This page was created by Aniruth Sivakumar.  The last update was by Jeanne Britton.

The Digital Piranesi

View of the Tablinum of Nero’s Golden House (1 of 2)

Sketchily rendered with shallow hatching, the looming coffered vaults of the Golden House of Nero (now considered the Basilica of Maxentius), provides a theatrical backdrop for the first of Piranesi’s three views of the site. Yet this perspective departs from the immersive encounter that Piranesi typically seeks to create between monument and beholder (as he does in the second view of the Golden House). What does appear in the beholder’s immediate visual space is not the most impressive part of the monument but rather its discarded fragments, trampled upon by goats, monks, beggars, and shepherds who are seemingly oblivious to their significance. Yet it is precisely these fragments, positioned here in ways that limit a viewer’s entry into the image, that are of the most interest to Piranesi.

His manipulation of the traditional features of the veduta genre emphasizes the
fragments that are not only visual impediments for viewers but also, as the key asserts, pieces of archeological evidence. Based on the form and method of construction of the walls, identified by the second annotation, Piranesi concludes in the text that they provided structural support to the opposite hall from the dining rooms: Muri, e piloni che reggevano la parte opposta del tablino.” The large format of the Vedute di Roma afforded Piranesi with the space to render each element with unprecedented detail, elaborating upon his smaller view in the first volume of the Antichità Romane. For example, viewers can see the individual bricks and ornamental scheme of the coffers of the supporting wall on the far left. These coffers are virtually identical to those in the three vaults in the main structure, providing Piranesi and his viewers with visual confirmation that the fragments in the foreground also belong to the larger complex of the Golden House of Nero. This controversial claim, which departed from the contemporary designation of the vaults as the Temple of Peace, also motivates Piranesi’s focused analysis of a fragment in his third view of the monument(ZL)

To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 17 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.

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