Wednesday 23 October 2013

Piranesi Updated Part IV

Piranesi  began his magnificent views (Verdute) of Rome series in 1748, and kept at it until his death. The prints were collected by his son, Francesco, who followed in his father's footsteps and became a skilled artist in his own right.

The Prisons (Carceri) series was begun in 1745, of which I have written before and will write again, as it is a source of endless inspiration. Having visited Rome, I have no doubt now that the series itself was sparked by the cyclopean Roman ruins he was spending so much time with. Just as The Prisons series has, in turn, inspired so many others.

I tried to follow in Piranesi's footsteps in Rome, and update his view. Many of the locations from which he drew are no longer accessible to the public, are underground (within the Via dei Fori Imperiali, for example), in thin air (some thirty feet worth of sediment and debris have been removed from the Roman Forum since his day), or are now blocked by trees. I was also far from scientific or rigorous in my approach. Nevertheless, it was a thrill to put his work in context.

The Temple of Antonius and Faustina has become a macabre hybrid of Roman Imperial and Renaissance architecture. Antonius was one of the wise emperors. He fought not a single war during his reign and didn't get within 500 miles of a legion. He and his wife founded charities to help orphaned children. Faustina spent her life assisting the poor. Not stuff that gets the press, as Nero and Caligula do so readily with depravity and hedonism.

The gentlemen below with their mule are walking along (or rather above) the old Clivus Capitolinus road, which ran up the Tarpeian Rock to the Capitolium and the Temple of Jupiter, Best and Greatest. The Temple of Jupiter existed up until the 15th century in reportedly good repair until this priceless monument was demolished to make way for a Renaissance era Walmart.

There are a pair of these so-called Horse Tamers, representing Castor and Pollux, which stand on Quirinal Hill in the Piazza San Pietro. Copied from Greek originals, they now flank an Egyptian obelisk.

The Theatre of Marcellus is the only remaining Imperial or Republican theatre in Rome, it was turned into a fortress and later private residences.


Trajan's Column now sports a saint atop, instead of it's namesake. The multistory Trajan's Forum, which surrounded it, allowed the upper sections to be viewed more easily in ancient times. Now, you need binoculars.

The Temple of Saturn once sat atop the Roman treasury. It was destroyed by fire multiple times and rebuilt.

Trajan's Column can be viewed from two angles, both including a church in the background. Piranesi rendered both.

The Church of Santa Maria Maggiore is built atop Roman ruins, some six meters below ground now, which can be explored through a series of tunnels. Some murals and mosaics are still visible.

Max was drowned at Milvian bridge after his army was defeated by Constantine. His Basilica was then completed by his opponent, but mostly destroyed later by earthquakes. Only one wing of this colossal building remains standing.

The image below is not a Piranesi, but it's a nevertheless fascinating rendering of what the northern end of the Roman Forum might have looked like at its height. On the upper left, you can see the Temple of Jupiter. The Tabularium runs along to the upper right. Below is the Temple of Concord (of which little remains today, it having been razed in the 15th century and turned into a lime-kiln), and in front of that is the Arch of Severus. The arch is still with us thanks to it being incorporated into a church.