|Piranesi, Giovanni Battista (1720-1778), et alii|
Varie vedute di Roma Antica, e Moderna, disegnate e intagliate da Celebri autori, in Roma 1748, a spese di Fausto Amidei Libraro al' Corso
Rome: Fausto Amidei, 1748
Oblong folio: 34.3 x 24.3 cm.
94 plates comprising an etched title page by Paolo Anesi and 93 etched views of ancient and modern Roman buildings, aqueducts, etc., 48 signed by Piranesi, 9 by Philotée-François Duflos, 8 by Jean-Laurant LeGeay, 3 by Paolo Anesi, 7 by Jérôme Charles Bellicard, and 19 unsigned, 3 of which have now been accepted as having been etched by Piranesi. The 7 plates signed by Bellicard are dated 1750, as noted in all of the descriptive catalogues of Piranesi's works.
This copy is bound in strictly contemporary stiff vellum over boards with "VEDU DI ROM" stamped in gold directly onto the spine in the second compartment. The edges of the book block have been marbled in red and blue. The contents of this volume are in excellent condition with only some mild soiling and spotting to the title page, and occasional light soiling or very light damp-staining to the margins, far from the printed image to a few plates. Overall, an exceptional copy with all 93 plates in beautiful condition.
|Location of Origin: Europe|
|Dimensions: Oblong folio: 34.3 x 24.3 cm.|
|Primary Classification: Antique Books, Manuscripts, and Maps : Prints, etchings and lithographs|
|Secondary Classification: Antique Books, Manuscripts, and Maps : Religious Texts|
|An important collection of etched views of the buildings of ancient and modern Rome, featuring 48 signed by Piranesi. |
There are six recorded copies of the "Varie Vedute" in U.S. institutions, with varying numbers of plates: NYPL and Harvard each have a copy with 82 plates only, 40 of which are signed by Piranesi. The Huntington Library copy has all 93 plates, with a total of 48 by Piranesi, bound with an additional number of plates from other works. The Art Institute of Chicago has a copy with 89 plates; The Clark Art Institute copy and The National Gallery of Art copy have the full complement of 93 plates. Our copy has all 93 plates as described above.The exact dating of this collection of prints, which includes some of Piranesi's earliest etchings, has been a matter of inquiry and discussion for over a century. Focillon and Hind both considered collections with a title page bearing the date 1748 to be the first. However, a few copies with the title page dated 1745 are now known, with varying numbers of plates. A concise summary and an interpretation of the evidence was first given by Andrew Robison in his "Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Prolegomena to the Princeton collections" (1970). Robison hypothesized that "the 'Varie Vedute' were not so much a definitely limited collection which had definite editions, but rather an occasional publication which was issued periodically, with its content varying according to individual customer demand or publisher decision."(Princeton University Library Chronicle, Vol. 31, no. 3, p. p. 178-79)
In 1986, while trying to establish dates for these early views, Robison returned to the question of the publication history of the "Varie Vedute":
"The third factor to be correlated with Piranesi's two trips to Venice is the expansion of his printmaking activity to include subjects other than architectural fantasies and, particularly, the origin of his career as an etcher of views… In addition to [one plate included in Giuseppe Zocchi's 'Vedute delle Ville, e d'Altri Luoghi della Toscana (Florence: 1744)], the earliest views which Piranesi etched were the small plates he contributed to the series 'Varie Vedute di Roma Antica e Moderna', forty-eight of which bear his signature. The range of styles in the 'Varie Vedute' clearly bespeaks Piranesi's early experiments with various types of line, methods of biting, and basic compositions to portray existing buildings. Evidence from dated volumes and stylistic analysis of the plates suggests dates of execution varying widely between 1741 and 1750. Clearer evidence for their date is biographical. Legrand states that Piranesi etched these small views just after he returned to Rome; and that must have been the 1744 rather than the 1747 return, since we now know that the first edition was published in 1745. Supporting this interpretation of Legrand's assertion is the fact that impressions of the small views appear in later editions of volumes produced by various publishers but do not appear in Piranesi's own later, composite editions. This means that Piranesi sold the copper plates themselves to the publisher. However, this is a practice that he never employed again with any other extensive series of plates, and one must imagine that only because of his severe financial straits while beginning his career for the second time in Rome, testified by all his biographers, did he do so this time. Thus, until we have more certain evidence, the most assured date for the earliest views of Rome is 1744-1745…"(Piranesi: Early Architectural Fantasies: a catalogue raisonné of the etchings, P. 10)
In note 15 of his introduction, after reviewing evidence from particular copies, Robison concludes, because they all contain some plates by Bellicard dated 1750, that "the particular copies of the 1745 and 1748 volumes found so far were not completed in their composition at the time of those dates on the title page but later, around 1750." He does speculate, however, that "one may claim that since the earliest title page is dated 1745, that does add evidence to the hypothesis that that at least many of the Piranesis were created soon before that time, even though we may not have found a specific copy of the 'Varie Vedute' composed just at that date."
