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
View of the Baths of Diocletian
12019-11-11T16:57:32-08:00Avery Freemanb9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cba228491from Volume 17 of Giovanni Battista Piranesi's Opereplain2019-11-11T16:57:32-08:00Internet ArchivedatapiranesiRescan_vol17_0229.jpgAvery Freemanb9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cba
12018-11-05T18:40:45-08:00View of the Baths of Diocletian17Veduta degli avanzi superiori delle Terme di Dioclezianoplain2020-12-21T17:57:08-08:00Title: Veduta degli avanzi superiori delle Terme di Diocleziano Key: 1. Granari pubblici, e Quartiere de Soldati. 2. Case fabbricate da Sisto V. nel Circondario della sua villa, oggi de Signori Negroni. 3. Chiesa di Santa Maria degli Angeli. La maggior parte di questa fabbrica è occupata da un grande Ospizio de’ Padri Certosini. 4. Ingresso all’Ospizio.Title: View of the Baths of Diocletian. Key: 1. Public granaries, and Soldiers’ quarters. 2. Houses built by Sixtus V in the area of his villa, now of the Negroni family. 3. Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli. The major part of this structure is occupied by a large Hospital of the Carthusian Monks. 4. Entrance to the Hospice.
Piranesi’s three views of the Baths of Diocletian highlight different aspects of the monument’s history: re-use, restoration, and ruin. This first view shows how various parts of the complex were adapted for modern use. For example, Piranesi notes in the textual key that the upper levels of the baths comprise the modern-day church of Santa Maria degli Angeli, the majority of which “is occupied by a large Hospice of the Carthusian Monks.” Unlike contemporary artists, such as Giuseppe Vasi, who title their views of this thermal complex according to its modern name, Piranesi retains the ancient name, the “Baths of Diocletian.” Perhaps the title serves to call attention to the few ancient architectural features that are still visible despite centuries of reuse. Originally built in the fourth century under Maximian and dedicated to Diocletian, the baths were one of the largest complexes in Rome. Despite their vast size, which can be seen in the third view, the Baths were not in use for very long, and served mostly as a quarry until they were converted into a church in the Renaissance. Piranesi takes a critical stance toward this particular form of reuse in the preface to the Antichità Romane, stating that ancient ruins “are disappearing day by day by the injuries of time or by the greed of their owners, who with barbarous license clandestinely dismantle them to sell their fragments for the use of modern buildings” (AR, vol. I, Prefazione). Indeed, Piranesi observes in the caption’s first annotation that one part of the Baths was being used as a granary. Notably, the chaotic rubble in the foreground feature bales of hay, which block the beholder’s visual access to the ancient ruins. Perhaps the bales of hay, broken shards of ancient marble, and discarded fluted columns in the image’s foreground comment on this question of re-use by metaphorically inhibiting our understanding of the complex's original architecture. Piranesi expresses a more positive assessment of the interior restoration of the Baths, the subject of the next view. (ZL)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 17 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.