Piranesi, Rome recorded: a complete edition of Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Vedute di Roma from the collection of the Arthur Ross Foundation. 2nd edn. Rome: American Academy in Rome, no. 51, p. 82. Tozzi, S. (1989) in Piranesi e la veduta del Settecento a Roma. Roma: Artemide, p. 60.
Caption: Esso fu eretto a questo Imperadore dopo la di lui morte in memoria della distruzione di Gerosolima, e in oggi è spogliato della maggior parte de’ suoi ornamenti. A. Bassirilievi indicanti il di lui trionfo, adornato con le spoglie del Tempio di Salomone. B. Apoteosi dello stesso Cesare, espressa in un’aquila che lo solleva al Cielo. C. Orti Farnesiani. D. Chiesa di S. Sebastiano. E. Polveriere. F. Rovine della Casa Augustana sul Palatino. G. Strada che conduce a S. Bonaventura.
In this print Piranesi is enjoying manipulating topographical accuracy in order to provide a dramatic contrast between light and shade. The foreground in deep shadow with the crossed trees providing a Salvator Rosa style motif, leads to a lighter and more serene middle and background with figures walking on the path up to the Palatine hillside Church of Saint Bonaventure. It would appear that Piranesi has deliberately positioned his viewpoint so as to reveal the important bas relief carving on the interior of the arch of Titus showing the sacking of the temple at Jerusalem, as indicated in his caption. Thus, the arch itself cannot function as a “way through” - but as a sculptural ruin. The areas around the damaged fluted columns flanking the archway are deeply etched. A group of people are gathered around what seems to be a stall at the entrance to the Polveriera; it could be that coins or other antique souvenirs would be sold at such a location by merchants more or less reputable. Another Vedute print shows the Arch from a different viewpoint.
Bibliography Solomon, S.G. (1990) in Piranesi, Rome recorded: a complete edition of Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Vedute di Roma from the collection of the Arthur Ross Foundation. 2nd edn. Rome: American Academy in Rome, no. 45, p. 77.
Camera sepolcrale inventata e disegnata conforme al costume, e all'antica magnificenza degl'Imperatori Romani, from Prima parte di architetture, e prospettive
Caption: Camera sepolcrale inventata e disegnata conforme al costume, e all'antica magnificenza degl’Imperatori Romani. Vedonsi in questa le Nicchie e Vasi, ne’ quali collocavansi le ceneri de’ Servi, de’ Liberti, e di qualunque altro della Famiglia. Vedesi ben conservato il sepolcro, in cui stanno riposte le ceneri dell’Imperatore e Imperatrice di lui Moglie. In qualche lontananza comparisce ancora una Piramide, la quale potè forse servire di sepolcro a qualche altro ragguardevole Personaggio della Casa Imper.le. Il Ponte poi e le Scale che, osservansi dai gran Finestroni, davano l’ingresso ad ogni angolo della Camera suddetta, e per le stesse discendevasi al più basso piano, ove i Tavoloni di cotto coprivano le Ossa della più bassa famiglia.
This plate from the Prima Partedi Architetture e Prospettive is a representative example of how Piranesi’s interests in archaeology and architectural reconstruction converged. It recalls the archaeological publications of the previous two decades, and most notably that of Francesco Bianchini, who had published the Camera ed inscrizioni sepulcrali of the discovery of the Columbarium of the Freedmen of Livia in 1727. Piranesi’s ‘invented’ burial chamber is part archaeological site report, part veduta; the niches of the columbarium structure are illustrated in the vaulted chamber that once contained them, the ruins of which now lie open to the sky and overgrown with vegetation. Unlike Bianchini’s images, which focus on the archaeological context of the columbarium and the recording of individual inscriptions, Piranesi’s print balances the illustrated description of the structure with imagined finds from it, such as the large sculpture of the Sphinx and the sarcophagus on the right-hand side, which dwarf the two figures clearing debris and climbing over stones in the left foreground. The discovery of the columbarium of the Freedmen of Livia remained a fascination for Piranesi, who also included the earlier published plates from Bianchini’s publication in vol. II of Antichità Romane (plate XXVI; drawn by Antonio Buonamici and engraved by Girolamo Rossi). By the time Piranesi had arrived in Rome, the columbarium structure itself stood in ruins, with all of the inscriptions removed and transferred to the Capitoline Museums, the gift of Cardinal Alessandro Albani, in whose ownership they had spent several years after discovery, and so Piranesi was reliant on the images produced by Bianchini and others for its original form. Piranesi’s version of the columbarium combines their archaeological records with the ruins left behind, using the scale and lighting of his Vedute to highlight the simultaneously ancient and contemporary states of such structures.
