Giovanni Battista Piranesi

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Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Design for a vertical wall panel with the Maltese cross, for Santa Maria del Priorato
ca. 1764-1766
Pen and brown ink, over black chalk, on paper; framing lines in pen and brown ink.
15 15/16 x 10 1/2 inches (405 x 267 mm)
Bequest of Junius S. Morgan and gift of Henry S. Morgan.

Inscribed within design, with measurements in palmi romani, in pen and brown ink, at lower left, "p 8 1/2"; at upper left, "p 12 1/2"; numbered at upper left, in graphite, "73".
Watermark: Fleur-de-lis inside doube circle, mongram "CB" above, centered on chain line, with fleur-de-lis off center.

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.

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. 35, repr.


As part of his Santa Maria del Priorato commission, Piranesi designed the piazza in front of the church. On one side of the square, a high wall screened the garden of the Knights of Malta. On the opposite side, Piranesi created a matching wall paneled with high stucco reliefs. This drawing is a final design for one such relief. The Maltese cross at center is the symbol of the knights; the lyre and panpipes were Etruscan symbols for Piranesi, and he included them as a reference to the Aventine Hill's legendary history as a site of Etruscan cult practices. The towers in the medallions are a reference to the Rezzonico arms, in recognition of Piranesi's patron.

Associated names: 

Piranesi, Giovanni Battista, 1720-1778, Workshop of.
Morgan, Jane Norton, 1868-1925, former owner.
Morgan, Junius Spencer, 1892-1960, former owner.
Morgan, Henry S. (Henry Sturgis), 1900-1982, former owner.