Diagonals created by gesturing figures in addition to alternating blocks of light and shadow create not only clear compositional boundaries but also stylistic and topographical divisions. The crisp precision of the virtually pristine sixteenth-century Farnese Palace on the left, labeled number “1” in the key, is juxtaposed with the deteriorated and fragmented state of the ruins. Such stylistic differences draw a distinction between the ancient and modern topography of the Forum. The perspective is skewed such that viewers can see, through the central arch, the remains of what Piranesi attributed as the Golden House of Nero (now identified as the Basilica of Maxentius). The artist asserted that the monument, along with the Arch of Titus, formed the ancient boundary of the Forum which extended toward the foot of the Capitoline Hill, an argument he makes both verbally, in the annotation labeled “3” here, and visually, in an earlier view of the arch. Comparing the two etchings, the sublime and dramatic style of the veduta above has been enhanced, perhaps in order to appeal to the taste of grand tourists, while Piranesi’s characteristic inclusion of archeological argument within the genre of the view is also apparent. (ZL)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 17 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.