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Giovanni Battista Piranesi, View of the Capitol, Rome, a drawing

 

Height: 404.000 mm
Width: 701.000 mm

PD 1908-6-16-45

Prints and Drawings

    Giovanni Battista Piranesi, View of the Capitol, Rome, a drawing

    Italy, around AD 1761

    This drawing, in pen and brown ink over red and black chalk, was made for a print. The view shows the Capitol, the administrative centre of ancient and modern Rome. The Renaissance architecture of Michelangelo's Palazzo dei Conservatori fills the sheet in the background. In the foreground, stretching across the width of the sheet, are important Roman antiquities. They are arranged symmetrically on each side of the head of the stairs which mount the Capitoline Hill.

    Though Piranesi recorded the site fairly accurately, he was also interested in creating the impression of the grandeur that was ancient Rome and how it still dominated the eighteenth-century city. So the Trophies of Marius and the two Dioscuri, or heavenly twins (Castor and Pollux) with their horses are the only forms outlined in pen and ink. These famous classical statues tower over the small human figures barely visible in red chalk in the foreground. Furthermore, when compared to the print the unfinished drawing reveals quite how much the artist worked directly on the copper plate.

    This is one of Piranesi's few surviving drawings for his series of 133 etchings, the Vedute di Roma ('Views of Rome'). Begun by 1748, these were his famous series of prints of Roman sites which were much collected in eighteenth-century Europe.

    J. Rowlands, Master drawings and watercolou (London, The British Museum Press, 1984)

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