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The Eternal City Measured and Imagined

The Eternal City Measured and Imagined

(p.211) Epilogue The Eternal City Measured and Imagined
Rome Measured and Imagined
Jessica Maier
University of Chicago Press

The flexible, inclusive approach to urban representation of the early modern period was abandoned in the eighteenth century with the publication of Giovanni Battista Nolli’s Pianta grande (1748) and Giuseppe Vasi’s Prospetto dell’alma città di Roma (1765). Nolli’s great map is the descendant of Bufalini’s, but is far more accurate: a quintessential product of Enlightenment rationalism. By contrast, Vasi’s Prospetto is an atmospheric and evocative picture, but its emphasis on the specifics of the observed natural world is comparable to Nolli’s empiricism. Both men studiously segregated the cartographic and the pictorial modes, which eventually would come to have different goals and uses—the former more scientific and documentary, the latter more artistic and commemorative. That theirs was a time of transition, however, is indicated by Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s giant etching of the Campus Martius district of ancient Rome (1762). In this map, which is just as expertly ichnographic as Nolli’s, Piranesi created a beguiling city out of known ruins and brilliantly inventive phantoms. The crowning expression of the longstanding creative approach to reconstruction, Piranesi’s work reminds us that all maps up to his day were fusions of measurement and imagination.

Keywords:   Giovanni Battista Nolli, enlightenment, rationalism, Giuseppe Vasi, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Campus Martius, ichnography, measurement, imagination

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