Bibliography Damiani, I. (2010) in Matrici incise, 1761-1765. Vol. 1. Milano: Mazzotta, no 17, p. 131. Robison, A. (1986) Piranesi: early architectural fantasies, a catalogue raisonné of the etchings. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, pp. 110-112. Pinto, J.A. (2012) Speaking Ruins: Piranesi, architects, and antiquity in eighteenth-century Rome. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, pp. 45-48.
Iscrizione e frammenti delle camere sepolcrali della Villa de Cinque, from Antichità Romane, volume II, plate XLIX
Caption: A Aghi di Avorio per le acconciature di capo delle Donne. B Stili di metallo per iscrivere sopra le Tavolette incerate, e per iscancellare occorrendo quello che scritto vi era. C Spatola od altro consimile stromento, con cui levavansi da Vasi gli unguenti odorosi. D Scure di metallo di quelle forse, che ponevansi nell’insegne consolari. E Vasi cenerarj di terra cotta. F Coperchio de’ medesimi. G Vasi di vetro per li Balsami, diformati dal fuoco degl’incendj. H Bottoni di metallo simili all’uso d’oggidì. I Vaso cenerario col suo coperchio, striato, di Alabastro orientale, fiorito, ed agatato di gran preggio, alto palmi due e mezzo in circa. Ora si conserva preso degl’Illus.mi SS.ri de Cinque possessori della Villa. K Parte di una Volta delle Camere segnate A. Ella era di forma angolare, distribuita in varj scompartim.ti ornati di pitture e stucchi. Il centro della Volta era abbellito di una Cornice circolare L, composta, come appare nella Modinatura M. N Tubi, e Tegole di cotto massiccie, quali congiungevansi l’uno all’altro per mezzo dell’incastro. O Bocca, e Coperchio del Pozzo mentovato nella Pinta E della Tavola antecedente.
This plate is the second of seven dedicated to the excavation of several tomb chambers discovered at Grotta Palotta, on the east side of the via Salaria Vecchia, near Porta Pinciana, in 1751. Piranesi’s detailed plans are a crucial record of the excavations, which revealed several columbaria and the burial ground of the Praetorian Guard, and which now no longer survive. The epitaphs dedicated to members of the Praetorian Guard, which are given in the plates following this one, are today in the Musei Capitolini. The plate presents a number of small finds from the excavations, including ladies’ hair pins, pens for writing on wax tablets, knives, roof tiles, cornices, vases and vase lids. On the right-hand side stands a large, strigilated alabaster funerary urn and lid, which Piranesi attributed to the de Cinque family’s collection. The artefacts are depicted as though deliberately arranged as a display of small finds in a house-museum or cabinet of curiosities, emphasising their archaeological context. The inscription (CIL VI, 29426), which Piranesi does not mention in the caption, is today incomplete and survives in two fragments, one in the Kelsey Museum in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the other at the American Academy in Rome; the complete text of the inscription is therefore known only from Piranesi’s inclusion of it in the plate. It is an epitaph for Iulianus, written in elegiac couplets, that laments the cruel act of Fate that took the boy away from his parents too early:
“O Divine Spirits—may you be kindly. Now you snatch him away from (his) wretched old (parents)—him given over lately to overhasty death. For this boy has risen from the blood of the Umbri—this delicate boy whom envious Fate, close-fisted, snatched away. Why has she written out so many years for the mother and for the father—for them, ungrateful— (but not their) wretched enough desire? For the years (his) offspring led—only seven—would have been seventy if she had not desired that they be wretched. Lucius Umbrius Saturninus, who—instead of vineyard estates on land and sea—acquired this alone for (his) offspring, this land for (his) son Julianus.” (Translation taken from the US Epigraphy Project, MI.AA.UM.KM.L.1448).
