The Discovery of Piranesi's Final Project
Stephen Lauf



23 August 1778
. . . . . .


23 August 1977
Saw Laurentian Library in the morning. The space and stair was smaller than expected. The color contrast is beautiful. Very plastic in my eyes. From the reading room looking back, Michelangelo gives you a blank wall. You think it's strange, but it's really great because you are hardly conscious of the other room that is (the staircase hall) beyond it.





The only thing that distracted me was the light coming in from the entrance of the cloister. It weakened the balance by automatically pulling you in that direction. Granted the space is no place to stay, and movement is all it caters. The "openness" of that one side almost put a glare on the room that fuzzed the detail of compositions[?]
I bought a new Parker fountain pen this morning. Had a little difficulty with the sales girl, but she was very nice and all was ok.



Anyway, went to San Croce, saw the tomb of Michelangelo. I'm sure he hates it. It was horrible. I think it should have been a plain box.
Later went to the Uffizi. It gave me a headache, like all museums do (even though the Vatican didn't), probably because there were so many paintings in the Uffizi. Met the Prons and was with them a little bit.
The Brunelleschi exhibit was very good. I'm going back again to take some notes on some techniques and maybe some small copies.
Forgot to mention the Pazzi Chapel at San Croce. It was a fine little chapel.



I seem to question the early Renaissance architecture for churches. I think it doesn't fit the program for a Christian church. I don't know; something just bothers me.
Ate lunch in the Uffizi courtyard with Mindy, Marcy, Jane, Tom, later joined by Pron and much later Ron. Pron and I went to the Boboli Gardens. John was being himself about the axis and everything. We had a vermouth and talked for a while overlooking Florence--it was the best afternoon I've spent so far.



Went to San Spirito and Alberti's Palazzo Rucellai, which was 1/3 taken away.
Came home around 4:30. Moved into room with Tom because John Parson went to the Amalfi coast. Had dinner with the guys, girls went somewhere else. Ron and I had Florentine steak. It was mush more meat than I expected or wanted. I'm really used to Italian food and I like it.


23 August 2022
Received a September 2007 issue of Apollo: The International Magazine for Collectors in the mail. I successfully bid on this item at ebay.com 8 August 2022 after finding out online that it contained a color reproduction of a sketch by Piranesi dated 12 May 1778.


Piranesi's study for his own tomb is in the Charles J.M. Eaton Collection, the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University on loan to the Baltimore Museum of Art, BMA R. 11826.114. Inscribed: 'di 12 maggio 1778/ Disegno fatto dal Cav. Piranesi per darvi l'idea del suo Deposito'. In a later hand is added Rome 1843'.

Among the antiquities illustrated in Vasi, candelabri, cippi he included the candelabrum which, as he explained in the descriptive text, he intended to have erected over his tomb. In May 1778 he [Piranesi] sent a letter to a friend enclosing a sketch of some idiosyncratic ideas for his own funeral monument, a relief of himself stretched at uncharacteristic ease against a background that resembles one of his fireplaces. His worries were not so much about his own death but the survival of his business while his children were young. Would Francesco be able to cope when he was gone?28
28. Legrand says that 'he was always afraid that the youth of his son would prevent the continuity of the order established in his workshops in which many draughtsmen and engravers worked under his immediate direction, each one carrying out the task he has been given, but Piranesi always kept the difficult parts himself and maintained the overall control'.
Jonathan Scott, Piranesi (London: Academy Editions, 1975), pp. 250-1 and 318.

On his return to Rome he appeared to have sent a letter to a friend on 12 May 1778 enclosing a rapid sketch of ideas for his tomb which tantalizingly throws no light on the role of the candelabrum. This shows the artist in the guise of one of his gesticulating figures from the later plates of the Veduti di Roma, seated on a stone parapet in front of a classical wall with two orders of pilasters. It is possible that by now Piranesi was sadly aware that his tomb would be housed not in the Angeli but in the more restricted space of his local parish church, San Andrea dela Fratte, where he was interred after his death 9 November 1778.
John Wilton-Ely, "The Ultimate Act of Fantasia: Piranesi's Funerary Candelabrum" in Apollo: The International Magazine for Collectors (September 2007), 45.

On 12 May 1778 Piranesi signed and dated a drawing "made by cav. Piranesi to give you the idea of his remains": still a thought of death, even if dropped into a mocking reality this time, reworking a previous sheet with the study for a fireplace, to which the rapid sketch of a self-portrait in elegant, superficial, melancholy pose. In recent months in his diary Giannantonio Selva, who arrived in Rome in April, remembers Piranesi fully immersed in the artistic and social life of the city: "On June 22nd, H.E. Ambassador Zuliani an amiable knight and a great lover of Fine Arts; he welcomed me very kindly, and very often wanted me to have lunch with him. He had an artists' lunch every Sunday and Volpato, Angelini, Piranesi, Lodovico, sometimes Battoni, the director of the French Academy, Cades, intervened, and when he arrived in Rome, the Mr. Novelli, and various other artists." Again, on 11 October Piranesi participates in a meeting of the Academy of S. Luca.
Mario Bevilacqua, "Piranesi 1778. Ricerche interrotte, opere perdute" in V. Cazzato, S. Roberto, M. Bevilacqua (a cura di), Il teatro delle arti. Saggi in onore di Marcello Fagiolo per 50 anni di studi, II, Roma, Gangemi 2014, p. 792.



Piranesi going up in smoke, the ancient Roman way.




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