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Imaginary Sepulcral Chamber (Burial Chamber)

Piranesi composed two kinds of views in his first portfolio of architectural subjects: imaginary ruins, inspired by antique buildings; and imaginary new projects, based on classical precedents. The melancholy nature of the ruined buildings is redoubled in images that combine themes of death, decay, and loss.

The text below this image notes that the burial chamber, lined with niches and littered with toppled funerary monuments and skeletons, was “designed according to the fashion and ancient magnificence of the Roman Emperors.”

Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Italian, 1720–1778
Imaginary Sepulcral Chamber (Burial Chamber), Plate 16 from Part One of Architecture and Perspectives
1743
Etching on paper
Image: 15 ½ x 10 7/8 in. (39.4 x 27.6 cm); plate 15 11/16 x 11 in. (39.8 x 27.4 cm); sheet: 20 7/16 x 15 3/8 in. (51.9 x 39.1 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Collection of Diether Thimme, 98.279.4