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).VolumesBibliographyGlossary and Abbreviations
Ruins of the Antonine Baths
12019-11-11T16:57:43-08:00Avery Freemanb9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cba228492from Volume 17 of Giovanni Battista Piranesi's Opereplain2019-12-10T14:08:48-08:00Internet ArchivedatapiranesiRescan_vol17_0217.jpgAvery Freemanb9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cba
12018-11-05T18:34:59-08:00Ruins of the Antonine Baths16Rovine delle Terme Antoniniane ... Consistenti nella cella soleare delle medesime, sotto cui vi rimane ciò che si apparteneva ai bagni, i quali stendevansi nella grand’aja segnata con l’A, ed erano illuminati da tante finestre perpendicolari, alcune delle quali erano scoperte cinque anni sono.plain2020-09-17T12:43:45-07:00Title: Rovine delle Terme Antoniniane Key: Consistenti nella cella soleare delle medesime, sotto cui vi rimane ciò che si apparteneva ai bagni, i quali stendevansi nella grand’aja segnata con l’A, ed erano illuminati da tante finestre perpendicolari, alcune delle quali erano scoperte cinque anni sono. B Archi che coprivano il sisto o sia la gran sala della stessa cella. C Atrj della medesima. D Porte di essi chiuse con cancelli di bronzo come tutte le altre interiori della cella. E Rovine dell’Esedre. F Rovine del teatro delle stesse terme. G Rovine d’una delle accademie. Signature: Cavalier Piranesi F(ecit).
The title of this view, “Ruins of the Antonine Baths,” uses an alternative name for the thermal complex known as the Baths of Caracalla. (Caracalla was the nickname of the emperor Marcus Aurelius Severus Antoninus, and the baths were officially known as the Thermae Antoninianae.) Built between 211 and 216 AD, these baths, have been very well preserved. Compared to the preceding view of the Theater of Marcellus, which lies embedded in vibrant urban life, this view appears to be of an abandoned town with decaying structures in a desolate landscape, like those in Piranesi’s Scenographia of the Campus Martius, in which only the existing monuments appear. While, as Jonathan Scott noted, the immensity of this structure requires the aerial perspective this view adopts (332), the thermal complex seems to summon verbal description more urgently than visual depiction. The title, in fact, does not include the customary term of “Veduta” [View]. The extensive key specifies numerous ruined structures (including the esedra, theater, and library). It also identifies what Piranesi calls the “cella soleare,” a room about which little is known (DeLaine), and windows there, some of which Piranesi reports were recently discovered. If, as Sabrina Ferri has observed, ruins are “a deictic presence, continuously alluding to what is not there—to what is hidden, forgotten and lost” (98), then Piranesi’s supplemental text attempts to make up for that absence, particularly in its reference to recent archaeological discoveries. (It is not clear whether Piranesi refers to a specific excavation—there were no systematic excavations of the Baths of Caracalla in the 17c or 18c—and his awkward syntax [“finestre perpendicolari, alcune delle quali erano scoperte cinque anni sono”] is less precise than his dating would suggest). Stepping back from the obscurity of these descriptive details—rooms in the bath about which little is certain even today, an archaeological discovery that cannot be traced—offers visual clarity. Recognizable structures appear in the distance, including S. Stefano Rotondo, whose interior is the subject of this small veduta from Roman Antiquities. The following image takes as its subject the same features identified by “B” in the center of the thermal structure. (JB)
To see this image in Vedute di Roma, vol 17 of Piranesi's Opere, click here.