Cloaca Maxima, or “Great Drain”1 2022-03-05T12:46:18-08:00 Jeanne Britton e120651dde677d5cf1fd515358b14d86eb289f11 22849 1 plain 2022-03-05T12:46:18-08:00 Jeanne Britton e120651dde677d5cf1fd515358b14d86eb289f11
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View of the Ancient Foundations Built by Tarquinius Superbus called the Bel Lido
VEDUTA delle antiche Sostruzioni* fatte da Tarquinio Superbo dette il Bel Lido, o come altri erette da Marco Agrippa a’ tempi di Augusto, in occasione, ch’Egli fece ripurgare tutte le Cloache fino al Tevere.
Title: VEDUTA delle antiche Sostruzioni* fatte da Tarquinio Superbo dette il Bel Lido, o come altri erette da Marco Agrippa a’ tempi di Augusto, in occasione, ch’Egli fece ripurgare tutte le Cloache fino al Tevere. Key: A. Sbocco della Cloaca Massima al medesimo Fiume. B Tempio di Cibele, o come altri d’Ercole, il quale era situato nell’antico Foro Boario. C Avanzi delle antiche Saline. D Monistero e Chiesa di San Alessio. E Priorato della Sagra Religione di Malta. Signature: Cav(alier). Piranesi F(ecit).
Title: View of the ancient Foundations built by Tarquinius Superbus called the Bel Lido, or according to others, erected by Marcus Agrippa during the times of Augustus, on the occasion of his purging all the Sewers up to the Tiber. Key: A. Outlet of the Cloaca Maxima on the same River. B. Temple of Cybele, or according to others of Hercules, which was situated in the ancient Forum Boarium. C. Ruins of the ancient salt mines. D Monastery and Church of San Alessio. E Priory of the Sacred Order of Malta. Signature: Made by the Knight Piranesi.
This view concludes a group of images in this volume of the Vedute di Roma devoted to subjects related to water—ports, bridges, and the Tiber Island. Piranesi’s most supple etching is devoted to the stone just above the river, while the surface of the water is depicted with repeated straight lines that have only slight variations in texture. The receding diagonal leads viewers towards the horizon; indeed, the final three annotations are all located near the vanishing point. But this diagonal line is interrupted by the darker vertical line created by the boats in the foreground, which constitute a visual boundary across the length of the image. Below this visual boundary, in the caption, an uncommon annotation method hints at Piranesi’s priorities and production method. In the caption, the term “substructure” is marked with an asterisk added above the text rather than another alphabetic indication, which suggests that pointing his audience to this location in the image was, in the composition process, something of an afterthought. The long title acknowledges the uncertainty, which continues today, about whether the Cloaca Massima was built during the reign of Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, the final king of Rome, or that of Marcus Agrippa, and thus during the Early Republic. “A,” the first standard annotation, indicates the outlet of this drain, an underground tunnel through which a stream of the Tiber was rerouted under the Forum, allowing it to flourish.
This engineering feat repeatedly drew Piranesi’s attention and some of his most inventive visual methods. In his Antichità Romane, this straightforward illustration emphasizes measurement. In the Vedute di Roma, his view of the Temple of Janus, which is also called the Arch of Janus, points out the path to the Cloaca Maxima in an annotation. The Arch of Janus may have been constructed to mark the boundary that the drain created between the Palatine Hill (home to the early Romans) and the Quirinal Hill (thought to be home to the Sabines). Most strikingly, in Della Magnificenza ed Architettura de’ Romani, complex images in which paper seems to lie unfurled over the drain itself visualize the layered exposure of the drain’s buried details, as the medium of paper seems to enact the effort of archaeology. Compositionally, the image above compels viewers to look into the distance but also restricts full visual access. As a text, Piranesi’s caption directs his audience to look in all directions, and as a visual image, it is a broad, contemporary view of an underground structure whose buried layers Piranesi elsewhere exposes through playful representations of his paper medium. (JB)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 16 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.