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 Colosseum (2 of 2)
12019-11-11T16:57:32-08:00Avery Freemanb9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cba228491from Volume 17 of Giovanni Battista Piranesi's Opereplain2019-11-11T16:57:32-08:00Internet ArchivedatapiranesiRescan_vol17_0181.jpgAvery Freemanb9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cba
12018-03-23T15:31:17-07:00View of the Colosseum (2 of 2)29Veduta dell'anfiteatro Flavio, detto il Colosseoplain2020-09-17T12:41:49-07:00Title: VEDUTA DELL’ANFITEATRO FLAVIO DETTO IL COLOSSEO Key: A Mancano i Gradi, e le Sostruzioni B, che reggevano i detti Gradi. C Manca la Volta, sopra cui vi era il Podio, ove sedevano i Consoli, il Senato, i Sacerdoti, e le Vergini Vestali, le quali stavano dirimpetto al Pretorio. D Sedeva l’Ordine Equestre. E Manca la Loggia, o Pulvinare per l’Imperatore e sua Corte. F Gradi, di dove scendeva l’Imperatore Tito dalle sue Terme. Key 2: G. I Soldati Pretoriani erano quì disposti, e ne’passaggi. H Sedeva la Gioventù nobile co’loro Pedagoghi, ed altri attinenti ai Collegj, e Persone di rango. K Sedevano le Donne. L Scale per salir sopra a legar i Canapi per situar la Tenda. M Cappellette, e Croce nel mezzo, e Chiesa moderna. N Manca la Circonferenza esterna. O Avanzi di Stuchi lavorati a grottesco. Signature: Cav(alier). Piranesi F(ecit).Title: View of the Flavian Amphitheatre, called the Colosseum A Lacking the Stairs and Internal Structures B, that held up said Stairs C Lacking the Vault, above which there was the Podium, where the Consuls, the Senate, the Priests, and the Vestal Virgins were seated, who were in front of the Praetor D The Equestrian Order were seated here. E Lacking the Loggia, or platform, for the Emperor and his Court F Stairs, where the Emperor Titus descended from his Baths Key 2: G. The Praetorian Guard was positioned here and in the passageways H The noble Youths with their tutors, and others associated with the Colleges, and Persons of rank. K The Women were seated here. L Stairs to go above [to the upper levels] to tie the Ropes to position the Banner M Little chapels, and the Cross in the middle, and the modern Church. N Lacking the exterior walls O Remains of the stucco decorated with grotesques Signature: Made by the Knight Piranesi.Ascending from the worm’s-eye view of the previous image to a bird’s-eye view, this veduta, produced two decades later, presents an imaginary angle for the eighteenth-century citizen on a structure that is nearly impossible to depict. Indeed, locating the Colosseum’s intact wall in the background rather than the foreground produces a “perspectival distortion” that creates “the impression of a perfect circle” (Zorach, 118) and suggests that the amphitheater is “beyond representation” (Furlong, 112). This distortion is also a combination of three architectural views—elevation, section, and plan (Wilton-Ely, 44). While Piranesi’s depictions of ruins often celebrate the natural growth that covers them, and in spite of the astoundingly prolific botanical variety within the Colosseum, it here resembles a giant open crater, lifeless and deserted (Bacou, 37) or perhaps “an extinct volcano,... an eruption of the building genius of the Romans” (Scott, 249). At the center of the image is a Christian cross, and within the Colosseum is, as Piranesi’s caption indicates, a modern church. But the focus and possibly even the appearance of the captions in this image, whose title (“Veduta dell’anfiteatro Flavio detto il Colosseo,” or “View of the Flavian Amphitheater, called the Colosseum”) distinguishes between the ancient and contemporary name of its subject, emphasize Imperial rather than Christian Rome. They appear on illusionistic scrolls, which, uncommon for Piranesi’s captions in the Views of Rome, suggest imperial proclamations. Indicating the separate seating areas of “i Consoli, il Senato, i Sacerdoti, e le Vergini Vestali [the Consuls, the Senate, the Priests, and the Vestal Virgins],” “l’Ordine Equestre [the Equestrian Order],” “la Gioventù nobile co’loro Pedagoghi [the noble Youths with their Tutors],” and “le Donne [the Women],” the captions stress class hierarchy and social order (Zorach, 119). From the geometric regularity and expansive scope of this and the previous depiction of the Colosseum, the following view presents a radically different perspective, both visually and conceptually. (JB)
To see this image in Vedute di Roma, vol 17 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.
