Giovanni Battista Piranesi

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Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Study for the Reliquary in San Giovanni in Laterano; Verso: Fragment of a ground plan for San Giovanni in Laterano
ca. 1763-1764
Pen and brown ink, with gray and brown wash, over black chalk, on paper; verso: black chalk.
13 1/4 x 7 1/4 inches (337 x 184 mm)
Bequest of Junius S. Morgan and gift of Henry S. Morgan.

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Numbered at lower left, in graphite, "49 (?)"

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.

Stampfle, Felice. Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Drawings in the Pierpont Morgan Library. New York : Dover, 1978, no. 110, repr.


Showing a papal tiara and keys over an oval frame, this quick study is probably related to the Clement XIII commission to redesign the Lateran Basilica: a partial plan of the Lateran appears on the verso, and the sheet was once joined to another drawing at the Morgan, inv. 1966.11:58, a sketch for the choir wall of the church (note the heavy hatching at the sides of both sheets). As Bent Sorensen first recognized, this is a study for the reliquary that held the heads of Sts. Peter and Paul, above the papal altar of the Lateran. The monument was never rebuilt by Piranesi, but his ideas for it may be seen in the series of Lateran project drawings in the Avery Library at Columbia University, especially nos. 20, 22, and 23.

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.