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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Title: Ponte Adriano oggi Detto S. Angelo
Medium: Hand colored etching on wove paper
Dimensions: Plate: 8 1/2 × 12 3/4 inches (21.6 × 32.4 cm); Sheet: 11 5/8 × 16 3/4 inches (29.5 × 42.5 cm)
Credit Line: Anonymous gift
Object Number: 92.064.007
Label Text: The Piazza della Rotonda is named for the great Pantheon that stands at the south end of the piazza. The Pantheon, an early second-century Roman temple reconsecrated as the church of Santa Maria ad Martyres (St. Mary and all the Martyrs—known colloquially as Santa Maria della Rotonda) in 609, bears the twin bell towers added to its façade by Gianlorenzo Bernini in the 1620s. The fountain is surmounted by the obelisk of Rameses II, which Pope Clement XI had installed there in 1711. Concerned as always with the clarity and legibility of the city, Vasi takes liberties with the spacing and the scale of the buildings, making the piazza appear to widen toward our vantage point when, in reality, it narrowed. He also dramatically extends the length of the piazza so that our view of the Pantheon is not interrupted by the fountain and obelisk. Vasi’s view of the Ponte Adriano, or Hadrian’s Bridge, is also familiar, and comprehensive, including not only the famous bridge but also the Castel Sant’Angelo to the right and the dome of St. Peter’s and the buildings of the Vatican rising in the background. This viewpoint was actually originated by Gaspar van Wittel, or Gaspare Vanvitelli (1653–1736), a Flemish painter working in Rome who popularized it in paintings of the 1680s and 1690s.

These three images originally appeared in Vasi’s Magnificenze. Sold both in book form and as loose single views, this multivolume set proved so successful that in 1773 Vasi issued a selection of these views, the Raccolta delle più belle vedute antiche, et moderne di Roma (Collection of the most beautiful views of Rome, ancient and modern). The Raccolta was reprinted numerous times by Vasi, by his son Mariano after his death, and again on various occasions by others after Mariano’s death. Mariano often reetched plates to update the architecture and the dress of the figures. For example, Giuseppe Vasi, in his plate of the Piazza della Rotonda, had originally showed the stalls of vendors who tenaciously clung to this high-traffic area to ply their wares. In the later impression shown here, these stalls have been removed and the action in the piazza does not distract in any way from the viewing of the fountain with its obelisk and the Pantheon. The men all now wear fashionable beaver hats and the women empire-waisted gowns. The Museum’s later printing of Vasi’s etching of the Piazza del Popolo has undergone even more dramatic alterations, chief among them the removal of a long procession of carriages that once wound up the Via del Corso at center. This change was perhaps necessitated by the later etcher’s need for more space in updating the central fountain at the base of the obelisk; Giacomo della Porta’s original fountain, installed in 1572, was replaced in 1823 with the larger one seen in our view, with its four marble lions, as the culmination of architect Giuseppe Valadier’s renovations of the piazza. Other plates, like the Piazza della Rotonda, were also later engraved with an inscription indicating Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s coauthorship. Piranesi did spend some time in Vasi’s workshop, and it was believed in the late eighteenth century that Vasi had been his chief teacher. Therefore, adding Piranesi’s signature to these plates before these later reprintings seems to have been a ploy to benefit from Piranesi’s greater salability in the years after both artists’ death. (Andrew C. Weislogel, "Mirror of the City: The Printed View in Italy and Beyond, 1450–1940," catalogue accompanying an exhibition organized by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, curated by Andrew C. Weislogel and Stuart M. Blumin, and presented at the Johnson Museum August 11–December 23, 2012)

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.