I would believe that it must belong to the God Neptune1 2022-04-03T06:42:48-07:00 Jeanne Britton e120651dde677d5cf1fd515358b14d86eb289f11 22849 1 plain 2022-04-03T06:42:49-07:00 Jeanne Britton e120651dde677d5cf1fd515358b14d86eb289f11
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Remains of the Temple of the God Canopus at Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli
Avanzi del Tempio del Dio Canopo nella Villa Adriana in Tivoli
Title: Avanzi del Tempio del Dio Canopo nella Villa Adriana in Tivoli Key: A. Nicchie e fontane che erano rinvestite di tartari. B. Volta ch’ era ricoperta di mosaici bianchi, e di altri colori. Le parieti C. erano rinvestite di lastre di marmo. Il didietro di questo tempio è circondato di conserve d’acqua e di natazioni. Da tali contrasegni crederei ch’egli dovesse appartenere al Dio Nettuno piu che ad altra Deità. D. Due gran macigni caduti dalla Volta Signature: Cavaliere Piranesi delin(eavit). e inc(idit).
Title: Remains of the Temple of the God Canopus at Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli. Key: A. Niches and fountains that were decorated with plasters. B Vault that was covered with white mosaics, and other colors. The walls C. were vested with sheets of marble. The rear of the temple is surrounded by water preserves and pools. From such markings, I would believe that it [this Temple] must belong to Neptune more than any other deity. D Two large stone blocks that fell from the Vault. Signature: Designed and engraved by the Knight Piranesi.
This and the following image reveal Piranesi’s close involvement in the archaeological study of a structure at Hadrian’s Villa that was and continues to be a challenge to identify. Titling the image “Ruins of the Temple of the God Canopus in Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli,” Piranesi argues in its key that the temple must in fact belong not to Canopus but to Neptune: “crederei ch’egli dovesse appartenere al Dio Nettuno.” The conditional belief that Piranesi articulates in the annotation is justified. The name Canopus (the pilot of a ship in the Trojan War) appears in an ancient historical text as that of an unspecified structure at Hadrian’s Villa. It is unclear which building bore the name, and this structure is now believed to have been an open dining area (or scenic triclinium) with a vaulted ceiling, of which a portion collapsed. In its visual and verbal elements, this image alternates between certainty and conjecture, visual display and inaccessibility.
The temple’s ruined nature but lasting presence are the image’s titular focus, as an image of “remains” rather than a “veduta” of the temple. The symmetrical boulders of the collapsed ceiling create an imposing boundary that makes the image seem inaccessible to viewers. The fallen ceiling, the standing ruin, and the key also create three levels of symmetry. At the center of this visually balanced image, three human figures, facing each other in a sliver of white ground, create a sense of inaccessibility. At odds with this visual symmetry and enclosure, two figures in the foreground, in front of the fallen vault, gesture dramatically with both arms towards the left of the image, and a third man glances over his shoulder in the same direction. If, as viewers, we are not asked to join the circle of the three men at the center of the image, we are certainly invited to follow the vertical line created by the gestures and glance of the three men in the foreground. Doing so, we see the letter D, and are invited to become readers of this annotated image. In the key, Piranesi conclusively identifies the fallen vault. The other alphabetic annotations all mark the temple’s materials and decorative elements, until an additional sentence that is separate from any alphabetic pointer suggests, based on absent evidence on the other side of the temple, a different designation. Through its merging of visual composition with verbal pointers, this word-image composite traces a process of conjecture about architectural and historical details that are either accessible or unknown. (JB)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 17 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.