If the overwhelming visual composition of the image provides little guidance in where to look, the annotations provide some guidance and structure. They offer “a temporal dimension to the otherwise detached objects” and suggest, with alphabetic order, a connection both among isolated fragments and with their viewers (Ferri 98). In the center of the image is the second story of the structure, now at ground level, marked by “A.” Ragged lines in the ground that begin in the lower left of the image resemble earthen stairs that descend to the “piano inferiore” marked by “B.” In the distance, “C” then indicates ruins of the theater that was part of the thermal complex, which appears again in the following view. Theatrical design played a major role in Piranesi’s aesthetic development. He draws especially upon the perspectives afforded by the principle of scena per angolo, according to which multiple diagonal lines create complex spatial arrangements (see Wilton-Ely 1988, 10; Dixon 2016; Rapp). Here, the ruins of an ancient theater themselves seem to offer the kind of new vista offered by complex stage design. When turning the page from this image to the following view of the same site, viewers experience something almost like a set change between one theatrical scene and another. Pivoting on one of the items identified in the key, viewers shift their orientation, in position and elevation, when presented with one central ruin surrounded by smaller ruins—including the theater—from below. (JB)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 17 of Piranesi's Opere, click here.