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).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 Cestius55Veduta del Sepolcro di Cajo Cestioplain2021-05-17T12:47:35-07:00Title: 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.One of only two surviving pyramids in Rome, the Pyramid of Caius Cestius—here called, in Italian, the Sepulchre of Cajo Cestio—was built c. 18-12 BCE for Gaius Cestius Epulo. The subject of three views (in Views of Rome and Antichità Romane, v. 3) and many architectural studies (including a bird’s eye view and a cut-away view in Antichità Romane, v. 3), the pyramid of Caius Cestius held an “obsessive attraction” for Piranesi (Wilton-Ely 1988, 33). It appears in this veduta 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 key. Trees to the left and right emphasize the pyramid’s natural setting. This is the first of Piranesi’s large views devoted to this monument, completed in 1755, and it forms a notable contrast with the second, completed in the following year. This image emphasizes the function rather than the shape of the monument: the title casts the image as a view of the tomb [sepolcro]. Surrounded by diminished human figures that are engaged in speaking, gesturing, and, in one case, apparent contemplation with downcast eyes, the pyramid is spotted with delicate foliage in this rendering. Dwarfed by the height of the image, the pyramid—which is in fact rather small—appears enlarged by the human figures that surround it. The monument’s inscriptions are sketchy and incomplete. The upper inscription, which appears on both the pyramid’s east and west sides, reads “C CESTIUS L F POB EPULO PR TR PL VII VIR EPULONUM” [Gaius Cestius Epulo, son of Lucius, of the Poblilian district, chief magistrate, tribune of the people, one of seven priests in charge of public banquets in honor of Jupiter and other religious festivals]. The lower inscription, only on the east side, is legible on the left but does not include the date, on the right: “INSTAVRATVM AN DOMINI MD CLXIII” [Restored in 1663]. During these restorations by Pope Alexander VII, the two columns, noted in Piranesi’s key to the following image, were discovered and placed in their original locations. What this image might lack in the historical details of archaeological reconstruction the following image makes up for in its detailed key, which is placed inside its visual frame. (JB)
To see this image in Vedute di Roma, vol 17 of Piranesi’s Opere, click here.