PIRANESI, Giovanni Battista (1720-1778)
The Porta Maggiore, Originally An Archway of the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus
[Paris: F. & P. Piranesi, circa 1800]. Etched plate, on laid paper, by Piranesi. Sheet size: 20 1/2 x 29 1/2 inches.
From Piranesi's Vedute di Roma, this print shows the Porta Maggiore in Rome.
This plate features the Porta Maggiore, or "Larger Gate" in the ancient but well-preserved 3rd-century Aurelian Walls of Rome. The Porta Maggiore is an important urban site for understanding how the ancient aqueducts functioned. The "gate," built in 52 AD by the emperor Claudius, was originally intended to provide a decorative section of support for two aqueducts, the Aqua Claudia and the Anio Novus. At the time, these aqueducts crossed the ancient Via Labicana and Praenestina roads thus providing the opportunity to create a sort of triumphal arch to the conquest of nature and its conqueror, the emperor Claudius. Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Venetian architect, draftsman, scholar, archaeologist, and designer, was tremendously influential in the development of neo-classicism. Patronized by both foreign tourists and Italians including Pope Clement XIII, he was internationally renowned for his etchings of the scenery and ruins of classical Rome. Piranesi, the son of a stonemason, was born in 1720 in the village of Mogliano, near Venice. Pursuing an early ambition to become an architect, he was apprenticed to his uncle Matteo Lucchesi, a prominent architect and hydraulic engineer, and then to the Palladian architect Giovanni Scalfurotto. He later studied etching and perspective composition in the workshop of Carlo Zucchi. In 1740, he traveled to Rome where he studied set design with Domenico and Giuseppe Valeriani and engraving with Giuseppe Vasi. He went back to Venice in 1744 briefly, before returning to Rome and setting up as an engraver and print publisher. From this time until his death in 1778 he enjoyed a prominent degree of success and became a well-known figure to the wealthy visitors to Rome. His sons Francesco and Pietro helped him in his work and continued the business after his death.
Hind, Giovanni Battista Piranesi (a catalogue), 119 (state 1).