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Interior View of the Villa of Maecenas
12019-11-11T16:57:34-08:00Avery Freemanb9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cba228491from Volume 17 of Giovanni Battista Piranesi's Opereplain2019-11-11T16:57:34-08:00Internet ArchivedatapiranesiRescan_vol17_0325.jpgAvery Freemanb9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cba
12018-11-06T17:47:53-08:00Interior View of the Villa of Maecenas24Veduta interna della Villa di Mecenateplain2022-03-28T12:53:59-07:00Title: Veduta interna della Villa di Mecenate. Key: Dall’iscrizione L.OCTAVIVS.L.F.VITVLVS C.RVSTICIVS.C.F.FLAVOS.INTER.III.VIR.D.S.S.VIAM.INTEGENDAM.CVRAVERE., che leggesi affissa ab antico nella finestra perpendicolare A, e dal vedersi che la volta, la quale copre la via fa con la villa un sol corpo di fabbrica, siam persuasi, che tutto l’edifizio non fosse una villa, ma un’opera fatta per uso del Comune di Tivoli, e per raffrenare la decrescenza della pendice, come vedesi dall’Iscrizione, che per mantener la via, ne fu ordinato il coperto e la volta da quel Senato. In fatti le fornici sotto la volta segnata col B, non avendo segno che fussero chiuse con veruna imposta, mostrano d’essere state tante taverne pubbliche. Signature: Piranesi F(ecit).Title: Interior View of the Villa of Maecenas Key: From the inscription L.OCTAVIVS.L.F.VITVLVS C.RVSTICIVS.C.F.FLAVOS.INTER.III.VIR.D.S.S.VIAM.INTEGENDAM.CVRAVERE., that one reads, affixed in the ancient method on the perpendicular window A, and from what one observes, that the vault that covers the street with the villa, makes one whole structure, we are convinced that the entire building was not a villa, but a building made for the use of the Commune of Tivoli, and to counteract the incline of the hill as one sees from the inscription, that to maintain the street, the cover and vault were ordered by that Senate. In fact, the archways under the vault labeled B, lacking any evidence of having been closed with shutters, demonstrate that there were many public taverns. Signature: Made by Piranesi.
At the visual threshold of an expansive interior marked by successive arches and alternating light and shadow, two figures appear to engage in conversation while resting against a caption that appears to be a substantial feature of the building. The misnamed ruin depicted in this engraving is the backdrop of a consideration about the processes of identification, conjecture, and archaeological analysis that from the Renaissance through the eighteenth century constitute the production of historical knowledge. In the key, Piranesi speculates about the use of the building based on inscriptions and architectural evidence, and while the name of the structure indicated in the engraving is incorrect—it is the sanctuary of Hercules Victor, not the Villa of Maecenas—Piranesi’s specific deductions based on the inscriptions are accurate (Campbell 583). In front of the key, the men seem themselves to be engaged in a debate, with the figure on the left leaning back and partially extending an arm, as if to offer a conjecture. The human figures are set off from the space of the image by the key, a “clearly artificial banner” whose text, to their left and right, places “unusual emphasis” on them rather than its content (Zarucchi 373). This apparent dissonance between image, human figure, and text is echoed in the energetic movement John Wilton-Ely identifies in the irregular patterns of light, composition of the ground, and “diagonally related moving figures” in this view (Wilton-Ely 1988, 40), an image that, as Paul Zucker argues, prioritizes the spatial rather than romantic effects of ruins (129-30). The caption itself engages in an intellectual movement through the process of archaeological interpretation and, not unlike the man who leans against the caption, offers a conjecture. The caption begins with an inscription, noted on the wall, and proceeds to interpretation and conjecture: from the Latin inscription, we are, Piranesi asserts, persuaded (“Dall’iscrizione … siam[o] persuasi…”) that the building was made for communal use and vaulted for maintenance. Additionally, from the evidence marked under the vault (and indicated with the key’s “B”), he is convinced that the lower areas were used to sell wine. Between its visual composition and its informative key, this dramatic image envelops its beholders within the process of locating, compiling, and analyzing material evidence in the production of historical knowledge. (JB)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 17 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.