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 and SubjectsBibliographyGlossary and Abbreviations
View of the Tomb of Gaius Cestius
12019-11-11T16:57:33-08:00Avery Freemanb9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cba228491from Volume 17 of Giovanni Battista Piranesi's Opereplain2019-11-11T16:57:33-08:00Internet ArchivedatapiranesiRescan_vol17_0259.jpgAvery Freemanb9edcb567e2471c9ec37caa50383522b90999cba
12018-11-07T17:36:08-08:00View of the Tomb of Caius Cestius64Veduta del Sepolcro di Cajo Cestioplain2022-07-28T07:52:28-07:00Title: Veduta del Sepolcro di Cajo Cestio Key: 1. Porta San Paolo 2. Mura di Roma Signature: Presso l’Autore a Strada Felice nel Palazzo Tomati vicino alla Trinità de’ Monti Signature 2: Piranesi del(ineavit). inc(idit).Title: View of the Tomb of Caius Cestius Key: 1. Porta San Paolo 2. Walls of Rome Signature: Published by the Author in the Strada Felice in Palazzo Tomati near Trinità de Monti. Signature 2: Designed and engraved by Piranesi.The sequence of vedute in this volume here approaches, moving geographically, the boundary of the ancient city, and this image introduces, moving thematically, a group of six devoted to tombs. One of only two surviving pyramids in Rome, the Pyramid of Caius Cestius—here called the Sepulchre of Cajo Cestio—was built c. 18-12 BCE for Gaius Cestius Epulo. The subject of three views (in this volume and the third volume of the Antichità Romane) and many architectural studies (including a bird’s eye view and a cut-away view in the Antichità Romane), the pyramid of Caius Cestius held an “obsessive attraction” for Piranesi (Wilton-Ely 1978, 33). This attraction largely derived from his insistence that Roman aesthetics borrowed from Etruscan and Egyptian sources more than Greek.
In this first of Piranesi’s large views devoted to the monument, the pyramid appears as one element among many. The ground, built up over centuries, ascends from the base of the pyramid to the Wall of Rome that Piranesi notes in the numbered key (2). Trees to the left and right emphasize the pyramid’s natural setting and bring out the delicate foliage that fringes its surface. Surrounded by diminished human figures that are engaged in speaking, gesturing, and, in one case, apparent contemplation with downcast eyes, the pyramid both dwarfed by the height of the image and enlarged by the human figures that surround it. The monument’s inscriptions, which appear sketchy and incomplete, refer to restorations by Pope Alexander VII during which the two columns, noted in Piranesi’s key to the following image, were discovered and placed in their original locations. Bisected by a horizon line that delineates ground level and the present moment, the pyramid testifies, in its position along the rising ground, to Piranesi’s pursuit of the buried past. (JB)
To see this image in the Vedute di Roma, volume 17 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.