Inside the Milberg Gallery: Exhibition spotlight - Ichnographia, Campo Marzio dell’antica Roma. Rome, 1762

The following is the seventh 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.

One of Piranesi’s most famous prints, the Ichnographia is a map of the Campo Marzio, the ancient Roman district used as a training ground for soldiers. Printed from six plates, today the map is most often found framed on walls. Yet Piranesi published it as part of a large volume full of other prints showing views of ancient structures that once covered the area. The Latin and Italian texts in this volume discuss Piranesi’s explorations of the surviving ruins, analyses of classical sources on Roman topography, and discussions of numismatic and other forms of historical evidence about the district. 

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778); Ichnographia, Campo Marzio dell’antica Roma. Rome, 1762; Marquand Library of Art and Archaeology, Princeton University Library

“A collaboration of genres --from maps to city views, from treatises to plate books -- to form a single book.”

Most notably, Piranesi used fragments from the Forma Urbis Romae, the third century map of Rome carved on stone, to reconstruct parts of the ancient city plan. For this reason, Piranesi displays his own map as if it, too, has been carved in stone, and mounted to a wall with metal clamps. Piranesi’s map is also partly fantasy: he designed as much of the ancient city as he reconstructed from evidence. 

The map is dedicated to the architect Robert Adam, a friend of Piranesi’s who had helped sponsor the project. In the Campo Marzio, Piranesi brought his experience working across genres--from maps to city views, from treatises to plate books--together into a single book.

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 24, 2021 

Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications