Giovanni Battista Piranesi

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Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Design for lower section of the high altar of Santa Maria del Priorato
ca. 1764-1766
Pen and brown ink and wash, with gray wash, over black chalk, on paper; framing line in pen and brown ink; verso: ruled graphite line along lower edge, gray wash trials.
18 1/2 x 14 3/8 inches (470 x 365 mm)
Bequest of Junius S. Morgan and gift of Henry S. Morgan.

While another drawing at the Morgan (1952.26) is a quick first sketch for the high altar of the church, which was further refined in a drawing at the Kunstbibliothek, Berlin (HdZ 633), this careful study shows the lower part of the altar more or less as it was executed. Nonetheless, the black chalk underdrawing, ruled and measured lines, and a few elements that differ from the final monument indicate that it is indeed Piranesi's preparatory drawing and not a later record. The design lacks the figural group of St. Basil atop the globe, which constitutes the upper part of the altar. Piranesi, never primarily a figural artist, may have left the final form of that group to be executed by the sculptor Tommaso Righi.


Watermark: Fleur-de-lis inside circle, with letter "V" above, centered on chain line.

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.


Denison, Cara, Myra Nan Rosenfeld, and Stephanie Wiles. Exploring Rome : Piranesi and His Contemporaries. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library; Montréal : Centre Canadien d'Architecture, 1993, no. 34, repr.