The Discovery of Piranesi's Final Project
Stephen Lauf



12 May 1778   Tuesday
Vases, Candelabra, Grave Stones, Sarcophagi. Tripods, Lamps and Ancient Ornaments   volume II

Another perspective view of the other ancient candelabrum that can be seen in the Cavalier Piranesi Museum
Dedicated to Mr. Carlo Morris, an English Knight
Cavalier Piranesi drawn and engraved


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.


27-28 y.o. Francesco Piranesi 1786
Collezione delle piu belle statue di Roma

Faun in antique red found among the ruins of Villa Adriana with nebride on his back and with a syringe and cymbals hanging from the trunk: it was formerly of Count Fede; it is now in the Pio-Clementine Museum
To the Holiness of Nro. Sig.re PIO SIXTO Pontifex Maximus, most vigilant investigator of Antiquities and most splendid Protector of the fine Arts
Francesco Piranesi D.D.D.
Tomasso Piroli drawn     Francesco Piranesi engraved 1786.


12 May 1812   Tuesday

Thick fog, calm. Temperature 59. There has been some rain in the night, but no surplus remains on the ground. Left Ury for town about 10, Found the road very wet and heavy. The sky continued cloudy, wind gentle from S. I walked much through the city and spent the evening at the Agricultural Society where I received a few Cassuba melon seeds from Smyrna in Asia. Temperature here rose to 72.


12 May 1999
recollection of the day's events
I went to the University of Pennsylvania's Van Pelt Library to photocopy sections of Stephan Borgehammer's How the Holy Cross was Found. Borgehammer presents a convincing case for dating Helena's journey to Palestine two years earlier than the traditionally accepted 326 date. If Helena was not in Palestine in 326, then it is possible that she was in Trier at that time, specifically after the execution of her grandson Crispus, who, although killed at Pola, resided with his wife at Trier. It was in 326 at Trier that the royal palace of either the Empress Helena or that of Crispus and his wife Helena was torn down prior to the erection of a double basilica.