The dedicator of the inscription, Lucius Umbrius Saturninus, may have been of North African origin; the nomen gentilicium Umbrius is uncommon in epigraphy from the city of Rome, with only ten individuals attested with it in seven inscriptions. It is more widely known from inscriptions from the provinces Africa Proconsularis, Numidia and Mauretania, as is the cognomen Saturninus, indicating a possible place of origin for the child’s father. Although it is unlikely that the objects depicted in the print were discovered in the tomb marked by the inscription (Lanciani records that “many metal objects” were excavated from the Praetorian tomb) Piranesi’s combination of them here could be read as an attempt to give a personal history to the archaeological finds through an imaginative recovery of the past, and to demonstrate the very real sense of loss felt by those who dedicated such monuments as that from which they were taken.
Bibliography Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 6, 29426. Carmina Latina Epigraphica 1164. Lanciani, R.A. (2000) Storia degli scavi di Roma e notizie intorno le collezioni romane di antichità. Vol. 6 (1700-1878). Roma: Quasar, p. 146. Ohl, R.T. (1931) ‘The Inscriptions at the American Academy in Rome’, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, 9, no. 96, pp. 121-122. Baldwin, M.W. and Torelli, M. (eds) (1979) Latin inscriptions in the Kelsey Museum: the Dennison Collection. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, no. 44. Tuck, S.L. (2005) Latin inscriptions in the Kelsey Museum: the Dennison and De Criscio collections. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, no. 339, pp. 198-201. Scaloni, G. (2014) in Matrici incise, 1761-1765. Vol. 2. Milano: Mazzotta, no.128, pp. 256-257.
Dimostrazione di una parte de’ portici del prim’ordine del Teatro di Marcello, from Antichità Romane, volume IV, plate XXXIII
Caption: A. Piano antico di Roma. B. I tre gradi, per i quali si ascendeva ne’ portici. C. Colonne piantate senza base per contribuire alla gravità della fabbrica, e non ingombrare gl’ingressi al numeroso popolo che qui concorreva. D. Cornice corrosa dall’incendio. E. Parte de’ pilastrelli del second’ordine. F. Pianta della presente elevazione.
The last of the four volumes of the Antichità Romane concentrates on the bridges, theatres and porticoes of Rome. This plate is one of sixteen which analyse various architectural details of the Teatro di Marcello whose character of sobriety and simplicity indicates their creation in the workshop rather than by Piranesi himself. Their derivation is from the plates in Les edifices antiques de Rome, the key scholarly publication by the late 17th c. French architect Antoine Desgodetz; however, that dry architectural analysis is here enlivened with Piranesian figures positioned in the Doric archway dressed as Roman soldiers.
Desgodetz’s established position as the arbiter on the measurement of Roman architecture was much challenged; the Scottish architect Robert Adam, Piranesi’s friend and the dedicatee of the Campo Marzio, had started off his Roman career with a typically ambitious plan to “re-do” Desgodetz.
Bibliography Desgodetz, A. (1682) Les edifices antiques de Rome dessinés et mesurés tres exactement. Paris: chez Jean Baptiste Coignard, p. 293, plate II Salinitro, C. (2014) in Matrici incise, 1761-1765. Vol. 2. Milano: Mazzotta, no 235, p. 423.
