This page was created by Alexis Kratzer.  The last update was by Jeanne Britton.

The Digital Piranesi

Remains of the Acqueduct of Nero

The Aqua Claudia is one of the aqueducts that flows through the Porta Maggiore, the subject of the previous view. Nero extended this aqueduct, with the structure above, to the Caelian hill. In Piranesi’s day, the caption informs us that the aqueduct has been allowed to remain “on its feet” [in piedi] by order of Clement XIV. Many of the people in the foreground, though, are seated. As they seem to glance to the right of the image, the pronounced one-point perspective leads a viewer’s eyes to the left, down a receding diagonal line of ruined and irregular arches. The large, dark masses of stone on the ground are both a physical obstacle for a passing carriage and a visual impediment for the viewer’s entry into this image (Verschaffel). The only annotation in this image directs our eyes not to details about the structure’s age or decay—the “vecchiezza” [old age] that motivated the desire for its destruction—but instead to a small corner of a nearby building. The modern features and rectilinear surface of the Scala Sancta, barely visible in the upper right, offer minimal contrast with the heavily-inked and deeply-etched arches of the aqueduct. This aqueduct is itself in a similar visual and verbal position in Piranesi’s etching of the Egyptian Obelisk in the Piazza of San Giovanni Laterano, where it is faintly etched in the background but indicated, however imprecisely, with an annotation as “Rovine di acquedotti antichi” [Remains of ancient aqueducts]. Collectively, Piranesi’s Views of Rome repeatedly use shifting visual and verbal emphasis to reorient his audience within the spaces of the city. (JB)

To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 16 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here

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