The Digital Piranesi
This page was created by Alexis Kratzer. The last update was by Zoe Langer.
Interior view of Santa Costanza, built by Constantine the Great, erroneously called the Temple of Bacchus
In this plan view of the mausoleum from the Antichità Romane, Piranesi further distinguishes between the extant remains, rendered in darker ink, from his planimetric reconstruction of the entire complex in lighter ink. The crack in the fictive marble slab separates ancient from modern, and “archaeological fact from imaginative fiction,” visual strategies which highlight his “dual role as antiquary and designer” (Pinto 2012, 141-2).
We can also see the antiquarian Piranesi in the precise measurements of Costanza’s sarcophagus listed in annotation 6 in the view of the interior. He notes that the funerary urn was made of porphyry and constructed, remarkably, from only one piece of stone, declaring that it was “singolare per la sua maravigliosa grandezza, e per il marmo durissimo.” Piranesi’s more archaeological approach to the subject of this veduta can also be seen in the details of the columns, which are, according to Piranesi, arranged in a “bizarre” manner, having been composed piecemeal from various buildings, materials, and time periods (see this imaginative close-up from the Antichità Romane). These subtle discrepancies prompt beholders to look and read closely, to discover Piranesi’s painstaking documentation of the monument’s dating, construction methods and materials, measurements, and decoration, by moving from one view through multiple pages of his entire published works. (ZL)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 16 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.