The placement of this image in this volume of the Didot edition of Piranesi’s Vedute di Roma guides viewers geographically; its annotations guide viewers visually. If an edition of Piranesi’s views suggests a tourist itinerary, then this image, near the end of the volume, begins to circle back towards Rome after the excursions to tombs in the Caffarella Park and the Temple of Hercules in Cori. Piranesi’s full title accurately names this structure, which was indeed formerly known as the Temple of Health. It is one of a group of ancient, mostly second-century temples along the ancient Via Latina, or the Via d’Albano, which are today part of the Archaeological Park of the Tombs of the Via Latina. His composition exaggerates the modest temple’s proportions and flattens the right side wall, increasing its presence on the page. Gouges in the terra cotta are given at least the same attention as the preserved details of the façade’s three ornamental panels and Corinthian capitals. His single annotation marks a similar interest in building materials, pointing to a capital that is composed of different materials than the others: “l’opera con tutt’i suoi ornamenti è di terra cotta, e’l Capitello A è composito a differenza di tutti gli altri” [the building, with all its ornaments, is of terra cotta, and the Capital “A” is composed of different materials than all the others]. This small annotation lies between the comparatively intact façade, which runs nearly parallel with the edges of the plate, and the varied materials and fallen walls on the temple’s other three sides, which are mostly hidden from view. It also draws a distinction between totality and singularity, between the material used for all of the structure’s surface and ornament and this single element. The light that is visible through the window, near the center of the image, betrays the ruination on the temple’s other side. The foreground is heavily populated with people and goats against a desolate horizon line interrupted only by two distant structures. The annotation that makes this ruin “speak,” as Piranesi said the remains of ancient Rome spoke to him, guides us to look carefully at inconsistencies in building materials, to notice variations in Roman design, and to value irregularity as much as consistency. (JB)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 16 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.