Inside the Milberg Gallery: Exhibition spotlight - Le Antichità Romane, vol. 3, pl. XIV. Rome: A Rotilj, 1756

The following is the sixth in a series of inside looks at the current exhibition in Princeton University Library’s Ellen and Leonard Milberg Gallery at Firestone Library - "Piranesi on the Page."

Curated by Heather Hyde Minor, Professor of Art History at University of Notre Dame, and Carolyn Yerkes, Associate Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University, the exhibition explores the work of Giovanni Battista Piranesi and how the book became the centerpiece of his artistic production.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778); Le Antichità Romane, vol. 3, pl. XIV. Rome: A Rotilj, 1756; Rare Books, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Piranesi’s early publications attest to his fascination with ancient burial monuments. This page from the Antichità Romane shows the so-called Tomb of Nero outside the city on the Via Cassia. A frolicking griffin ornaments the unusual open-air sarcophagus, set on a high pedestal atop a hill. Although its inscription makes clear that this tomb belonged to Publius Vibius Marianus and Regina Maxima, it became known as the Tomb of Nero in the medieval period. 

“Piranesi printed his images with copperplates.”

The copperplate used to print this illustration for the Antichità Romane is also on display at the exhibition. The back of the plate has an accumulation of different trials: the lower part includes a large portal and various architectural elements crowd the top.

Today, nearly all Piranesi’s plates are preserved together in the Istituto Centrale per la Grafica in Rome. 

Discover more about "Piranesi on the Page" through PUL's online exhibition.

The exhibition will run from October 8 through December 5, 2021. It is open daily noon to 6 p.m. Reservations are no longer required for the public. All visitors must be fully vaccinated and wear face coverings.

Published November 18, 2021 

Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications