The business generated by the Grand Tour is further highlighted by the prevalence of ciceroni or guides, who gesture theatrically towards the ancient ruins. On the right, two dilettantes stand atop a fragment—which cannot be distinguished as natural or man-made—and point to the Forum below. The placement of the characters in the foreground accentuates the juxtaposition between neglected ancient fragments around them and the grandeur of the ancient past displayed in the background. While Piranesi’s contemporaries tended to portray the Forum in an idyllic manner, he emphasizes its broken, crumbling, and overgrown ruins. Beyond its functions as a tourist map or a commerical advertisement, this veduta also performs the deictic features that are inherent in ruins themselves, as indications of what is lost (Ferri 98). Perhaps in this vein, almost half of the 15 sites identified in the key are specified as “vestigie” or “avanzi” of monuments. The interrupted arches and broken columns could be considered a symbol of irrevocable loss, a prompt to ruminate on the idea of the ruin and the histories it embodied, yet for Piranesi, they invoked a sense of permanence—the vestiges, the remains—that resisted the ravages of time. (ZL)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 17 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.