12 May 2000
inquiry
Jeffery:
Thanks for kudos, and I'm glad my Piranesi is work generating some 'archeological' interest. What I've found is that Piranesi, by drawing the Ichnographia, is playing a very clever 'archeological' game whereby his mistakes, i.e., misplacement/conjecture of buildings, actually represent an inverted meaning, specifically a Pagan versus Christian inversion. For example, Piranesi's placement of the beginning of the Triumphal Way within the Vatican valley represents the fact that the Triumphal Way of post-Constantine Rome ended in the Vatican Valley, namely at St. Peter's Basilica, as opposed to ending at the Arx. [I'm now very curious about the Livy/Jupiter Ferretrius story you mentioned; I don't know this story so could you provide a reference?] Piranesi positions the Porta Triumphalis adjacent the Foro Holitorium, yet he does not delineate an opening in the Servian Wall. I suspect Piranesi, in 1761, was already aware of the gate's ambiguous presence.
The Catalogo is indeed a tremendous bibliographical reference. It made me realize just how much of ancient Rome's architecture is known only via textual (written) reference, as opposed to existing remains. Here's what the Catalogo says about the Triumph:
Ponte Trionfale, o sia Vaticano, Alcuni suppongono, che le rovine, che rimangono nel letto del Tevere incontro lo spedale si S. Spirito in Sassia, Tav. 3 num 39, appartenessero al ponte trionfale. Per vedere di che qualita elle siano, veggasi la Tav. XIV, fig II e III. Si paragoni colle rovine presso il Teatro di Tordinona, che noi crediamo esser di questo ponte, Tav III, num 36, e si dimostrano in prospettiva nella stressa Tav. XIV, alla fig. I, e si riconoscera, che quelle che rimangono presso lo spedale sono affatto diverse dalle maniere dei ponti. Di piu la stessa loro costruttura ben dimostra, che non sono opera antica, ma de' tempi bassi, la quale da cima a fonda e della medesima forma e figura, come abbiam riconosciuto col tastar colle pertiche la profundita di tali rovine: il che abbiamo dimostrato nella stessa Tav. xiv, figura 2 e 3
Porta Trionfale <> sembrano voler dire ch'ella stesse chiusa, e fosse solita aprirsi ai triunfatori.
Via Trionfale <> Vicolo di Gordiano. <>
I don't understand Italian, so I can't help you with a translation, however, if you can readily translate these citations, I'd appreciate your sharing them with me.
My background is architecture. I'm licensed in Pennsylvania, however, I am not an academic. My redrawing of Piranesi's Campo Marzio is more a huge hobby, albeit, an extremely fertile hobby--I've learned more about Ancient Rome's monuments and topography in the last 4 years than I ever imagined. For example, I'm presently putting together a 'thesis' that Flavia Julia Helena Augusta, St. Helena, mother of Constantine I, was the 'architect' of Christianity's early 4th century church building boom.
Keep in touch, I never tire of discussing Piranesi and the Campo Marzio.
Steve
inquiry
Jeffery:
Good to hear from you. Thanks for the 'catalogo' translations. I'm only guessing, but the 'spedale' may be a huge 'scoop' taken out of the Vatican bank of the Tiber. This seemingly man-made formation is no longer there today, but is registered in both Piranesi's Ichnographia and in Nolli's (18th century) map of Rome (on which Piranesi assisted Nolli). Nolli also indicts the remain of a 'triumphal' bridge in conjunction with this 'scoop'.
Interesting about the rare taking of most sacred spoils. It often seems that even though traditions (like the triumph) last a long time, all the subsequent occasions rarely, if ever, match up with the 'original'.
I'm not familiar with any other Plattus texts, however, I do know that he was architecture dean at Yale (at least he was two years). As you probably already know by now, the Plattus Triumph essay has many good bibliographic references.
When you mention the Flavians, I think of Piranesi's Campo Marzio rendition of the Naumachia Domitiani, where the grandstands are designed as a continuous ascending spiral--very imaginative.
Glad to hear that you find my Pagan-Christian interpretation of the Ichnographia interesting. It is exactly Piranesi's covert references that has made me very interested in the Pagan-Christian transition within Rome. Like Piranesi, I now see this time as not so marked by clear distinction, but rather an interweaving of the two 'cultures'. I spent all morning at the Library researching the (so-called) Arch of Janus Quadrifrons. I preparing to write a short piece about the 'two-faced' (Pagan/Christian) nature of Constantine, who, by most accounts was ruler when this arch was erected.
Here's something you might help me with: there is a 'regional catalog' of Rome that was compiled c. 305-315 AD. Platner (not Plattus) refers to this as the NOTITIA. Do you know of any English translation of this building list, or of any texts about this list? There is a Arcus Divi Constantini listed in the region where the Janus Quadrifrons is, and thus many historian/archeologists believe the two structures are one and the same. In any case, I find the years given to this late-antiquity list as curious, being as they span both Maxentius's and Constantine's reigns in Rome. Could this list have been started under the reign of one and ended under the reign of the other (like the Basilica Maxentius/Constantine)? I'm even wondering whether this new listing of Rome's buildings was actually initiated by Constantine's mother, Helena, who I believe was an architect in all but name only, and who I also believe began living in Rome very soon after 28 October 312.
Steve


12 May 2002
Re: 'game over" design
I got a copy of Homo Ludens a few years ago, and so far I have really only read the introduction. Nonetheless, I still got much from the book so far. For example, I collected many passages that I feel relate to how Piranesi designed/'played with' his reenactment of ancient Rome via the Ichnographia Campus Martius--indeed, reenactment itself is very much a "re-play", literally a playing / acting [even designing?] again.


12 May 2020

Mary Boone's 180 hours of community service   hours 73 74 75 76 77 78


12 May 2023   Friday
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