Antichita Romanae  

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"Many years ago, when I was looking over Piranesi's Antiquities of Rome, Mr. Coleridge, who was standing by, described to me a set of plates by that artist, called his Dreams, and which record the scenery of his own visions during the delirium of a fever. Some of them (I describe only from memory of Mr. Coleridge's account) represented vast gothic halls; on the floor of which stood all sorts of engines and machinery, wheels, cables, pulleys, levers, catapults, &c, expressive of enormous power put forth, and resistance overcome. Creeping along the sides of the walls, you perceived a staircase; and upon it, groping his way upwards, was Piranesi himself: follow the stairs a little further, and you perceive it come to a sudden, abrupt termination, without any balustrade, and allowing no step onwards to him who had reached the extremity, except into the depths below. Whatever is to become of poor Piranesi, you suppose, at least, that his labors must in some way terminate here. But raise your eyes, and behold a second flight of stairs still higher; on which again Piranesi is perceived, by this time standing on the very brink of the abyss. Again elevate your eye, and a still more aerial flight of stairs is beheld; and again is poor Piranesi busy on his aspiring labors; and so on, until the unfinished stairs and Piranesi both are lost in the upper gloom of the hall."--Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821) by Thomas De Quincey

The Appian Way as it appeared in Piranesi's imagination (1756), from Antichita Romanae
The Appian Way as it appeared in Piranesi's imagination (1756), from Antichita Romanae

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Antichita Romanae[1] (1748) is a series of prints by Italian artist Piranesi of real and fictitious Roman ruins, inspired by the late Baroque works of Claude Lorrain and Salvatore Rosa who had featured romantic and fantastic depictions of ruins; in part as a memento mori or as a reminiscence of a golden age of architecture. Piranesi's reproductions (see right) were a strong influence on Neoclassicism.

Full title

Title page: Roman Antiquity of the Time of the Republic and the First Emperors (Antichità Romane de' Tempi della Repubblica, e de' primi Imperatori).[2]

See also

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