Ruins of a Sculpture Gallery at Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli1 2019-11-11T16:58:19-08:00 Avery Freeman b9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cba 22849 1 from Volume 17 of Giovanni Battista Piranesi's Opere plain 2019-11-11T16:58:19-08:00 Internet Archive data piranesiRescan_vol17_0409.jpg Avery Freeman b9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cba
This page has annotations:
- 1 2019-12-05T15:12:52-08:00 Harith Kumte 99279d66eba29dfb66cd2510732c5a9dd9b59c7a A Harith Kumte 2 plain 2019-12-05T15:13:14-08:00 Harith Kumte 99279d66eba29dfb66cd2510732c5a9dd9b59c7a
This page is referenced by:
Ruins of a Sculpture Gallery in Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli
Rovine d’una Galleria di Statue nella Villa Adriana a Tivoli
Title: Rovine d’una Galleria di Statue nella Villa Adriana a Tivoli Key: A. Avanzi di pitture a grottesco. Signature: Cavalier Piranesi del(ineavit). e inc(incidit).
Title: Ruins of a Sculpture Gallery in Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli. Key: A. Remains of paintings of grotesques. Signature: Designed and engraved by the Knight Piranesi.
This engraving depicts an architectural interior that is emphatically enclosed and contained by successive archways and curved, hanging vines. The near symmetry of the archways is interrupted by the small key, which presents the title and indicates remains of decorative frescoes that are visible in the upper-right corner (A). Similar frescoes from Hadrian’s villa are reproduced in Piranesi’s Vasi, Candelabri, Sarcofagi, Tripodi Lucerne et Ornamenti Antichi, which includes copies of urns, lamps, and decorative motifs. The key, in the foreground, points in a diagonal line across the surface of inner, undisturbed arched space, to elements that are, like the key, also in the foreground of the image. This indexical reference creates a two-dimensional line, between the caption and the key, that remains on the surface of the three-dimensional space of the interior; reading the key does not lead a viewer into the image, at least, not in a pursuit of objective information. Instead, the viewer is led visually by successive arches and alternating light and shadow into the misnamed sculpture gallery, populated now with living human forms. It is inaccurately identified in the caption as the ruins of a statue gallery near Hadrian’s Villa, but Francesco accurately referred to it as the passageway to baths in the “Pianta delle fabriche esistenti nella Villa Adriana” published, three years after Giovanni’s death, in 1781.
The key, in the foreground, points in a diagonal line across the surface of inner, undisturbed arched space, to elements that are, like the key, also in the foreground of the image. A reader of this annotated image remains on the surface of its picture plane, in the foreground where its key, annotation, and stopped staffage figures appear. The viewer, though, is led visually by successive arches and alternating light and shadow into the misnamed sculpture gallery, populated now with living human forms. If, according to Susan Stewart, Piranesi shows “a vertico-inducing facility for moving between the page and the architectural space” (165), then this image manipulates that skill by creating a textual layer coterminous with the surface of the printed page that overlays the architectural space it depicts. It is a word-image composite whose tensions between the two domains, visible only if the key is consulted and used, keep readers at a remove even as the composition pulls viewers inside. Additionally, to populate what is assumed to be a sculpture gallery with human figures engaged in varied postures, stances, and gestures is to suggest a comparison between living life forms and immobile statuary, a comparison that in this print is appropriately framed by “the picturesque contrast” of the cross-vault delicately overgrown with botanical life (Pinto and MacDonald 258). As such, while the image’s key records works of decorative art that, today, no longer exist, its visual comparison between art (statues, architecture) and life (human beings, plants) makes it “an essay on the transience of the works of mankind” (Campbell 585). It is also an examination of surface and depth, both in terms of architectural structure and ornament as well as visual composition and image annotation. (JB)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 17 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.