MAGNIFICENT ROME

De Romanorum magnificentia et architectura. Della magnificenza ed architettura de’ Romani.

Rome, 1761.

Large folio (540 x 430 mm), pp. [2 (dedication)], CCXII, with two engraved titles (in Latin and Italian) and 38 engraved plates numbered I-XXXVIII (some folding); without the portrait of Clement XIII; text in Latin and Italian on facing pages, 3 fine engraved initials and 2 tail-pieces; a very little light foxing, a few ink spots to plate VI, small repairs to folds to plates VI and VIII; overall very good, crisp and clean in late eighteenth-century half vellum, decorated paper boards, spine in compartments, one lettered in ink; some wear to corners and rubbing to covers; remains of small label at foot of spine.

£12000

Approximately:
US $15886€14042

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First edition, a handsome copy, bound without the portrait of Clement XIII to whom the work was dedicated, of Piranesi’s magnificent defence of Roman architecture, intended to counter the claims of Laugier, Le Roy and Winckelmann for Greece’s architectural superiority. The splendid plates depict in exquisite detail various ancient Roman columns, capitals and bases, friezes, architraves, tympana, walls, windows, and even sewers.

‘After years of assiduous investigation supported by scholarly advice, Piranesi delivered his opening salvo in the Greco-Roman controversy in 1761, with Della magnificenza ed architettura de’ Romani. This handsome folio, dedicated to the new pope, the Venetian Clement XIII, combines a particularly ingenious sequence of illustrations with a ponderously erudite text. Piranesi rejected the argument of Laugier’s Essai sur l’architecture (1753) that Roman architecture was derived from the Greeks: he claimed that the Etruscans had been the original mentors of the Romans and praised the functional achievements of the Etruscans, to which early Roman buildings were indebted. This rationalistic defence is ... combined with a celebration of the decorative exuberance of late Imperial ornament in the large fold-out plates’ (Grove Art Online).

Ficacci 434, 435, 437-475; Focillon 927, 929-966.

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