The Discovery of Piranesi's Final Project
Stephen Lauf

21 June 1778
Piranesi's highly irregular intention to erase all his previously etched circus plans and then redraw them to match the plan configuration of "Caracalla" baffled the entire workshop. Laura14 and Francesco even wondered as the rightness of their father's mental state. Yet Piranesi simply explained how the earlier circus plans proved to be discreditable and must be corrected posthaste. The copper plate areas needing erasure were not terribly large, 24 square inches at most, but the minute and fine nature of the existing line work required a continued, fully concentrated removal effort--a task falling to Piranesi and Laura, she doing the scrapping and he right beside her doing the burnishing, while Francesco carries out further field survey work gathering data to facilitate the imminent corrected circus plan designs. A wholly unanticipated "ancient circuses" publishing project is now underway.

Facsimile representation of the Circus Maximus plan (3 13/16" x 11") within the 'Pianta dell antico Foro Romano' copper plate before the 1778 scraping and burnishing erasure.

Facsimile representation of the Circus Hadriani plan (2 7/16" x 8 3/16") within the 'Ichnographia Campus Martius' copper plate before the 1778 scraping and burnishing erasure.

27 June 2022
The assimilation of counteractive knowledge led to the purge of misconceptions, and the critically necessary destructive tasks of scraping and burnishing metabolized seven elegant circus plans, seven unique Piranesi designs, to near oblivion, thus making way for ensuing corrective creations. Unlike damnatio memoriae, however, "memories" remain in the already-printed first versions of the plans, indeed memories from when Piranesi first etched the circus plans flooded his mind as Laura and he executed their erasure. Piranesi's ichnographic design skill was at its prime when the Circus Maximus plan within 'Pianta dell antico Foro Romano' was initially etched, and all the quondam circus plans within the 'Ichnographia Campus Martius' further exhibited Piranesi's design maturity. Each circus plan was perfectly fine, except for its symmetry.

14. Laura Piranesi, the eldest of Piranesi's five children, turned 24 years of age in 1778. The nimbleness of Laura's confident etching abilities impressed Piranesi to no end. The summer of 1778 turned out to be a time of special bonding between Laura and her father, and Piranesi was a very proud father of Laura.

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