This content was created by Erin Jones. The last update was by Alexis Kratzer.
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
16 Vedute 220
12018-12-03T15:33:01-08:00Erin Jonesff57f567e7b1b1483367dc101143970f40cd9e26228493Veduta del Castello dell’Acqua Felice presso le Terme Dioclezianeplain2019-02-05T20:24:44-08:00Alexis Kratzerb246b0b192071919d0499d7b3d52bbdb38177646
12018-12-07T15:17:24-08:00View of the Fountainhead of the Acqua Felice23Veduta del Castello dell’Acqua Felice presso le Terme Dioclezianeplain2023-06-19T08:41:15-07:00Title: Veduta del Castello dell’Acqua Felice presso le Terme Diocleziane. 1. Chiesa di Santa Maria della Vittoria Signature: Presso l’Autore. Signature: Piranesi F(ecit).Title: View of the Fountainhead of the Acqua Felice near the Baths of Diocletian Key: 1. Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria Signature: Published by the Author Signature 2: Made by PiranesiThe two precedingviews of the Trevi fountain introduce a small group of images that each display and challenge the political power that modern fountains embody. This view includes two intersections. It presents its subject, the Fountainhead of the Acqua Felice, along a dramatic diagonal line that meets the façade of the Santa Maria della Vittoria in the background of a vividly populated street scene. The image also displays the intersection of urban order and natural abundance. The fountain is a site of civic power: designed by Domenico Fontana in 1585-88 and restored by Pope Sixtus V, it is the first monumental fountain constructed since antiquity and conveys the authority of the Catholic church through its resemblance to an ancient triumphal arch. At the limits of the image, the foreground is dotted with stooped human figures and, to the left, architectural rubble. Foliage sprouts from the top of every built structure. Piranesi’s text here is minimal, identifying only the title of the print and Santa Maria della Vittoria, but its presentation is dramatic, appearing in a large, undulating banderole with generous blank space.
Michel de Certeau describes, in his Practice of Everyday Life, an opposition between the power of urban control and the erratic energy of the street (91-5) by identifying “the network of an antidiscipline” that is at odds with “the grid of ‘discipline’” (xiv-xv). Building on this opposition, Rose Marie San Juan has argued that prints of fountains “argue for progress and social order but also confront dynamic movement, seepage, and unpredictability within urban space” (137). Piranesi’s composition reflects this tension in two dimensions. The cross atop the fountainhead that punctures the engraving’s margin conveys the church’s expansive power, and the oblique perspective emphasizes the fountainhead’s mass. This power is at odds, though, with uncontrolled vitality. The botanical growth that surrounds the image challenges the fountain’s dominance of nature. Human activity, which is usually absent from earlier views of fountains, is abundant in this view, where it seems to be primarily social—there are no indications of commerce or tourism that are frequent in Piranesi’s other prints. To be sure, fountains served as meeting-places and centers for social encounter. But here, people are everywhere, gesticulating in the street, leaning out from windows, and, quite significantly, standing between the caption’s curling illusionistic banderole. The foreground expands across the lower edge of the image, creating a “barricade” that seems to “crop the picture plane” (Verschaffel 129). There, between image and text, between illusion and reality, Piranesi also creates dissonance that matches the conflict the image stages between the regulation of nature and the spillage of the city’s population. In a similar rupture, a fruit vendor leans over the caption in the view of two churches near the Column of Trajan. The expressive human figures that populate most of Piranesi’s views here confront the political power of the Church and its urban projects with the vitality of street life which, unlike the water that the fountain controls, more insistently defies regulation. (JB)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 16 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.