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The Digital Piranesi

Interior view of the Pantheon called the Rotonda

This final view of the Pantheon was engraved by Piranesi’s son, Francesco, whose style is markedly different from his father’s. Whereas Giovanni’s views of the Pantheon include lengthy textual keys with measurements and archeological analysis, Francesco merely provides 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 City of Paestum 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. A wealth of 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 the modern Christian use of the Pantheon as a church. Other ecclesiastical symbols, such as the crosses on the pilasters and the modern high altar crowned with the coat of arms of Pope Clement XI, who sponsored its renovation, emphasize the preservation of the monument’s ancient prestige and modern conversion through papal restoration projects. Indeed, Francesco’s print is filled with such modern additions, 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, 30-32). Many of these modern details are absent in Giovanni’s view of the interior.

Despite the clear differences between the views of the Pantheon by father and son, Francesco’s engraving is notably included in the Vedute di Roma, which in fact includes two prints by Francesco in this volume. The Didot edition prioritizes genre 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. The view of the Pantheon’s interior above is additionally included in volume 6 of the Opere, entitled the Seconda parte de’ tempj antichi. Bound together with Monumenti degli Scipioni, this volume contains numerous plans, cross-sections, and reconstructions of the Pantheon (see below for some examples).
Attending to the arrangement of the Opere and particularly the Vedute di Roma offers insight into the organization of knowledge, notions of authorship, and 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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