Means by which the large blocks of travertine and marble were lifted during the construction of the large Tomb of Caecilia Metella, from Le Antichità Romane (Roman Antiquities), tome 3, tavola 53

Series/Portfolio: Le Antichità Romane, tome 3

Artist: Giovanni Battista Piranesi (Italian, Mogliano Veneto 1720–1778 Rome)

Artist: Angelo Rotili

Date: published 1756–57

Medium: Etching

Dimensions: Sheet: 21 1/4 x 30 5/16 in. (54 x 77 cm)
Plate: 18 1/8 x 20 7/8 in. (46 x 53 cm)

Classifications: Albums, Prints, Ornament & Architecture

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, Transferred from the Library, 1941

Accession Number:


While Piranesi was at work on the Antichità Romane, the result of years of research into the highly developed engineering skills of the Romans, the first threats to Roman preeminence were heard. In the early 1750s, certain French and British scholars and architects had begun to assert that the Romans were mere imitators of the Greeks, under whom all the arts had attained perfection. A desire to defend the Romans from this charge may lie behind the exaggeration that appears in some of the plates of this publication—here Piranesi makes the mausoleum appear much larger than it actually is and exaggerates the difficulty of its construction. This page provides a good example of Piranesi's novel illustrative techniques: he represents three supplemental views on scrolls of paper hung behind the primary scene, while playfully undermining the illusion he has created by making the hook on the left scroll overlap the edge of the sheet.