This page was created by Erin Jones.  The last update was by Harith Kumte.

The Digital Piranesi

View of the Temple of Concord

Piranesi depicts the Temple of Concord twice in the Vedute di Roma. While both views share the same vantage point, the worm’s eye view, their title, composition, and visual focus are notably different. In the first view, seen above, the artist provides viewers with relatively straightforward representation of the monument. The columns of the colonnaded façade of the Temple appear in the center of the composition. Scenographic devices, or “directional indicators,” draw the eye toward the Temple: the sharp angle of the street on the left, the theatrically wide gesture of the man pulling a baying donkey, and the darkened and robust pilasters of the Arch of Septimius Severus in the foreground (Wilton-Ely 1994, 237). The shadowy triumphal arch functions both as a drawn theater curtain that introduces the scene and as a contrast with the illuminated Temple. A close examination of the right sides of the columns reveals that they have hardly been etched and are almost as light as the tone of the paper. Lighting effects in combination with the frontal view and skewed perspective further enhance the grandeur of the monument, which emerges from the dirt as a mountain of marble and stone. 

Though there are only labels for the ancient monuments in the key, the architectural history of the city is visible in Piranesi’s portrayal of different architectural styles. This juxtaposition of ancient and modern was a typical feature of the Roman urban landscape. Unlike his contemporaries, Piranesi often placed emphasis on this contrast,  typically to demonstrate the majesty of ancient Roman architecture, but also to document the lived histories of a site in ways that anticipate the archeological survey. For example, the classical simplicity of the late Renaissance apse of the church of Santa Maria della Consolazione in the left background opposes the rich ornamentation of the ancient monuments. Medieval arches sprout out of the top of the architrave of the Temple as though bulbs of foliage, while temporary structures amalgamate below it—a product of increased urban expansion. The prominent inscription on the architrave of the Temple, “INCENDIVM CONSVMPTUM RESTITUIT,” further highlights this contrast by referencing the “restoration” of the Temple after the devastating fire of the Roman Forum early in the century. For Piranesi and his contemporaries, inscriptions provided a significant way to date structures. In Piranesi’s discussion of the Temple in his Antichità Romane, he uses the inscription and other features to determine the different architectural strata of the monument. Here, as well as in the following engraving of the Temple, such stratifications are made visible. (ZL)

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

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