Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Piranesi's "Views of Rome"

Piranesi's "Views of Rome"
Avanzi degl'Aquedotti Neroniani
In his Views of Rome (Vedute di Roma), a series of copperplate engravings, the artist, architect, author, and antiquarian Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720 – 1778) portrayed the monuments of the Eternal City and its environs not just with precision and splendor, but as part of a living landscape. In Piranesi’s prints, aristocrats saunter, women hang laundry, and peasants water their livestock among the city’s ancient ruins and Baroque buildings. The quotidian life of eighteenth-century Rome is vividly portrayed against a backdrop of atmospheric, often-decaying grandeur. The Views also preserve for posterity a Rome now lost, for many of the monuments Piranesi portrayed have since vanished. A savvy entrepreneur, the artist sold prints of his Views individually and published them in multiple editions; immensely popular in his lifetime, they have continued to win admirers since.

Drawing on a gift made by Carl R. Ganter, Class of 1899, to fund new library acquisitions, Kenyon College purchased from the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch in August, 1945 for $208.00 a massive (55 x 81 cm) two-volume edition of Views of Rome published in Paris between 1800 and 1807, after the artist’s death, by his sons Francesco and Pietro (Hind 33). This was the first edition to appear after the dramatic recovery of Piranesi’s original copperplates, which together with other valuable objects had been looted from the family’s palazzo in Rome by soldiers from the Kingdom of Naples in 1799 and recovered by a British warship that had intercepted a Neapolitan vessel ferrying the booty (Minor 193). Kenyon’s copy of the Paris edition, like many later editions of the Views, is bound with an enormous fold-out map of Rome and the Campus Martius (Pianta di Roma e del Campo Marzio) originally published in 1788 or 1789 (Hind 87). 

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