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Imaginary Ancient Temple

Some of Piranesi’s early etchings depict antique sites in ruins, while others imagine the reconstruction of these buildings or invent fantastic new architecture in the classical spirit. Intended to provoke timid patrons and architects of his own period, these images called for a return to the ambitious ideals as well as the forms of Roman building. The caption to this plate notes that the temple was “designed in the style of those built in honor of the Goddess Vesta: in the center is the great altar on which the vestal virgins preserved the inextinguishable sacred fire.”

Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Italian, 1720–1778
Imaginary Ancient Temple, Plate 15 from Part One of Architecture and Perspectives
1743
Etching on paper
Image: 15 5/16 x 9 ¾ in. (38.9 x 24.8 cm); plate: 15 ¾ x 10 in. (40.0 x 25.4 cm); sheet: 20 3/8 x 15 3/8 in. (51.8 x 39.1 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Collection of Diether Thimme, 98.279.3