The Girandola at the Castel Sant'Angelo

Artist: Designed and hand colored by Louis Jean Desprez (French, Auxerre 1743–1804 Stockholm)

Artist: Etched by Francesco Piranesi (Italian, Rome 1758–1810 Paris)

Date: n.d.

Medium: Etching with hand-coloring

Dimensions: sheet: 27 3/4 x 19 1/8 in. (70.5 x 48.6 cm)
mat: 40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm)

Classification: Prints

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1969

Accession Number: 69.510


From 1471, the papacy sponsored a spectacular fireworks display called the Girandola at the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome, the papal fortress originally constructed as the mausoleum of the emperor Hadrian. Every year at Easter, on the eve of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul (June 28) and whenever a new pope was elected the fireworks would be staged.
This remarkable print, designed and hand-colored by Louis-Jean Desprez and etched by Francesco Piranesi (son of the more famous Giovanni Battista) 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.