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, Subjects, and ThemesBibliographyGlossary
Interior view of the Pronaos of the Pantheon
12019-11-11T16:57:41-08:00Avery Freemanb9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cba228491from Volume 17 of Giovanni Battista Piranesi's Opereplain2019-11-11T16:57:41-08:00Internet ArchivedatapiranesiRescan_vol17_0019.jpgAvery Freemanb9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cba
12018-11-12T15:25:38-08:00Interior View of the Pronaos of the Pantheon45Veduta interna del Pronao del Panteonplain2023-06-20T12:40:16-07:00Title: Veduta interna del Pronao del Panteon Key: Sostenuto da sedici colonne di granito ogn’una di esse di un sol pezzo grosse di diametro palmi 6. 6. alte palmi 63. 8. A Pilastri, architravi, e stipiti della porta composti di gran macigni di marmo greco. B Lacunarj di legname, anticamente di bronzo, tolti via da Urbano VIII. e fatti rifondere per formare la confessione di San Pietro in Vaticano. C Nicchioni dove erano collocate le statue di Augusto e di Agrippa, quali erano incrostati di marmo egizio. D Parieti da dove furono levate le lastre di granito al tempo di Benedetto XIV. l’ anno 1757. per adornare il Museo Sagro nel Vaticano. E Memorie di Urbano VIII. F Porta di bronzo trasportata da altro edifizio antico, ed in parte nuovamente ristaurata nel dett’anno 1757. G Interno del Tempio Signature: Cavalier Piranesi F(ecit).Title: Interior View of the Pronaos of the Pantheon Key: Supported by sixteen columns of granite, each column is made of only one piece, of a diameter of 6.6 palmi wide, 63.8 palmi tall. A Pilasters, architraves, and door jambs composed of large blocks of Greek marble. B Coffers of wood, in ancient times of bronze, removed by Urban VIII melted down and reused to form the confessional of St. Peter’s in the Vatican. C Large niches where the statues of Augustus and Agrippa were located, which were encrusted with Egyptian marble. D Walls where the pieces of granite were removed during the time of Benedict XIV in the year 1757 to adorn the Sacred Museum in the Vatican. E Memorial of Urban XIV F Bronze door transported from another ancient building, and in part, newly restored in the aforementioned year of 1757. G Interior of the Temple. Signature: Made by Cavalier Piranesi.With their sheer mass and verticality, the fluted Corinthian columns provide an overwhelming entrance to this view of the pronaos of the Pantheon. They act as a framing device but also tower over viewers, who are made to feel that they have actually entered the portico. Just as impressive as their massive form, Piranesi remarks in the key, is the fact that the granite that comprises each column is “un sol pezzo grosse di diametro palmi 6. 6. alte palmi 63. 8.” The visual and textual emphasis on these columns and their dimensions signals their significance to Piranesi’s visual argument about the date of the Pantheon’s construction, a subject of much debate throughout the early modern period. Piranesi was one of many who considered the pronaos to be a later addition to the original design. However, departing from his contemporaries, he argued that the entire structure was built under Agrippa, but in different phases. The disjuncture between the columns, the cornice of the portico, and the main building, seen in the detail below, demonstrates they were built in different time periods. Piranesi further argues this position in his view of the pronaos from the Campus Martius.
In these engravings Piranesi visually and mathematically corrected the measurements first introduced by Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) in the Quattro Libri dell’Architettura (1570), the authoritative source for the design of the Pantheon. French architectural theorist Antoine Desgodetz (1653-1728) was one of the first authors to challenge Palladio’s measurements in his treatise Les Édifices antiques de Rome dessinés et mesurés très exactement (1682). Like Desgodetz, Piranesi emphasizes first-hand observation and criticized other authors’ reliance on authoritative texts. Nevertheless, in order to “far piacere agli eruditi, mostrando loro la situazione in comprova della spiegazione delle parole di Plinio,” Piranesi provides extensive philological analysis of Pliny’s description of the Pantheon to date the temple in the index to the “Pianta di Roma” in his Vedute di Roma (Map Index, vol. 16, no. 264). The wealth of visual evidence Piranesi provides in the above view, however, renders this comment slightly mocking in tone, suggesting that textual commentary must be joined with visual observation for an accurate study of ancient architecture.
The interior of the portico stages the distinction “between experiencing ancient architecture directly, through on-site examination, on the one hand, and studying it at several removes by means of measured drawings on the other” (Pinto 2012, 3). In this engraving, the Pantheon is a fount of inspiration and not just an architectural model, as it was in the measured drawings by Palladio, Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472), Sebastiano Serlio (1475-c.1534), and others. Piranesi’s dramatic perspective, heightened by the use of scena per angolo and heavy shadow, along with the crumbling wall, pilasters, and faded ornamental details on the left, emphasize the emotional effect of encountering ruins in person; he even removes several columns to create the sense that the viewer is inside the structure (Van Eck 96). These details can invite reflection on the sublime or offer inspiration for new imaginative architectural forms, while they also relay more objective information such as dates of restoration, measurements, and literary citation. Compared to Piranesi’s all-consuming and three-dimensional landscape, the images of the Pantheon’s portico by Palladio and Desgodetz above seem flat and inaccessible. In Piranesi’s image, viewers participate, almost corporeally, in the architect’s precise and on-site observations. Through the combination of the more direct experience of architecture in the veduta genre with the factual information he offers in the abundant textual annotations, Piranesi sought to convince audiences, by sensation and cognition, of his argument. In the following view, he takes viewers further into the interior of the Pantheon to expand upon his revisions of previous sources. (ZL)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 17 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.