This page was created by Avery Freeman.  The last update was by Jeanne Britton.

The Digital Piranesi

Roman Ionic Capitals Compared with Greek Examples from Le Roy

Piranesi often expressed his disagreement with other writers on art and architecture in his images. Here, in a complex image from his work on the magnificence and Architecture of the Romans, he challenges and cites this book, The Ruins of the Most Beautiful Monuments of Greece by Julien David Le Roy (1724-1803). When we look at the central panel in Piranesi’s image, it’s as if we’re flipping the pages of Le Roy’s book. Its visual evidence—which Piranesi takes and then cites in his own image—deals with the Ionic order. Piranesi renders Le Roy’s details with weak visual contrast, making them appear flat and dull.
Alongside Le Roy’s details of Greek architecture, Piranesi adds, as something of a joke, the Roman mouth of truth, which, according to legend, bites the hand off of anyone who tells a lie. The implication is that Le Roy is simply not telling the truth. Piranesi then presents his own evidence: numerous Ionic capitals found throughout Rome. He depicts them in vivid contrast, identifies them by their location, and even shows one from two angles. Along the top of his image, he also reproduces Le Roy’s claim—that “all the examples of ionic capitals in Rome are defective.” In this complex image, Piranesi makes his counterpoint—that Rome is in fact full of magnificent examples of Ionic capitals—with visual evidence, artistic skill, and a little snarky humor. (JB)

This page has paths:

This page references: