Francesco Piranesi (Italian, 1756–1810) and Louis-Jean Desprez (French, 1743–1804)
Etching with hand-coloring
27 5/8 x 19 in. (70.2 x 48.3 cm) (sheet)
Rogers Fund, 1969 (69.510)
Beginning in 1471, the papacy sponsored a spectacular fireworks display, called the Girandola, at the Castel Sant'Angelo, the papal fortress originally constructed as the mausoleum of the Roman emperor Hadrian. Re-created whenever a new pope was elected or crowned as well as on Easter and June 28, the eve of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the Girandola was popular with local audiences and tourists alike. This remarkable print, designed by Louis-Jean Desprez, etched by Francesco Piranesi (son of the more famous Giovanni Battista), and hand-colored by Desprez, depicts the Girandola from a vantage on the opposite bank of the Tiber. In the foreground, spectators watch from carriages and a canopied viewing stand. Animated crowds populate the dramatically foreshortened Ponte Sant'Angelo, and the explosion of the rockets illuminating the night sky dominates the upper half of the sheet.