The Discovery of Piranesi's Final Project
Stephen Lauf

4 August 2022
Deciding to publish "The Discovery of Piranesi's Final Project" online at occurred 13 July 2022.

Since 10 June 2022, I was in the process of writing the "discovery's" definitive text in the fashion of an essay for Log, the independent journal on architecture and the contemporary city. By 11 July 2022 it became evident that the story and illustration of Piranesi's final project along with the story of the discovery of Piranesi's final project would extend well beyond the limits of an essay of a dozen or so pages. Moreover, publishing "The Discovery of Piranesi's Final Project" online at affords the opportunity of writing about the last five months of Piranesi's life in parallel time exactly 244 years later. For example, on 4 August 1778, work in Piranesi's workshop23 on Ancient Circuses still involved the erasure of all the circus plans within the 'Ichnographia Campus Martius' copper plates; the erasure of the Circus Maximus plan within the 'Pianta dell antico Foro Romano' copper plate was complete and drawing of the new and revised Circus Maximus plan on paper was just beginning.

Also by 11 July 2022 I came to realize that Piranesi's work on Ancient Circuses was not an isolated activity, but rather the initiation of a new and extensive publishing enterprise, the full outline of which Piranesi was also writing during the summer of 1778. The text of Part II of Francesco Piranesi's 1804 Calcographie des Piranesi, ou, Traité des arts d'architecture, peinture et sculpture : développés par la vue des principaux monumens antiques et modernes is indeed the outline Giovanni Battista Piranesi wrote the last months of his life. Piranesi envisioned three enormous works, Antiquities of Magna Graecia, now Kingdom of Naples, Antiquities of Rome, built from the time of Kings, Republics and Emperors, down to Constantine, and Antiquities of Preneste, 77 volumes of images and texts in all. Given that Piranesi turned 58 years of age 4 October 1778, it's easy to wonder whether even Piranesi himself believed it possible to publish 77 more volumes before his eventual death, yet, after reading Mario Bevilacqua's "Piranesi 1778. Ricerche interrotte, opere perdute" 30 June 2022, I've come to believe that Piranesi knew for sure that the vast majority of the material to fill 77 new volumes existed in all the "paperwork" generated by his oeuvre complète thus far, but Piranesi probably also knew for sure that he himself would never see the manifestation of 77 new volumes before his life came to an end.

23. An email dated 5 August 2022 containing the text of this page was sent to Mario Bevilacqua, Heather Hyde Minor, Davide Tommaso Ferrando, Cynthia Davidson, Andrew Kovacs, Orhan Ayyüce, and Chris Teeter. In a subsequent email dated 5 August 2022 Orhan Ayyüce commented, "I am very fascinated by Piranesi's Workshop and his focused effort to continue/complete his works in almost contemporary efforts star architects put out today..." Via response email dated 6 August 2022 Stephen Lauf replied, "It is very astute of you to say "Piranesi's...focused effort to continue/complete his works in almost contemporary efforts star architects put out today." You truly get what Piranesi was doing, and that's what I was beginning to see for myself as I started writing about the 'final project.' Even though there is no written evidence that says that's what Piranesi was doing, much circumstantial evidence points to it and, as your comment demonstrates, it's something that an architectural/design professional can instinctively understand/conclude just judging from their own experience. Piranesi's own discovery of the true functional design of ancient Roman circuses sharpened his attitude toward design and history and ultimately even the design of history. That's all involved in what I have to write about over the coming months. BTW, this is exactly the type of commenting back and forth that I was imagining having with you when I came up with the title "The Discovery of Piranesi’s Final Project.""

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