The Discovery of Piranesi's Final Project
Stephen Lauf

18 December 1777
Piranesi begins to figure out the true plan configuration of the Circus of Caracalla, as well as the reason for the asymmetrical plan configuration.

18 December 1778   Friday

Vuë des restes de la Celle du temple de Neptune. A B Pierres qui en formoient le Mur, et qui en partie sont restés en pied, et en partie sont tombés. C Deux ordres de colonnes interieures de la Celle, qui soutenoient les platsfonds, et le toit. L'on ne voit au dessus des colonnes d'autre entablement F que les architraves ornés de simples moulures. L'on a choisi exprès, une telle maniere pour conserver aux colonnes, et à tout le corps du temple leur caractere de majesté, et afin que les corniches ne surchargeassent par les colonnes, et que l'emplacement n'en parut pas trop rétréci. C'est ainsi qu'en agit Vitruve dans la disposition de l'interieur de la basilique de Fano liv.6 chap.3. Ces colonnes, nous montrent bien comment les anciens décoroient l'interieur de leur principaux temples.     Cav. Piranesi F.
View of the remains of the Cell of the Temple of Neptune. A B Stones which formed the Wall, and which partly remained standing, and partly fell. C Two orders of interior columns of La Celle, which supported the ceilings and the roof. One sees above the columns no other entablature F than the architraves decorated with simple moldings. We have chosen this way on purpose to keep the columns and the whole body of the temple their character of majesty, and so that the cornices do not overload the columns, and the location does not seem too narrow. . This is how Vitruvius acts in the layout of the interior of the basilica of Fano liv.6 chap.3. These columns show us how the ancients decorated the interior of their main temples.

18 December 1786
Earlier this year Francesco publishes 'Icnografia del Circo de Caracalla fuori della Porta Capena in oggi S. Sebastiano' in Opere varie.

18 December 1787
Four months earlier, Francesco publishes the Palace of the Caesars plans within volume 1 of Le Antichità Romane.

18 December 1788
"Like a true son of the Enlightenment, Fredenheim had a great interest in science. In autumn 1788 he obtained papal permission to carry out excavations at the Forum Romanum. The work involved a team of over 30 men under the supervision of Fredenheim and his associate in Rome, the engraver and art dealer Francesco Piranesi. Piranesi created images of the finds, and the locations were marked on a grid. The excavations are thought to have been among the first of their kind to take a scientific approach."

18 December 1812   Friday

Morning light clouds. Thermometer 30 degrees. Wind W, about 10 drew to SW. Hazy round the horizon. At noon wind S. Thermometer 43 degrees. I go to town this afternoon. I called on Dr. Hunt who had not read a notice of the time of holding inquisition on Hunts Fi/Fa. I reach town before dark, rode to J. Reed's who knew not the time appointed. Thence down ... Powell Street where I stopped at a house rented by my son Redwood to dwell in. To Front Street, left an iron back for the front room chimney. Went to my brother's, discharged the carriage on my walk home. I called at W. Lewis's to console with him on the melancholy state of his family, himself ill with the gout, his wife lying at a farmhouse in [blank] county [blank] miles off with a broken leg, his own daughter a corpse in his own house; she was preparing to set off to go to her mother on Tuesday last supposed to be packing her clothes in her chamber on the 3rd floor, He had been at court and returned at 1/2 past one. Fanny having been sometime upstairs was sent for and found in a convulsion fit and being put to bed her fits succeeded often till she died. I believe on Wednesday. Her body is now preserved in a mass of ice to keep it till her mother returns for whom a carriage was sent immediately after the event. How she can be moved with a broken limb even on a .... is very doubtful, it is expected that she will make the attempt, if so it must be at the immanent peril of her life? I took tea at Dr. White's and I saw Dr. Abercrombie who undertook to give me his opinion of Wards Reiter[?] and whether he would recommend an American edition for the Use of Schools. On my return to Arch Street I sent for Benjamin Jenckes who undertook the same as to Von Ferneigle's Art of Memory. The evening was hazy. Before we returned it was agreed that if tomorrow be a fine day, my daughter Sarah and the child should return with Lydia and me to Ury tomorrow afternoon.

18 December 2013
18 December
2013: Reading 'conceptio' (a feminine noun) means (1a) a comprehending; hence concretely, a circuit, compass: the system of the universe [and here Vitruvius is cited as the source of the concrete meaning] again today made me wonder anew as to the significance of the compass of the Ichnographia matching exactly the plan of the Porticus Neronianae.

Was Piranesi covertly delineating the "system of the universe?"

18 December 2017
Earlier this year, Maria Grazia Cianci and Sara Colaceci published "The methodology of interpreting and promoting historical heritage: the Maxentius complex on the Appia Antica". . .

Francesco Piranesi, "Icnografia del Circo de Caracalla fuori della Porta Capena in oggi S. Sebastiano", 1786. Note the accurate and precise coincidence between the present survey (in red) and the historical survey, except for the curvature of the hemicycle.

18 December 2022   Sunday
Was it Giovanni Battista Piranesi himself, in 1777, the first to "take a scientific approach?"

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