Giovanni Battista Piranesi

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Giovanni Battista Piranesi
View of a capital with confronted sphinxes (the Lyde Browne capital). Verso: Same subject in reverse
ca. 1760
Red chalk on light brown paper, irregularly cut; verso: red chalk, over black chalk.
3 1/16 x 3 3/8 inches (78 x 91 mm)
Bequest of Junius S. Morgan and gift of Henry S. Morgan.

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The designs on both the recto and verso are tracings. The paper appears has been oiled to facilitate tracing; on same mat as 1966.11:19; 40; 101.
In this drawing, Piranesi depicted a capital that was owned by Belisario Amidei, shortly before it was acquired by the English collector Lyde Browne. Browne later moved his antiquities from Rome to Wimbledon and then sold them to Catherine the Great. The ornate capital, with Egyptian sphinxes stylized into decorative forms, was precisely the sort of architectural motif that Piranesi prized. He included a print of it in the Della magnificenza of 1761 and subsequently modeled the ionic capitals in the facade of Santa Maria del Priorato on its design. Another drawing in the Morgan, 1966.11:19, precedes this second sketch, which is on oiled paper -- effectively, tracing paper -- that was used to transfer the design and was then strengthened to allow a reversed image of the sphinx to appear on the verso.

Mrs. J. P. Morgan, New York; by descent to her sons Junius S. Morgan, Princeton and Paris (no mark, see Lugt 1536) and Henry S. Morgan, New York.
Associated names: 

Morgan, Jane Norton, 1868-1925, former owner.
Morgan, Junius Spencer, 1892-1960, former owner.
Morgan, Henry S. (Henry Sturgis), 1900-1982, former owner.


Stampfle, Felice. Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Drawings in the Pierpont Morgan Library. New York : Dover, 1978, no. 20, repr.