For this task, we ask you to revisit the research that you have gathered so far about your book and to come up with a concept that can encapsulate one or more aspects of the book. This does not have to summarise the entire work, but it should relate to some features its content, structure or overall argument. For example, if your book deals with fortifications you may recognise concepts such as ‘geometry’, ‘repetition’, ‘massiveness’, ‘materiality’ etc… You should consider features of your book that impressed you particularly or that you think are especially important to understand it.
Della Magnificenza e d’Architettura de’ Romani – Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Roman vs. Greek
comparison – rivalry – pride
Giovanni Battista Piranesi‘s publication “Della Magnificenza e d’Architettura de’ Romani” was a contribution to the continuing debate as to whether Greek art and architecture were superior to that of Rome.
Intellectual circles, in the 1750s, were more and more in favour of Greece. They strongly considered Roman art to have Greek origins. Architects, authors as well as artists dedicated their work to praise Greek art and architecture in their books and publications. For example, the French critic Pierre-Jean Mariette published a letter in “the Gazette Littéraire de l’Europe”, in which he argues against the ideas expressed in «Della Magnificenza». Stating his believes in the named letter, Mariette considered Roman art to have Greek origins.
Another example, which presumably left the most implacable impression on Piranesi, is the French architect Julien-David Le Roy. In 1758, he published “Les ruines des plus beaux monuments de la Grèce”. In this Book named “The ruins of the most beautiful monuments of Greece”, he proclaimed that the architectural orders were a Greek invention. This creation was then inherited by the Romans who imitated and subsequently debased and adulterated those create designs. Piranesi responded with his essay “Della Magnificenza e d’Architettura de’ Romani” (Concerning the magnificence and architecture of the Romans). By drawing comparisons with specific examples from Le Roy’s text, Piranesi argues in his publication in favour of Roman architectural ornament and further defends the artistic originality of the Romans. This is the reason why many of the plates in this volume contain visual and text references to Le Roy. For instance, Le Roy’s engraving of a capital from the Erechtheion temple in Athens. Piranesi has surrounded Le Roy’s illustration with an elaborate array of more complex Roman variants. At the top of the plate is a quote from Le Roy which says: “The Ionic capitals one sees in Rome seem poor and defective,” to which Piranesi responds by illustrating many of the magnificent Ionic capitals of Rome.
Therefore summarizing, Piranesi expressed his conviction of the superiority of Etruscan design and accompanied his argumentation by thirty-eight engraved illustrations. Piranesi seemingly used his knowledge of ancient engineering accomplishments to defend the creative genius of the Romans. Nevertheless, he devoted even more space to a celebration of the richness and variety of Roman ornament. Piranesi’s loyalty and dedication to the defence of Roman art, finds evidence in the mentioning and depiction of Clement XIII’s portrait, of the Pope from 1758 to 1769.