The Digital Piranesi
This page was created by Alexis Kratzer. The last update was by Zoe Langer.
Two churches near the Column of Trajan
Additionally, the trompe-l’oeil effect of the merchant’s basket simultaneously invites and excludes viewers from the piazza. Here, the square, church, and market belong to the local community of guilds and merchants; indeed, the single ornate carriage in the center looks out of place. Well-to-do tourists in their waistcoats and tricorn hats are strikingly absent, especially when compared to Giuseppe Vasi’s view of the same street.
Vasi draws upon the genre of the early modern guidebook of Rome, showing a sanitized and pared down version of the piazza where streets are clean and orderly and groups of tourists move freely through the square. By contrast, Piranesi shows “the diverse, unpredictable, and ephemeral noises of the street” that is not yet overrun with tourists (San Juan 4). Piranesi makes a clear visual distinction between the gleaming and pristine architecture of the two churches and the adjacent ramshackle modern houses. On the right a wooden shack is held up by fragments and sheets of tarp, attached to a building of exposed crumbling stone and haphazardly placed windows. At the same time, there are hints of the impact of the emerging tourist market on the space. On the left an antiquities shop displays a rather large urn for sale and the street Piranesi identifies in annotation “4” was a principal tourist route from the Column of Trajan to the Quirinal. Yet even this street seems far off in the distance, and, in contrast to Vasi, is not yet populated by carriages. Piranesi’s emphasis on the street life of Rome relates more to the genre scenes of Pietro Longhi than the illustrated guidebooks or the views of his contemporaries. The focus on daily life in this view disrupts tourists’ expectations about what they might encounter in a Roman piazza and, perhaps, invites reflection on local living conditions and the impact of tourism on the urban fabric of the city. (ZL)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 16 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.