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).Works and VolumesGenres, Subjects, and ThemesBibliographyGlossary
View of the Piazza della Rotonda
12020-02-28T11:10:20-08:00Zoe Langeref2dd00d773765a8b071cbe9e59fc8bf7c7da399228492Veduta della Piazza della Rotondaplain2021-07-18T14:04:40-07:00Internet Archiveimagepiranesi-ia-vol16-028.jpgJeanne Brittone120651dde677d5cf1fd515358b14d86eb289f11
12018-12-04T15:52:49-08:00View of the Piazza della Rotonda [the Pantheon]25Veduta della Piazza della Rotondaplain2023-06-14T06:50:42-07:00Title: Veduta della Piazza della Rotonda Key: 1. Pantheon fabbricato da Marco Agrippa oggi Santa Maria ad Martyres 2. Fontana con Guglia Egiziaca architettura di Filippo Barigioni 3. Pescaria 4. Palazzo Crescenzi Signature: Presso l’Autore a strada Felice nel Palazzo Tomati vicino alla Trintià de’monti. Signature: 2: Piranesi del(ineavit). sc(ulpsit).Title: View of the Piazza della Rotonda Key: 1. Pantheon constructed by Marcus Agrippa, now Santa Maria ad Martyres 2. Fountain with an Egyptian Spire [obelisk], architecture by Filippo Barigioni 3. Fish market 4. Palazzo Crescenzi Signature: Published by the Author in the Strada Felice in Palazzo Tomati near Trinità de Monti. Signature 2: Drawn and engraved by Piranesi.Any view of a Roman piazza entails an attempt to bring order to chaos. Through emphasis and distortion, this image structures the Piazza della Rotonda in terms of urban space, verbal information, and artistic attribution. The “Rotonda” of the title and this veduta’s ostensible focal point is the Pantheon itself. The ancient temple is cast to right of the image, the bulk of which is devoted instead to the crowds that populate the piazza and the market stalls in the foreground; it appears, John Wilton-Ely notes, “as a background feature to an energetic panorama of Roman street life” (1988, 39). In the sequence of Didot’s edition of the Opere, this image is grouped with other piazzas in the first volume of the Vedute di Roma rather than the series of studies devoted to the Pantheon that appears in the second: its interior is here, here, and here; its exterior here. In the sequence of Piranesi’s own production, this is one of his earlier views, which tend to present their subjects from a distance and include details of eighteenth-century street life. This view imposes legibility on the bustling scene through his selective annotations, and it reshapes the Pantheon’s exterior in a curious distortion.
It is not possible to see the extent of the Pantheon that is visible in this view from its vantage point. This distortion could be seen to betray Piranesi’s interests—on fuller display in this veduta from the Campus Martius volume. Additionally, the height of the obelisk is exaggerated, effectively minimizing the Pantheon, which is itself aggrandized in Piranesi’s other etchings (Pinto 2012, 102-3). A point of emphasis in the image above is attribution: the first annotation names Marco Agrippa as the creator of the Pantheon, and the second identifies Filippo Barigioni (1690–1753) as the architect of the piazza’s fountain. In the expanse of the space depicted, though, and in the resulting proportions of the image, it is the fish market, the “pescaria” named in the third annotation, that looms large in the deep shadows of the foreground. Through his visual composition and his combination of word and image, Piranesi makes this veduta very much his own. It combines market-stalls, pedestrians, and carriages as well as consumption, walking, and transportation. Piranesi renders the piazza as a space of activity and mixture whose chaotic juxtapositions are to some extent structured by the information offered in the numbered captions. Despite its visual exaggeration of the rotonda, this veduta above also conveys what Manfredo Tafuri identifies in Piranesi’s works as “a truth ‘beyond the real,’” an irreconcilable tension between antiquity and modernity in which the so-called “‘impure’ Roman forms are such because they are compromised by the dimension of the lived-time of space [and] … the quotidian” (42-3). Piranesi shows us that this image is his own in two ways: it transforms urban activity into legible information, and it suggests that distortions, such as the expansion of the Pantheon’s rotunda, are a potential consequence of both antiquity as it persists in contemporary life and the city as it is made legible in word and image. (JB)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 16 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.