The Digital PiranesiMain MenuAboutThe Digital Piranesi is a developing digital humanities project that aims to provide an enhanced digital edition of the works of Italian illustrator Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778).Works and VolumesGenres and SubjectsBibliographyGlossary and Abbreviations
Ichnographiam Campi Martii antiquae urbis
12021-05-13T23:48:33-07:00Avery Freemanb9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cba228491from Volume 10 of Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Opereplain2021-05-13T23:48:33-07:00Internet Archiveimagepiranesi-ia-vol10-007.jpgAvery Freemanb9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cba
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1media/10 Title page cropped.jpg2021-05-14T00:32:08-07:00Avery Freemanb9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cbaField of MarsJeanne Britton3Campus Martius Antiquae Urbisimage_header2021-05-22T07:28:25-07:00Jeanne Brittone120651dde677d5cf1fd515358b14d86eb289f11
12021-08-12T06:30:53-07:00Imaginary Cartography12image_header2021-08-12T13:47:12-07:00You have often asked me to draw and engrave the buildings in that famous part of the city, and to publish a map that captures the entire Campus Martius, crafted to be visible in a single glance.
—Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Piranesi’s maps make tremendous amounts of geographical, architectural, and historical information visible “in a single glance.” However striking they are in one glance, though, his maps warrant careful, sustained attention. The “Ichnographia” from his volume on the Campus Martius region of Rome offers extensive detail: not only buildings and monuments but even individual columns and statues are clearly rendered. The perspective almost produces a three-dimensional effect, as if this printed page is actually carved stone. This precision is, though, deceptive. The “Ichnographia” is in fact a fictional map of ancient Rome, an imaginary projection of his own creation. For all their iconoclasm, Piranesi’s maps draw on traditions in printing and cartography that are evidenced in other maps of Rome. The map below is from Cities of the World (Civitates Orbis), a Renaissance atlas by Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg. This hand-colored map uses a vantage point that combines a landscape view with a bird’s-eye orientation, and it includes a key that groups and identifies significant monuments. Next is a map Piranesi knew well. He worked closely with the geographer and cartographer Giambattista Nolli, whose “New Topography of Rome” (“Nuova Topografia di Roma”) is still noted for its accuracy and graphic representation of urban space. Other maps by Piranesi take the informative potential of a map’s key to new extremes. Maps of Rome such as those by Braun-Hogenberg and Nolli situate ancient monuments in their contemporary urban environment. In Piranesi’s maps, though, the past can dominate the present, and different moments in history can overlap. The illusion of broken fragments, in both Piranesi’s “Ichnographia” and his “Roma” map, below, lends credibility to Piranesi’s cartographic inventions by making them look like pieces of historical evidence. Conventions of cartography for displaying information, such as the numbered key or the compass, suggest a level of accuracy that Piranesi manipulates in order to make arguments about Rome’s history and architecture in ways that are— either in a quick glance or after lengthy study—visually persuasive.
12021-08-12T06:45:44-07:00Ichnographia1The Campus Martius of Ancient Rome (Campus Martius Antiquae Urbis)plain2021-08-12T06:45:44-07:00Piranesi’s “Ichnographia” is a rendering of the Campus Martius region of ancient Rome. In this large fold-out, Piranesi presents a few surviving, recognizable monuments—such as the Pantheon,visible between the “A” and “M” in “Campus”—as well as circuses and statues. Its outer edge appears to be that of a stone slab, held by metal brackets. Smaller fragments at the top of the map enhance the illusion that Piranesi’s eighteenth-century map is an ancient fragment, as if to authenticate his own image by suggesting its status as historical evidence. In what looks like carved stone in the upper left, Piranesi dedicates this map to the Scottish architect Robert Adam (1728-1792), who studied with Piranesi in Rome and went on to lead the classical revival in Western architecture.