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In this thesis I argue that Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) composed the first volume of Le Antichit' Romane (1756) to emphasize his expertise and knowledge of ancient Rome's monuments and topography. My study questions the objectivity of the volume's visual and textual components. In Volume I, views of the city, two topographic maps, an explanatory index of three hundred and fifteen monuments, trompe-l'oeil renderings of fragments of the Severan Marble Plan, and passages quoted from Frontinus seemingly verify Piranesi's archaeological conclusions. I analyze these elements, taking into consideration the role of this volume as the reader's inaugural experience of the work and the reference point for the other three volumes. I examine Volume I as a crafted construction: I begin my study by describing the contents of Volume I, and clarify that contrary to other assessments of the Antichit', the volume is not merely a pictorial survey of ancient Rome. Instead, the imagery of the volume coordinates with text to comprehensively describe the city through visual and verbal means. I follow this inventory with an analysis of Piranesi's use of trompe-l'oeil for many of the volume's images. I connect Piranesi's use of trompe-l'oeil to conventions in antiquarian illustration to show that this pictorial tactic was aligned with current anxieties regarding the preservation of the remains of antiquity. I demonstrate that illusion enables Piranesi to imply interaction with the antique artifacts, thus underscoring his involvement in contemporary antiquarian activities. Additionally, I posit that the use of this pictorial tactic enables Piranesi to blur the distinction between artifact and fiction: I show that not all of the artifacts depicted in the volume are accurately portrayed, and the distinction between Piranesi's hypothetical reconstructions and the artifacts is often intentionally blurred. Finally, my thesis concludes with my reconstruction of the reading experience of the volume. I isolate a specific location described through the maps, index entries, and a supplementary veduta as a case study for this examination. By tracing Piranesi's delivery of information about this site through the disparate media contained within the volume, I reveal the role that the organization of the volume's components plays in conveying archaeological data and in guiding the reader through the artist's deductions.
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Art History in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts.
Includes bibliographical references.
Robert Neuman, Professor Directing Thesis; Lauren Weingarden, Committee Member; Stephanie Leitch, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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