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View of the Piazza del Popolo
Veduta della Piazza del Popolo
Title: Veduta della Piazza del Popolo Key: 1. Chiesa di Santa Maria de Miracoli 2. Chiesa di Santa Maria di Monte Santo 3. Strada del Corso, che conduce al Palazzo di Venezia 4. Strada, che conduce a Piazza di Spagna 5. Strada, che conduce al Porto di Ripetta 6. Guglia Egiziaca inalzata da Sisto V. Signature: Presso l’Autore a Strada Felice vicino alla Trinità de’ monti
Title: View of the Piazza del Popolo Key: 1. Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli 2. Church of Santa Maria di Monte Santo 3. Street of the Corso, that leads to the Palazzo di Venezia 4. Street, that leads to the Piazza di Spagna 5. Street, that leads to the Porto di Ripetta 6. Egyptian spire [obelisk] erected by Sixtus V. Signature: Published by the Author in the Strada Felice near Trinità de Monti.
This view of the piazza that was for many tourists entering from the north their first encounter with Rome fittingly introduces a group of eight etchings that represent the principal city squares of Rome. Drawing on the genre of the guidebook, these views are structured as a visual itinerary that communicates spatial orientation, geographic and historical information, as well as the visual impact of modern architecture and urbanism. In Piranesi’s etching, beholders are perhaps first struck by the towering obelisk at the center of the piazza, which was, he notes in the key, erected by Pope Sixtus V as one element in his reshaping of the city’s urban design. During the early modern period several obelisks were positioned in strategic locations around the city, often as a display of papal authority but also, in very practical terms, to control the flow of traffic and connect the city’s most significant sites. Piranesi places beholders at the entrance to the Piazza, as though they have just passed through the city gate, the Porta del Popolo. From here, visitors could reach any part of the city thanks to the expansion of the piazza into its distinctive funnel shape, known as the or trident. Piranesi’s use of oblique and slightly lowered perspective emphasizes the symmetry, regularity, and monumentality of the piazza, anchored by the central obelisk and its framing Baroque churches.
These elements of urban design promoted a new architectural vision of a modern Rome that was reflected in recent approaches to cartography and the visualization of urban space. In the veduta below, Giuseppe Vasi envisions a rigidly symmetrical piazza, pristine grounds, and orderly lines of carriages in his frontal view of the square. Giambattista Nolli went even further in his “Nuova Topografia di Roma” (1748), transforming the buildings of Rome into geometric blocks of black ink and streets into unobstructed white lines. In a parallel manner, Piranesi’s “Pianta di Roma e del Campo Marzio,” based on Nolli’s map, not only demonstrates the geometry of the redesigned trident of the Piazza del Popolo but also labels the space as “modern” to distinguish the eighteenth-century square from its ancient foundations. In a similar vein, Piranesi designates the street used by modern travelers to enter the Piazza del Popolo as the “Via Appia Moderna” to distinguish it from the original Appian Way that was lined with ancient tombs and ruins.