This page was created by Diem Dao.  The last update was by Jeanne Britton.

The Digital Piranesi

Remains of an Ancient Tomb, today called La Conocchia

This tomb was nicknamed “La Conocchia,” or spindle, due to its unique and elongated form. The exposed and crumbling brick that forms the top of the tomb indicates that it would, if not for its current state of ruin, far exceed the borders of the plate. Architectural details such as the arched windows, triangular pediments, robust base, vast columns, and unique geometrical design reveal its former magnificence. At the same time, Piranesi emphasizes deterioration through the wild vegetation that bursts through the cracks of the walls, the hollowed-out base, and the wayward travelers that seem to completely disregard the ancient monument before them. The elision of so many details makes it almost impossible to identify the tomb, despite its distinctive shape and location on the Appian Way, where many of the most important surviving tombs were built.

In the caption, Piranesi notes that “
Questo Sepolcro non si sa a qual Famiglia abbia potuto appartenere; stante che gli è stata levata la sua antica Iscrizione.” Piranesi devoted an entire volume to inscriptions, the Lapides Capitolini, in which he transcribed the original text of hundreds of inscriptions in addition to correcting or completing those that had been obscured or destroyed. Indeed, if ruins serve a deictic function by pointing to absent or lost histories, Piranesi here employs trompe-l’œil to supplement that deictic gesture with his own contemporary inscription. Verbally signalling what is unknown, the image renders the tomb legible by casting a light on its magnificent features that remain. (ZL) 

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

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