Grand'Urna di Marmo, creduta di Alessandro Severo, e di Giulia Mamea sua Madre, from Antichità Romane, volume II, plate XXXIII
1756 - second state
Caption: Questa grand’Urna fu ritrovata nel mezzo del di lui Mausoleo con dentro un nobilissimo Vaso d’Agata Sardonica, il quale conteneva le Ceneri. Il Coperchio è formato come un letto vagam.te ornato di rabeschi, fascie, e ricami esprimenti varie caccie d’animali, sopra il quale riposano Alessandro Severo, e Giulia Mamea: egli abbraccia la madre colla destra: colla destra essa tiene una corona di alloro; posando ogn’un di loro la sinistra sopra un cuscino, che sembra si profondi dentro il molle materasso. Tutta la grand’Urna è scolpita all’intorno di figure in basso rilievo. Nella parte dinanzi veggonsi rappresentati i Romani, ed i Sabini in atto di trattare la pace tra loro dopo le molte sanguinose zuffe, le quali a cagione del ratto, che fecero i Romani delle Zitelle Sabine con pari stragge, e disavvantaggio dianzi erano seguite. Per tanto da un lato scorgesi Tazio Re de’ Sabini co’ suoi più anziani sopra sedia regale assiso; dall’altro vedesi Romolo, circondato dalla gioventù Romana, parimenti sedere sopra uno scanno coperto da una pelle di leone. Nel mezzo poi tra questi due popoli feroci miransi le giovani Sabine, unicam.te intente a pacificare gli animi infieriti, sì degli sposi, che de’ parenti, cercando di convertire i passati sdegni in teneri affetti di concordia, e di amore, quali tra congiunti di sangue si convengono. Il restante de’ Membri dell’Urna sono abbelliti di varj intagli di fogliami, maschere, e di rabeschi. Questo basso rilievo potrebbe rappresentare altro fatto, se non l’impedissero le ristaurazioni moderne di braccia, e teste, ed altri suoi ornamenti.
This is the final plate of volume II of the Antichità Romane. The sarcophagus he describes had been discovered in 1582 at Monte del Grano, near the Porta Celimontana, and was installed in the internal courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori, where it became a ‘must-see’ antiquity on the itineraries of foreign visitors to the city. Piranesi had published the sarcophagus in the first volume of the Antichità Romane in 1756, in which he justified the identities of the two figures on the lid of it as the emperor Alexander Severus and his mother, Julia Mamea, based on their features, pose and iconography. Three months after Piranesi’s publication, Ridolfino Venuti published a pamphlet which focused on the iconography of the relief decoration on the front of the sarcophagus and refuted Piranesi’s identification of the two figures on the lid. Venuti suggested, in a lengthy description of the sculptural relief, that it depicted a scene from the beginning of the Iliad, in which Agammemnon refuses to return Chryseis, an enslaved girl seized in battle, to her father, a priest of Apollo, for which the Greek army is punished with a plague. He dismissed Piranesi’s identification of the figures on the lid of the urn as Alexander Severus and Julia Mamea, claiming that the male figure appeared too old to be the Severan emperor and that the hairstyle of the female figure did not conform with known images of his mother and refuting the belief held by many contemporary antiquarians that the presence of a crown in the female figure’s hand indicated the presence of an emperor. Piranesi was outraged by Venuti’s publication, particularly given the speed with which it followed the first edition of the Antichità Romane. In the second edition Piranesi added the caption in the top left of the plate in the form of a framed text affixed to the wall, in which he offered his rebuttal to Venuti’s statements, reaffirming the iconography of the two figures that lead to such an identification. The head of the male figure was also recut for this second edition in order to make it look more like that of the original object; the engraver of the print produced for the first edition had relied on drawings produced by other artists which had introduced misleading features for both figures. For the second edition, Piranesi returned to the sarcophagus itself directly and ensured that the head of the male figure was represented faithfully.
