Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Download image: 
Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Ruins of Pozzuoli
ca. 1776-1777
Pen and black-brown ink, over black chalk, on cream laid paper.
19 5/16 x 30 inches (490 x 760 mm)
Purchased as the gift of the Fellows.

Inscribed at lower left, in a cartouche, in pen and gray ink, "P"; fragment of similar inscription on verso.

Part of a group of 5 drawings by Piranesi sold in an unidentified country sale in the 1950s; where acquired by William Redford (1913-2004), London; from whom acquired by Hans Calmann (1899-1982), London; sold to John Hewitt (1919-1994), London; from whom acquired by George Ortiz (1927-2013), in July 1958 [1]; by whom sold either back to John Hewitt or to John J. Klejman (1906-1995), New York; acquired from [or through] Hans Calmann by the Morgan in 1961. -- ([1] Unpublished manuscript by Hans M. Calmann, 1976, pp. 37-38, 103)

Adams, Frederick B., Jr., comp. Eleventh Report to the Fellows of the Pierpont Morgan Library, 1961. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1961, p. 93-95.
Pierpont Morgan Library. Review of Acquisitions, 1949-1968. New York : Pierpont Morgan Library, 1969, p. 160.
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. 46, repr.


Watermark: bear inside circle over "RUS". Watermark, beta radiograph. Bear, circle, "RUS". 142481wm_1961_1_WM_beta.jpg
In the 1750s, excavations in a vineyard near Pozzuoli unearthed the remains of the macellum, or marketplace, of the ancient town of Puteoli, which had been a major trading port in antiquity. A statue discovered at the site led to the mistaken notion that it had been a temple dedicated to the Egyptian god Serapis; this undoubtedly would have piqued Piranesi's interest, given his fascination with Egyptian design. Nonetheless, as the nature of the remains was not clearly understood, Piranesi treated the scene more like a view of evocative ruins--akin to the scenographic fantasies of his youth--than a site of archaeological study.

Associated names: 

Redford, William, 1913-2004, former owner.
Calmann, Hans M., 1899-1982, former owner.
Hewett, Kenneth John, 1919-1994, former owner.
Ortiz, George, former owner.
Klejman, John Jacob, 1906-1995, former owner.