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View of the Piazza d’Oro in Hadrian’s Villa
Veduta degli Avanzi della Circonferenza delle antiche Fabbriche di una delle Piazze della Villa Adriana oggidi chiamata Piazza d’oro
Title: VEDUTA degli Avanzi della Circonferenza delle antiche Fabbriche di una delle Piazze della Villa Adriana oggidi chiamata Piazza d’oro Signature: Cav(alier). Piranesi F(ecit).
Title: View of the Ruins of the Outer Boundaries of the ancient Buildings of one of the Piazzas of Hadrian’s Villa, today called the Golden Court. Signature: Made by the Knight Piranesi.
interrupted line of the three ruined buildings, moving from the upper left to the far right. The second is formed by three human figures, staggered from the caption in the foreground to the dark interior in the background. Each gestures to the left, towards the ruins. The human beings depicted in this single view perform different actions and produce varied, opposing effects. In the foreground, two men gesture, one pointing to the structure with both arms, his palms facing upwards, while the other leans down and points to, and indeed into, the image’s caption. A second man along the diagonal of human figures also points at a section of the ruined palace while leaning against a lump of stone. The diagonal ends in the third mass, where a white, ghostly figure barely emerges from the shadow of a partial interior. He, too, gestures to the left of the image.
The three individual gestures, all pointing in the same direction, nevertheless lead a viewer’s eye towards the ruins. The structure’s modern name, as specified in the engraving’s title, marks a linguistic gap that adds to the sense of historical distance and physical decay. Perhaps this image’s conflicting visual guides—the diagonal lines, the gesturing figures—point towards the inaccessibility of the luxury and glory associated with ruins that, even though they can be observed and documented, remain out of contemporary reach. (JB)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 17 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.