The Digital Piranesi

Plate VIII

The pair of trophies are among the most noticeable elements in Plate VIII. Piranesi located these very symbolic items at both sides of a monumental double-return stair. Romans, like Piranesi, were obsessed with triumphal marches, monuments, and the symbolism that they carried.  Following a sequence that alludes to war victories since Plate VII and probably continuing with them in Plate IX, Piranesi conspicuously displays trophies in this plate and in many other publications like, for instance, in Della Magnificenza e d'Archittetura de' Romani. Equally pronounced to the left of this plate is, leaning on a parapet, a pair of two poles that, attached to cloths, resemble military standards, flags, or even sails. 

The apathy seen in the human figures about the remains from the glorious classical past is remarkable. Uninterested, the people portrayed in this plate ignore their own history. Indeed, throughout the illustrations of the Imaginary Prisons, the small figures act like anonymous caricatures of Piranesi’s public and professional allies and adversaries. While some of the figures in the Carceri are aware of the bleakness  in which they are immersed and desperately try to escape, particularly in Plates II and V, others remain completely unconcerned with the circumstances. This sightlessness and state of profound apathy displayed by several of the human figures is a distinct criticism of Piranesi to some of his fellow architects, namely the ones of the so-called barocchetto or the defenders of the superiority of ancient Greece over Rome.

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