PIRANESI, Giovanni Battista (1720-1778). Le Antichità Romane. Rome: Angelo Rotili, sold by Bouchard, 1756.
4 volumes, broadsheets (537 x 415 mm). Etched frontispiece of Piranesi by Polanzani, 3 etched titles to volumes 2-4, double-page frontispiece to volume one [second state], 2 index leaves in volumes 2 and 4, 211 etched plates (119 double-page, 10 folding) head- and tail-pieces, and initials, all by Piranesi, Barbault and G. Rossi. Original publisher's half vellum, marbled boards, gilt-lettered on spines, uncut (boards rubbed, some wear at edges). Provenance: Joseph Smith (ca 1673-1770), book collector, patron of the arts, and British Consul at Venice, 1744-1760.
"NO OTHER AUTHOR BEFORE OR SINCE WAS CAPABLE OF VISIONS OF GRANDEUR THAT COULD SO EXCITE AND INSPIRE THE ENTHUSIAST" (Scott, Piranesi, 1975, p.127). The publication of the Antichità confirmed Piranesi's reputation as "the foremost artistic proponent of Roman architecture" (Robison, Piranesi, 1986, p.11), and in it he depicts archaeological sites, sepulchral monuments, reconstructions of engineering feats, ancient bridges, baths and other structures. The etchings, with their combination of technical skill, historical accuracy and artistic vision, show that, as Robert Adam observed, "he alone might be said to breath the Antient Air." Ficacci pp.166-319; Focillon 144-395; Hind pp.83-4. (4)