More engravings of Rome in the 18th century from Piranesi: Vatican Rotunda and Meta Sudans!

A tweet this evening drew my attention to the fact that a search by author on Piranesi at the Spanish National Library produces heaps of results, available in very high quality and very large images.  I looked through these, and found a couple of gems.

First, an external view of St Peter’s: “Veduta dell’ Esterno della gran Basilica di S. Pietro in Vaticano”.  This is too large to display here, but it features the vanished 3rd century circular tomb, known as the chapel of St Andrew, which stood to the south of St Peter’s and was demolished in the 18th century.  I’ve made a detail picture, itself still very large:

Piranesi, Vatican Rotunda.  From external view of St Peter's Basilica.
Piranesi, Vatican Rotunda. From external view of St Peter’s Basilica.

I have also found the two images of the Colosseum and Arch of Constantine, which I dealt with yesterday, but in much higher resolution.  In fact it is only when you see the original detail, that you realise quite how special these pictures are.

But what I was most interested in was the vanished fountain, the Meta Sudans, visible in them.  Let’s remind ourselves of how this looked ca. 1900, a stubby thing of brick with the upper portion gone.

Meta Sudans ca. 1900.  Waterford co.
Meta Sudans ca. 1900. Waterford co.

As a coin of Titus shows, it was originally tall, and slender:

Meta Sudans on a sestertius of Titus
Meta Sudans on a sestertius of Titus

So how did it look ca. 1800?  In the first Piranesi etching, “Veduta dell’Arco di Costantino, e dell’Anfiteatro Flavio detto il Colosseo”, accessible here, I have zoomed in on the Meta Sudans:

Piranesi, "Veduta dell'Arco di Costantino, e dell'Anfiteatro Flavio detto il Colosseo".  Detail showing Meta Sudans.
Piranesi, “Veduta dell’Arco di Costantino, e dell’Anfiteatro Flavio detto il Colosseo”. Detail showing Meta Sudans.

The second, “Veduta di Arco di Costantino”, online here,  shows the fountain from the other side through the Arch of Constantine.  Again I have extracted a detail:

Piranesi, Meta Sudans in "Veduta di Arco Costantino"
Piranesi, Meta Sudans in “Veduta di Arco Costantino”

It’s pretty obvious that at this time it stood much nearer to its original height.  We can see the point at which it was then chopped off, in a tidying-up exercise, losing two-thirds of its height in the process.

As we can see, by comparison with the massive stub in the 1900 photograph, this was a big monument!

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