A Pompei, entrando da Porta Ercolano con Giovanni Battista e Francesco Piranesi
In: Storia della tecnica edilizia e restauro dei monumenti: 15, 2020
This essay draws attention to the complex relationship between Giovanni Battista Piranesi and his son, Francesco and to their diverse training that is reflected in their different ways of representing antiquity. The reading focusses on the images that depict the area around Porta Ercolano that was in the process of being discovered precisely during the time of their visit to Pompeii. In contrast to the common opinion of critics, according to which Francesco was solely responsible for having continued the work of his father, interpreting his graphic methods and his engraving techniques without, however, reaching that artistic creativity typical of Giovanni Battista, an alternative interpretation is suggested that contextualizes the works of Francesco within the wider European debate where ancient structures are read differently, resulting in a new conception of surveying and architectural design. In the sections, different grades of grey and black are used to define the suggestions for reconstruction, producing a consistently faithful documentation of the survey, a new way of representing ancient monuments, an expression of the need to capture the reality of the ancient structure, with its dimensions and proportions and its actual state of conservation. The plans of the houses of Pompeii that, also due to the chronology of their discovery, must certainly be attributed to Francesco, are a perfect reflection of this ongoing debate and, if, on the one hand they describe the reality of the excavation, on the other, they propose a refined picture and a novel way of interpreting architectural surveys. Technical ability and improved knowledge are flanked, perhaps for the first time, by the attempt to portray the shapes of the day-to-day living spaces of Pompeiian life.