This page was created by Alexis Kratzer. The last update was by Jeanne Britton.
The Digital PiranesiMain MenuAboutThe Digital Piranesi is a developing digital humanities project that aims to provide an enhanced digital edition of the works of Italian illustrator Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778).VolumesPiranesi's Opere (Works) contains 29 volumes, annotated and animated scans of which are gradually being added here.ThemesGenresBibliography
Ruins of one of the soldiers’ barracks in Hadrian’s Villa
12018-11-07T17:10:58-08:00Alexis Kratzerb246b0b192071919d0499d7b3d52bbdb38177646228495Rovine di uno degli alloggiamenti de’ Soldati presso ad una delle eminenti fabbriche di Adriano nella sua Villa in Tivoliplain2020-05-05T12:19:08-07:00Jeanne Brittone120651dde677d5cf1fd515358b14d86eb289f11
Piranesi presents what he calls soldier’s barracks at Hadrian’s Villa (which archaeologists now designate the Central Service Building) in what is, for him, an uncommon use of two-point perspective. Alternating light and shadow fall through the successive archways that recede towards one vanishing point, and cross-hatching lends vivid texture to the large wall that slopes towards the other, well beyond the image’s frame. Human figures lean on column fragments or stones, spread their angular arms in expressive gestures, and one rides a horse away from the viewer. Most remarkably, one leans beyond the image frame, breaking the boundary between representation and reality. Piranesi frequently includes trompe l’oeil [trick of the eye] effects in representations of surfaces (stone or paper) in other works, especially Roman Antiquities and On the Magnificence and Architecture of the Romans (Dixon 2002). An artistic ruse for centuries, trompe l’oeil appears, in its earliest existing examples, in Roman frescoes, whose rediscovery during Piranesi’s lifetime led to the trend in eighteenth-century interior design. Piranesi’s dedication to the idea of Roman art’s superiority makes his use of the trick in those works appropriate. The Views of Rome are more restrained in such illusions: titles and captions appear on illusionistic scrolls or banderoles incorporated in the physical space they depict (as in this view of the Arch of Septimius Severus). The specific illusion of the broken image frame, though, occurs only ten times in the total 137 views included in the Views of Rome. There is only one other human figurewho transgresses—just barely—the boundary between image and margin in the Views of Rome. In other views, such as the Temple of Bacchus, the Basilica of Santa Croce, and the Forum of Nerva, architectural fragments interrupt and cast shadows on Piranesi’s image titles and explanatory keys. Breaking the visual frame of an image playfully hints that the flat two dimensions of visual art might morph into the three dimensions of real life. This image’s leisurely street musician calls attention to the deceptive nature of visual representation, and the perspectival arrangement of this view, with two implied vanishing points, is shattered by his casually reclining right arm. This musician’s seemingly unaware disruption of the conventions of representational art conveys confidence in the engraver’s power to make three dimensions emerge out of paper’s two-dimensional surface.
To see this image in Veduta di Roma, vol 17 of Piranesi's Opere, click here.
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1media/17 Frontispiece cropped.jpg2018-10-19T10:30:22-07:00Jeanne Brittone120651dde677d5cf1fd515358b14d86eb289f11Views of Rome (2 of 2)Jeanne Britton33Vedute di Romaimage_header2020-03-28T11:50:36-07:00Jeanne Brittone120651dde677d5cf1fd515358b14d86eb289f11