The identification of the two figures on the cover of the sarcophagus is not today believed to be linked to Alexander Severus and his mother; modern scholarship leans closer to Venuti’s interpretation, recognising scenes from the life of Achilles in the relief decoration, but this plate is an unequivocal example of antiquarian debate in the mid-1700s. Iconography was studied and analysed in comparison with other ancient materials and literary texts and then published in the form of pamphlets or small books to provoke debate amongst antiquarians. Venuti’s work may not have been intended to antagonise Piranesi, rather to continue the debate; yet its publication, so soon after the masterful volume I of the Antichità Romane, with its claim to an exact representation of the antiquities, risked exposing Piranesi’s project to criticism and revealed the potential introduction of errors that reliance on the work of others presented.
Bibliography Venuti, R. (1756) Spiegazione de’ bassirilievi che si osservano nell’urna sepolcrale detta volgarmente d’Alessandro Severo. Roma: Nella stamperia de’ Bernabò, e Lazzarini. Mariani, G. (2014) ‘Le Antichità Romane opera di Giambatista Piranesi architetto veneziano’, in Matrici incise, 1761-1765. Vol. 2. Milano: Mazzotta, pp. 24-26. Scaloni, G. (2014) in Matrici incise, 1761-1765. Vol. 2. Milano: Mazzotta, no. 112, pp. 242-244.
Avanzo del Mausoleo di Ottaviano Augusto, from Antichità Romane, volume II, plate LXIII
Caption: A Avanzo del Mausoleo di Ottaviano Augusto, il quale noi qui facciamo vedere, come si trova al presente, e come non fosse occupato dalle Fabbriche moderne. B In oggi qui è il Giardino Corèa. C Ingresso antico verso la Chiesa di S. Rocco. D Avanzi delle Celle rotonde. E Due obelisci col piedestallo, uno de’ quali si è qui disegnato nel modo, in cui è stato quivi ritrovato al tempo di Sisto V., e fu fatto innalzare poscia dallo stesso Pontefice dietro la Chiesa di S. Maria Maggiore. F Urna ceneraria di marmo, quivi trovata, ora esistente nel Cortile del Palazzo de’ Conservatori di Campid.o. G Capitello di marmo bizzarramente ornato con foglie, conchiglie, e delfini. Sopra la Tavola del medesimo vedesi un canale fatto, per introdurre il piombo al buco di mezzo, per cui il Capitello dovea essere impernato al suo Architrave. Di sì fatti Capitelli come ancora de’ formati con altre capricciose, e varie fantasie, infiniti se ne veggono per la Città di Roma, e per li suoi contorni: talm.te che sembra, che gli Antichi non abbiano lasciato a’ Posteri alcun luogo di poterne inventare de’ nuovi. H Facciata di un Sepolcro di marmo, ornata di figure architettoniche, e nel mezzo di uno Scudo, scavato a conchiglia con ghirlanda di alloro d’intorno; il quale contiene il ritratto di qualche nobile defonto. I Due Pili di marmo, ambi d’una stessa grandezza, e forma, i quali stavano internati nel muro con uno de’ loro lati. K Parte di un Piede di marmo, lavorato di foglie con molta leggiadria, la quale parte, per mezzo del buco, che si vede sopra, impernata, univasi ad altra parte. Questo Piede poteva per avventura sostenere qualche Tavola, sopra la quale ponevansi i Vasi de’ Balsami, le Patere, ed altre cose simili per uso de’ funebri annui Sacrificj. I prefati Framm.ti con molti altri, i quali, per essere affatto guasti, e senza forma veruna, non si sono qui riportati, furono scoperti in occasione degli scavi, fatti d’intorno a questo insigne Monumento, ed in oggi quivi ancora si veggono nel prenominato Giardino Corèa.
