Lunette with Trophies


Attributed to Nicolas François-Daniel Lhuillier (French, 1736–1793)
Lunette with trophies, ca. 1760
Red and black chalk
The Morgan Library & Museum, Bequest of Junius S. Morgan and Gift of Henry S. Morgan; 1966.11:35


John Marciari: This drawing represents an important evolution in the way we understand the workings of Piranesi’s studio. Because the sheet is part of a collection that comes intact from Piranesi’s workshop, it was long thought to be a study by Piranesi himself. It was also accordingly believed that he had restored the ancient relief that it represents, a lunette installed in the Villa Albani around 1760. What now seems to be the case instead is that Piranesi acquired the drawing from Nicolas Lhullier, a French artist who supplied careful renderings of Roman antiquities to many artists and architects in Rome. It’s one of many studies by Lhullier found among Piranesi drawings at the Morgan and elsewhere, works that were clearly acquired so that they could be added to the studio’s source material for later inventions. Piranesi was forever interested in works that bore evidence of the applied arts in ancient Rome, and acquiring this study from Lhullier was perhaps more expedient than attempting to make his own drawing of the relief. Moreover, while the depiction of arms and armor were surely the primary interest in the drawing, the winged serpents of the spandrels would reappear in one of the chimney place designs published by Piranesi later in the 1760s.