This page was created by Erin Jones.  The last update was by Zoe Langer.

The Digital Piranesi

Interior View of the Pantheon called the Rotonda

The inclusion of this final view of the Pantheon, which was engraved by Piranesi’s son Francesco in this volume of the Veduta di Roma sheds light on the organization and viewing experiences of the Didot edition.  Whereas Giovanni’s views of the Pantheon include lengthy textual keys with measurements and archeological analysis, Francesco provides only the title, focusing instead on the visitors and contemporary environment. In general, architecture provides more of a backdrop to Francesco’s views, setting the stage for human figures that are rendered with precise detail, as in his views of the Colosseum and Paestum.
Though the series of 21 etchings published as Ville de Pesto is attributed to Giovanni, Francesco probably finished or reworked many of the plates after his father’s death, foregrounding the figures as much as the temples themselves. In a similar manner, a variety of staffage figures occupy the interior of the Pantheon: well-to-do tourists with their guides and attendants, monks, nuns, beggars, and dogs. Copious details, such as the elaborately coiffed hair of the woman on the left, as well as opulent fur sleeves, cloaks, ribbons, and fans are all painstakingly depicted. There are also many visitors in the act of prayer, referring to its modern Christian function. Other ecclesiastical symbolsthe crosses on the pilasters, the modern high altar crowned with the coat of arms of Pope Clement XI, who sponsored its renovationemphasize the preservation of the monument’s ancient prestige and modern conversion through papal restoration projects. Indeed, Francesco’s print is filled with modern additions that are absent in Giovanni’s view of the interior, including the canopy over the altar, flanking statues, and upper attic of pedimented niches and simple rectangles designed by Paolo Posi (1708-1776), also completed under Pope Clement XI (Pasquali, 346; 1980, Marder 1980, 30-32).

Despite the clear differences between the views of the Pantheon by father and son, Francesco’s engraving, along with his view of the interior of the Colosseum, notably included in this volume of the Vedute di Roma. The Didot edition prioritizes subject matter over authorship or chronology: engravings of the same monument or monuments of a similar type (such as tombs or triumphal arches) are grouped together, and Francesco’s works are included with his father’s rather than being singled out or published in a separate volume, as they often are today. As such, the viewer of a volume of the Didot edition is invited to experience a virtual tour of the city’s monuments instead of a chronological progression of one artist’s development. Attending to the arrangement of the Vedute di Roma in the Didot edition offers insight into the organization of knowledge, notions of authorship as well as the more commercial reception of Piranesi’s works in the nineteenth century. (ZL)

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

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