The last three plates of volume II of Antichità Romane are concerned with the remains of the Mausoleum of Augustus. In the two plates immediately preceding this, Piranesi gives a plan of the mausoleum, indicating its scale and which walls still survived above ground, followed by a dramatic cross-section of the architecture, highlighting the material used to construct it. In this final plate Piranesi focuses on the archaeological finds from the site, responding to the growing interest in ancient objects and artefacts that had been popularised by the rediscovery of Herculaneum and Pompeii in the previous two decades. The foreground of the print is populated with the finds, with the remains of the Mausoleum visible as a backdrop; Piranesi states in the opening line of the caption that the Mausoleum is presented “as one finds it in the present, and as if it were not occupied by modern works”, presumably in reference to the pleasure gardens that had occupied it since the Renaissance, and demonstrating the fluidity with which his understanding of such sites moved between their ancient and contemporary incarnations.
The foreground is dominated on the right-hand side by the large cinerarium that once contained “the bones of Agrippina”, the mother of the emperor Caligula, who died in 33 AD. The cinerarium was interred in the Mausoleum in 37 AD after her ashes were transported to Rome from Ventotene, whence she had been exiled by the emperor Tiberius. The ash chest was repurposed in the medieval period as a weight against which to measure grain, for which the holes in the front of the inscription were made and later in the mid-16th century moved to the courtyard of the Palazzo dei Conservatori on the Campidoglio. In the left-hand side of the plate, Piranesi depicts various other finds, including a column capital, an obelisk and a pedestal, the forms of which are described in detail in the caption. The combination of archaeological artefacts, inscription and the remains of the Mausoleum is a typical example of Piranesi’s blurring of ancient and modern Rome; the structure of the Mausoleum is presented not as it was in Piranesi’s contemporary moment, but as he considered it should be, stripped of its modern additions and function. The objects in the foreground, and the explanatory text of the caption connect the ancient and modern realities of the site, providing the path along which Piranesi and his readers might move between the two.
Bibliography Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum 6, 886 (=40372). Salinitro, C. (2014) in Matrici incise, 1761-1765. Vol. 2. Milano: Mazzotta, no. 142, pp. 265-266. Tedeschi Grisanti, G. and Solin, H. (2011) Dis Manibus, pili, epitaffi et altre cose antiche di Giovannantonio Dosio. Pisa: ETS, p. 360, c. 54d. Velestino, D. (2019) in Claudio imperatore: Messalina, Agrippina e le ombre di una dinastia. Roma: "L'Erma" di Bretschneider, no 32, p. 85.
Ara antica, from Antichità d’Albano e di Castelgandolfo, plate VIII
Caption on left hand side: Quest’ara quadrilatera con altra simile chiamate abusivamente Tripodi servono per l’acqua lustrale nella Chiesa di S. Maria della Stella in Albano.
Caption on right hand side: A Pilastro d’ordine Dorico. B Colonna d’ordine Jonico. La Colonna C, ed il pilastro D, essendo ambedue le are incastrate nel muro per la metà, non si può sapere se siano di due altri differenti ordini.
The volume dates from 1764 and like the Campo Marzio and Antichità di Cora has an introductory text, here of 26 pages and 26 plates; it was produced after the 1762 volume Di due spelonche ornate dagli antichi alla riva del Lago Albano. Pope Clement visited the site as it was below his palace and asked Piranesi to complete a study of the antiquities of the area and so he proceeded with this volume, measuring and drawing on site. The object depicted here is an ancient altar - called a tripod by mistake, as he notes in the caption. There is a drawing closely resembling the print in the British Museum [1908,0616.35] that is probably an idea for one of his pasticci - a fabricated semi-antique sculptural object, such as others he proposes in Vasi, candelabri, cippi, sarcofagi, tripodi, lucerne ed ornamenti antichi... of 1778.
Bibliography Scott, J. (1975) Piranesi. London: Academy Editions. p. 172. Grumo, G. (2020) in Matrici incise, 1761-1765. Vol. 4. Milano: Mazzotta, no. 37, pp. 143-144. Vowles, S. (2020) Piranesi drawings: visions of antiquity. London: Thames & Hudson, no. 49, p. 127.