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

The Digital Piranesi

View of the Arch (in the City) of Benevento in the Kingdom of Naples

Printed shortly before Piranesi’s death, this engraving is one of the artist’s latest etchings in the Vedute di Roma and exemplifies Piranesi’s approach to the representation of triumphal architecture. One of few views set outside Rome, this depiction of the Arch of Benevento, also known as the Arch of Trajan, incorporates stylistic elements characteristic of both the veduta genre and Piranesi’s mature style.

Through a manipulation of perspective that appears throughout his works, the narrow foreground pushes the arch to the outermost edges of the plate, elongating the scale of the monument to emphasize the grandeur of Roman architecture (Verschaffel 126). The massive blocks of stone are depicted in textured shadow that brings out the specific architectural and decorative elements of the façade, while the contemporary street scene on the right recedes into the background through a steep diagonal axis. In the foreground, various actors, crumbling piles of ruins, and the horse-drawn carriage situate the Arch of Trajan in the bustle of eighteenth-century street life. Piranesi’s emphasis on the modelling of the friezes, fluted Corinthian columns, and protruding architraves exhibits the monumentality of the arch, and perhaps demonstrates the extensive reach of the Roman Empire under Trajan, whose imperial campaigns are memorialized in the bas-reliefs Piranesi artfully reveals through chiaroscuro. The fact that this is a later work in Piranesi’s œuvre is reflected not only in its style but also in its position within many eighteenth-century collections, where it is often the last work (Hind 6, I.135). In the Didot edition, its inclusion with other triumphal arches in the middle of this volume prioritizes subject matter over chronology or stylistic development and thus encourages a different continuous viewing experience than those fostered by either contemporary collections or traditional art history.

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

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