Art/ Collection/ Art Object

The Octagonal Room in the Small Baths at the Villa of Hadrian (Tivoli).

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (Italian, Mogliano Veneto 1720–1778 Rome)
ca. 1777
Red chalk over black chalk or charcoal with partly ruled construction; sheet glued onto secondary paper support
15 1/2 x 21 3/4in. (39.4 x 55.3cm)
Drawings, Ornament & Architecture
Credit Line:
Purchase, Anonymous Gift and George and Lisa McFadden Gift, 1994
Accession Number:
Not on view
The Venetian Piranesi was active as a draftsman, designer, architect, archaeologist, and theorist, but it is as a printmaker that he achieved his most enduring fame. His technically brilliant and exceedingly influential etchings reflect his antiquarian interests and offered audiences across Europe a rich visual record, at once archaeological and poetic, of the glories of ancient Rome.
This drawing represents an octagonal chamber—perhaps an apodyterium, or changing room—in the bath complex at Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli, the sprawling remains of which provided subject matter for a number of Piranesi's prints. It is a preparatory study for an etching in the second volume of his Vedute di Roma (Views of Rome), an ambitious undertaking in which the artist was engaged for more than thirty years. The corresponding print—his final view of Hadrian's Villa—was published in 1777, one year before his death. Piranesi's enduring fascination with the marvels of Roman architecture and engineering is manifest in his faithful depiction of its arches, masonry, and partially preserved poured concrete roof. A certain poetic, proto-Romantic sensibility mitigates the strictly archaeologizing view: the overgrown, decaying ruins are an ineffable reminder of the passage of time and the transience of earthly life.
Study for Vedute di Roma, Dieta o sia luogo che da ingresso ... Villa Adriana

Marking: Collector's stamp on lower left of verso: Dr. C. Jessen (Lugt 1398a).
No watermark visible.
Graphische Sammlung Albertina; Gustav Nebehay; Elie Talleyrand-Perigord, duc de Talleyrand; Private Collection, London; Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," July 27, 2004–October 25, 2004.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "The Philippe de Montebello Years: Curators Celebrate Three Decades of Acquisitions," October 24, 2008–February 1, 2009.

Antonio Morassi Dessins Vénetiens du Dixhuitème siècle de la Collection du Duc de Talleyrand. Exh. cat. Milan, 1958, cat. no. 58, fig. no. 58, p. 27, ill.

Disegni di Giambattista Piranesi. Exh. cat., Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice. edited by Alessandro Bettagno, Venice, 1978, p. 62, no. 71 (as as "Interno di Villa Adriana, Londra, Coll. privata"), ill.

Old Master Drawings from Venice. Exh. cat. Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery, London, 1984-85, cat. no. 10.

Italian Drawings. Dealer exh. cat.: London, November- December 1991; New York, January 1992. Hazlitt, Gooden & Fox, London, 1991, cat. no. 22, ill.

George R. Goldner "Curatorial Reports and Departmental Accessions: Drawings" in Annual Report of the Trustees of the Metropolitan Museum, July 1, 1993 - June 30, 1994. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1994, pp. 26-27, ill.

William M. Griswold, Helen Bobritzky Mules, Suzanne Boorsch, Nadine Orenstein "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 1993-1994: Renaissance and Baroque Europe - Europe 1700-1900." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 52, no. 2, Autumn 1994, p. 36, ill.

Wendy Thompson Giovan Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York, October 2002, (text and related entry).

Kendra Schank Smith Architect's Drawings. New York, 2006, pp. 74-75, fig. 3.1, ill.

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