The Digital Piranesi
This page was created by Alexis Kratzer. The last update was by Zoe Langer.
View of the Facade of the Basilica Santa Croce in Gerusalemme
The wide gestures and sketchy lines of the statues mirror those in the human figures in the foreground, who, at times, even disappear into the background itself (as seen in detail 2). Similarly, the ruins of what Piranesi calls the “Temple of the Speranza Vecchia” both fade into and are highlighted by the white cloud on the left. By contrast, as seen in detail 3 above, the modern entrance to the “Monastery of the Cistercian Monks” (annotation 1), is delineated with rigid vertical lines.
Clear juxtapositions of light and shadow, curved and rectilinear lines, as well as rough and polished surfaces, call attention to the multiple periods of architecture that characterize the space. Yet the figures most emphatically point to the ancient ruins on opposite sides of the composition. Piranesi also highlights these older structures visually, through the brightest and darkest hues, and verbally, by labeling and describing them in the key below. The wall on the right side is almost completely obscured in shadow, yet in its monstrous girth it takes on an almost grotesque presence. Though crumbling and overgrown, its body in pieces of marble splayed at the border of the plate, the wall is actually of great significance to Piranesi, particularly in his archaeological works: it contains the remains of the ancient Castrense Amphitheater that originally formed part of the Aurelian walls, ruins that are remarkably still visible to this day. (ZL)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 16 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.