Recent Acquisitions

Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Italian, 1720- 1778
Iscrizioni e Frammenti della Stanza sepolcrale vicina a quella di L. Arrunzio (Inscriptions and Fragments from the Burial Chamber near that of L. Arruntius), from Le Antichità romane (Roman Antiquities), volume II, plate 18, 1756 etching
sheet: 22 x 23 3/4 in. (56 x 60.5 cm)
Bequest of Robert D. Harper, 2013.8

Celebrated printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranesi's four-volume Antichità romane (Roman Antiquities) had a profound influence on 18th-century archaeologists and architects. Intended to record the city's crumbling ruins, Piranesi's prints set a new standard for technical illustration by capturing both the massive scale of Roman buildings and minute details of building materials and decorative ornament. This plate, from volume II of the Antichità, records twelve Latin inscriptions from a large communal tomb near the Porta Maggiore in Rome. Piranesi devoted five plates to documenting this tomb, which was excavated in the 1730s and no longer survives. The caption, in Italian, describes the other finds illustrated, including a marble slab through which liquid offerings were made to the dead, as well as glass bottles and terracotta lamps.