This page was created by Alexis Kratzer.  The last update was by Jeanne Britton.

The Digital Piranesi

Remains of a Room Belonging to the Praetorian Fort at Hadrian’s Villa

The room shown in this engraving belongs to the same structure depicted in the previous view, possibly situated among the same dwellings in the background. Moving from that engraving to this one, a viewer seems to be swept into the center of an image that Piranesi framed in ways that might limit imaginative entry. The “remains” of the title emphasize temporality rather than visuality, but the etching technique and informative captions serve as guides for a visual encounter with this site.

Many of Piranesi’s views of Tivoli in particular celebrate the enveloping effects of domed interiors: see, for example, his views of a sculpture gallery, the Temple of the Tosse, or the Temple of the God Canopus.  In this image, it is the sharp angle and heavy shading of the straight wall that dominate the visual field, even as its angle directs viewers towards the circular area of the domed room. There, Piranesi’s etching creates wavy, pulsing marks that generate light and shadow; cross-hatching, by contrast, creates an angular texture along the surface of the straight wall. Three human figures in the middle ground, bounded by the space of the domed room, point in three different directions, as if to demarcate the boundaries of the space. Sunlight illuminates the “A” in the domed ceiling, which is paired with another at ground level to indicate the area where niches decorated the room. Following the sharp diagonal in the previous image, viewers of the bound volume of the Didot edition here encounter another, which proceeds towards the partially enveloping space of the ruined dome and the multi-directional movements of informative annotation. (JB)

To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 17 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.

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