Robison believes that he has now found that evidence: a copy (private collection) in a contemporary binding of the "Varie Vedute" with a 1745 title page that does not include the Bellicard engravings dated 1750 but does have the full complement of 48 etchings signed by Piranesi. While it could be argued that this example fits within Robison's original characterization of a copy with "its content varying according to individual customer demand or publisher decision"(i.e. excluding the Bellicard plates), it does strengthen the case for Robison's dating of the prints to 1744-5 that contradicts the notion of a distinct edition with only 27 Piranesi views as described in the most recent catalogues of Piranesi's etchings by Luigi Ficacci and John Wilton-Ely, both of whom apparently based their 27 plate edition on the sole example reported by Maria Catelli Isola in "Mostra di incisioni di G.B.Piranesi" (1963), which Robison regards as merely one incomplete copy.
Of the three institutional collections with title pages dated 1745 in the U.S., two (NYPL and Harvard) consist of 82 plates, of which only 40 are signed by Piranesi for a total of: 40 etchings by Piranesi, 9 by Duflos, 8 by Le Geay, 2 by P. Anesi, and 23 unsigned. The third copy (Huntington) includes all 48 of the plates signed by Piranesi.
Our copy includes the full complement of all 48 plates signed by Piranesi and the three additional unsigned plates first ascribed to him by Donati and included by both Wilton-Ely (99-101) and Ficacci (69-71). These and the other plates included in this copy (detailed above in the initial plate count) correspond with Ficacci's total count for his "editions" of 1748 and 1750.
"These small views of Rome raise more problems with regard to dating than virtually any of Piranesi's other works. Executed at the outset of his career, they are among the very few plates which the artist appears to have sold outright to a publisher and which were not reissued in later editions of his collected works. (Hence their absence from the otherwise largely complete sequence of surviving copper plates held by the Calcografia Nazionale in Rome.) They are of particular importance in plotting the development of Piranesi's graphic skills, as they range from his first tentative efforts to some highly sophisticated compositions."(Wilton-Ely)
"Some subjects appear from 1741 onwards, inserted in various copies of the guides to Rome by Barbiellini, 'Roma moderna distinta per Rioni', but the dates of these editions cannot be used for dating the plates due to the highly irregular composition of this type of book. Even the various copies of the Amidei editions of 1745 and 1748 vary amongst each other. Furthermore, the stated year of the edition is an unreliable source for dating the illustrations due to the habit of recycling the title page without changing its date.
"The copperplates never belonged to Piranesi and are thus missing from the collection preserved at the Calcografia. They are lost at present after passing through the presses of various Roman booksellers ad printers: Barbiellini, Amidei, occasionally Bouchard, and again Amidei. In the 19th century, some of the plates were in the possession of Stefano Piale, who republished them in 1815."(Luigi Ficacci, Piranesi: the Complete Etchings, pp. 71-72)
Ficacci, Piranesi: the Complete Etchings, no's 21-71 (the 48 etchings signed by Piranesi and the three unsigned etchings identified by Ficacci following Wilton-Ely- as the work of Piranesi); Wilton-Ely, Giovanni Battista Piranesi: The Complete Etchings, "C1" no's 51-101; Focillon, Giovanni-Battista Piranesi, essai de catalogue raisonné de son oeuvre, "H." no's 72-119; Hind, Giovanni Battista Piranesi; a critical study, with a list of his published works and detailed catalogues of the prisons and the views of Rome, pp. 76-78
|Provenance: With the stamp ""VALLARDI"" on the front free endpaper, to which is added the contemporary manuscript note ""P[iet]?ro e Gius.[epp]e"", almost certainly the Milanese print and drawing dealers Pietro and Giuseppe (1784-1863) Vallardi, who also co-authored "Catalogo dei più celebri intagliatori in legno ed in rame e capiscuola di diverse età e nazioni" (Milan: 1820).|
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121 Mount Vernon, Boston, MA 02108 USA
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