Spaccato interno della Basilica di S. Paolo fuori delle Mura (Section of Basilica di S. Paolo fuori delle Mura), 1749
After Giovanni Battista Piranesi's drawing
Etching. 414 x 608 mm
Inventory number: E320
Tourists were enthusiastic about the Venetian architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Roman views. Between 1745 and 1778 he published a series of 135 different views under the title of Vedute di Roma. They could be bought separately. Thorvaldsen had 35 of these prints in his collection (inv.nos. E318 to E321 and most of the prints in E315). Piranesi was also a learned man. He was particularly well versed in the history and archaeology of ancient Rome. In the text at the bottom of this print, he tells of both the history and constructional details of the church of San Paolo fuori le Mura. Since the church burned down 1823, the print has also been able to tell us what was lost in the fire.
The initial impression is that the motif is a rather sober presentation of the architecture of the church. The artist has been keen to present a large number of details. But in spite of these the monumental nature of the church is clearly represented. Piranesi has drawn his human figures to an incredibly small scale. They appear far smaller than they would be in reality. The result is an illusion of an amazingly lofty church, a church that is both impressive and monumental.