De Romanorum magnificentia et architectura is written by Giovanni Battista Piranesi and it is first published in 1761 in Rome. As the name implies, the book is about the antiquities of architecture in Rome. It starts with a very fine portrait frontispiece of Pope Clement XIII, who was head of the Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 1758 to 1769. Piranesi draws the portrait in the very beginning of this book in order to dedicate it to Pope Clement XIII. For this reason, the focus of this book is clearly on the imposing architecture of Romans.
The first part of this book contains only text without being divided into chapters. Piranesi chooses his words carefully to emphasize the technical achievements in Roman architecture carefully, documents the Roman antiquities related to the architecture, and expresses his honors to the Pope as both a Roman and an architect. After more than 200 pages of text, the first part ends up with fine drawings of ancient ruins and Piranesi’s wishes of creating new masterpieces of architecture with the policies of Pope Clement XIII.
The second part consists of hundreds of illustrations of the variety of decorative details of Roman columns. Ornaments are the most important elements of the columns of ancient Roman architecture. He draws all of the ornaments very meticulously with his passion as an architect and a sculptor. Different ornaments of different temples are usually displayed together on the same page, so that I, as the reader, can easily see the variety of Roman creations.
Piranesi represent the technical achievement in both ways, articles and illustrations, both of them relate to each other and support Piranesi’s interpretation together. The history part explains how and why the ancient Roman construct the ornaments and buildings in these ways, and the following pictures, which catch readers’ eyes more, show exactly how far they’ve reached. The arrangement of them is ingenious that readers like me of this book always get to know the story behind the masterpieces first, maybe also start to imagine the beautiful shapes of ornaments while reading. When the outstanding drawings of them finally come to my eyes after all pages of text, I truly see how wonderful the achievements of Roman architects are.
For the concept of this book I choose the word “achievements”. This represents not just the achievements of the imposing Roman architecture that are presented in this book, but also the achievement that Piranesi elaborates such a great piece of both descriptions and illustrations to let the readers truly see the greatness of ancient Roman architecture.
Keywords: structure, detail, elaboration