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View of the Temple of Fortuna Virilis
Veduta del Tempio della Fortuna virile. Oggi Santa Maria Egizziaca degli Armeni
Title: Veduta del Tempio della Fortuna virile. Key: Oggi Santa Maria Egizziaca degli Armeni. 1. Residui d’un’antica Fabrica chiamata dal Volgo la Casa di Pilato. 2. Ospizio della Nazione Armena. 3. Tempio di Vesta: oggi Santa Maria del Sole, vicino a questo Tempio sbocca nel Tevere la Cloaca massima. 4. Santa Maria in Cosmedin detta la Scola Greca. 5. Monte Aventino, sotto il quale si vedono i vestigj della Spelonca di Cacco. Signature: Piranesi Architetto fec(it). Signature 2: Presso l’Autore a Strada Felice nel palazzo Tomati della Trinità de’monti.
Title: View of the Temple of Fortuna Virilis. Today the Armenian Church of Santa Maria Egiziaca. Key: 1. Remains of an ancient building, commonly called the House of Pilate. 2. Hospital of the Armenian Nation. 3. Temple of Vesta: today Santa Maria del Sole, near this Temple is the outlet of the Cloaca Maxima in the Tiber. 4. Santa Maria in Cosmedin, called the Schola Graeca. 5. Aventine Hill, under which the ruins of the Cave of Cacus can be seen. Signature: Made by the Architect Piranesi. Signature 2: Published by the Author on the Strada Felice in the Palazzo Tomati near the Trinità de’ Monti.
As it is positioned in this volume of Piranesi’s Opere, this is the last image of a monument in central Rome. Following the view of the Temple of Cybele, it shows the same structure from a different angle, identifies it as the Temple of Vesta rather than the Temple of Cybele, and notes that it is consecrated as Santa Maria del Sole in the eighteenth century. The titlular subject of the image, however, is the Temple of Fortuna Virilis (or the Temple of Portunus), whose façade nearly fills the left half of the image as its Christian cross reaches towards the top margin. Giuiseppe Vasi’s view of the Forum Boarium (or “cattle market”) takes the opposite approach to the same two structures.
Piranesi’s view reverses Vasi’s orientation and many elements of composition, casting the Temple of Fortuna Virilis in sharp recession, blending foreground and middle ground, and rendering the entire scene in dramatic shading. By contrast, Vasi’s view balances the proportions of the two temples and is neatly divided into three equal segments of foreground, middle ground, and sky. It is also clean and open, with a broad central space devoted to the sunlit street between the ancient structures. The cart, people, and animals in the foreground are evenly spaced and clearly defined. Assembled tourists, marked by their tricorns and carefully poised walking-sticks, call attention to the Temple, which is otherwise shown with minimal detail and shading, the capitals of its Ionic columns suggested rather than specified.
Piranesi’s image centers on the Ionic columns, and the angle compresses them into a small area and minimizes the space devoted to the engaged walls. (He also centers an image of various capitals on one of these columns in his Della Magnificenza ed Architettura de’ Romani.) Vasi’s annotations identify the visible structures in the image, but Piranesi points to ancient structures just beyond view, including the Cloaca Maxima, shown in relation to the Temple of Cybele in this view, and remains of the Caves of Cacus, a fire-breathing giant that terrorized the Aventine Hill, which is just barely visible in the view’s distant background. His annotations bring antiquity into the legible spaces of the print veduta, recasting this traditional and tourist genre as a venue for archaeological inquiry and knowledge production. The contrast with Vasi’s view of the same structures highlights Piranesi’s tendency for irregularity and dramatic contrast as well as his emphasis on the remnants of antiquity that lie beyond a single image’s scope. (JB)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 16 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.