View of the Temple of Bacchus
Taken with the following image of the temple’s interior, Piranesi offers two perspectives on this ancient temple. In his Raccolta de’ Tempj Antichi (1780) included as volume five in the Didot edition of the Opere, Francesco Piranesi devotes a total of eight plates to this monument, including a conjectural elevation of its original state (below).
(Following later theories about the identity of the temple, he calls it the Tempio dell’ Onore e della Virtù fuori di Porta Capena, which is now considered to be a different temple of which no remains survive.) Among Francesco’s plates is an image of the ancient altar in which the inscription is visible (“Altar or Table from the Temple of Bacchus”).
Giambattista, by contrast, does not duplicate this inscription visually in the following image of the interior (“Veduta interna dell’antico Tempio di Bacco”). Instead, the annotation in this image renders the altar’s text in ways that characterize his persistent combination of visual and verbal evidence. Among the temple’s intact details, he notes that a Greek inscription survives on the ancient altar, duplicates the Greek in a tidy upright script, and offers a Latin translation in a similar upright lettering. His own Italian text simulates manuscript with its italicized slant. Similar visual differentiation between languages and texts appears in his view of the Temple of the Sibyl.
Piranesi cites the inscription verbally rather than depicting it visually, as Francesco does in his etching of the altar itself. Giambattista’s choices, in this and the following image, indicate the centrality of his own written texts to his presentation of the city and its ruins. The monk who seems, in the following view of the temple’s interior, to read closely on the altar might demonstrate Piranesi’s own dedication to careful visual examination of either textual or visual evidence. (JB)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 16 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.