12019-05-29T13:29:52-07:00View of the Colosseum (1 of 2)23Veduta dell’Anfiteatro Flavio, detto il Colosseoplain2020-09-07T13:58:23-07:00Title: Veduta dell’Anfiteatro Flavio, detto il Colosseo Key: A. Archi del prim’Ordine dell’Anfiteatro, pe’ quali il popolo ascendeva ai gradi degli Spettacoli. B. Recinti moderni. C. Numeri incisi negli stessi archi, forse per segno di chi desiderava d’esser rinvenuto fra la moltitudine degli Spettatori. D. Arco senza numero, sopra cui era immarginato il ponte che dalle fabbriche Cesaree dell’Esquilino dava l’ingresso nell’Anfiteatro. E. Parte dell’Anfiteatro deturpata dagl’Incendj. F. Archi del secondo e terz’ordine anticamente intrachiusi da’parapetti, de’quali vi restano alcuni segni e residui. G. Mensole su cui posavano le antenne di metallo, che passando per la cornice, sostenevano la gran tenda. H. Architrave interrotto dalle antenne, nelle quali era impressa la parte interrotta del medesimo. I. Radici del monte Esquilino. K. Arco di Costantino. L. Monte Celio. M. Principio della via di San Giovanni Laterano. Signature: Presso l’Autore a Strada Felice vicino alla Trinità de Monti. Signature 2: Piranesi F(ecit).Title: View of the Flavian Amphitheatre, called the Colosseum Key: A. Arches of the first Order of the Amphitheatre, through which the people ascended the stairs to the Spectacles. B. Modern barriers C. Numbers incised in the aforementioned arches, perhaps as a sign for those who wished to be found among the multitude of the Spectators D. Arch without a number, above which the bridge from the Imperial buildings was joined, and gave access to the Amphitheatre. E. Part of the Amphitheatre that was damaged by Fires F. Arches of the second and third order, in ancient times enclosed by parapets, of which there are still signs and remains G. Ledges on which metal rods were placed, that passing through the cornice, held up the great banner H. Architrave interrupted by the rods, in which there was affixed the interrupted part of the same. I. The foot of the Esquiline Hill K. Arch of Constantine L. Caelian Hill. M. The beginning of the street of San Giovanni Laterano. Signature: Published by the Author in the Strada Felice near Trinità de Monti. Signature: Made by Piranesi.The Colosseum, constructed under the reign of Vespasian and inaugurated in 80 CE, defies visual representation. As the largest amphitheater in the Roman world, it is of a magnitude not easily rendered on paper. As a testament to architectural order and, by the eighteenth century, a plundered ruin, it presents an opposition between, on one hand, the regularity of the classical orders that ascend from ground level (Tuscan, Ionic, and two levels of Corinthian) and, on the other, the overgrown, ragged masses of travertine stone that appear at its severed points. In this veduta, the first of five of the Colosseum in the Views of Rome, a largely intact exterior appears in an impossible span, with more arches visible than any actual 180-degree panorama would allow. Piranesi’s use of the worm’s-eye view and his positioning of the damaged section of the exterior to the right of the image includes ruination and irregularity only to subsume it beneath the imposing magnificence of the largely intact northeast side. By contrast, an earlier veduta from Roman Antiquities fabricates what seems to be a fully intact façade from a similar position. While the vantage point grants a broad, expansive scope, looking closely yields copious detail: gnarled human figures lurk in nearly every archway; tricorns in the foreground signal wealthy tourists; vines hang from arches against the negative space of the sky. Each of these arches bears a number that indicated who could enter, from senators and knights to plebians, women, and slaves. Piranesi’s key begins by pointing out the arches of the “prim’Ordine” [“first order”] (Tuscan, a Roman version of the Doric), through which “il popolo” [the people] enter and ascend to their seats. This and other annotations, here and in following views of the Colosseum, emphasize social hierarchy (Zorach, 119); the captions in this image in particular insist on the connection between the architectural orders of the structure and the social orders of its visitors. At odds with the disorder of ruin, wild plant growth, and the human life depicted outside its walls, the Colosseum in this image and its accompanying text conveys the long-standing view that the orders of architecture parallel those of social rank (Tzonis and Lefaivre, 43). (JB)
To see this image in Vedute di Roma, vol 17 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.