Views of Rome more or less derived from the works of Giovanni Battista Piranesi are so omnipresent in the city itself—in shopwindows, on wrapping paper, in hotels and homes—that they have become virtually impossible to see for what they once were. Although Piranesi's monumental achievements, his many books and hundreds of prints, were founded on those of earlier generations of antiquarians, his work was strikingly original in its own time. At once faithful to the actual appearance of monuments and dramatic in their visual rhetoric, Piranesi's etchings provided views of the city shaped by the mind of an architect and antiquarian. Despite all this, for many viewers the...

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