Piranesi in Rome

Piranesi in Rome

ARTH 343 & ARTH 259  •  Kimberly Cassibry & Liza Oliver

Etching of an ancient Roman building fronted by six pillars

Etching by Giovanni Battista Piranesi: Altra Veduta degli avanzi del Pronao del Tempio della Concordia (The Temple of Saturn), plate 80/1 from the series "Vedute di Roma" (Views of Rome) (1774) (see detailed record). Original artwork held by the Wellesley College Davis Museum and Cultural Center. This image is featured on the Piranesi in Rome website that students created for this blended learning project.

Students in Kimberly Cassibry’s Roman Monuments seminar and Liza Oliver’s The Art and Architecture of Europe's Enlightenment course created a website centered on the Davis Museum exhibition Reframing the Past: Piranesi’s Vedute di Roma (February 10, 2017 - July 9, 2017). The exhibition, organized by Meredith Fluke (Kemper Curator of Academic Programs) and Kimberly Cassibry, showcased sketches by the prolific and innovative Italian printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778). This blended learning project connected the Art Department, the Davis Museum, Special Collections, and the Blended Learning Initiative.

The creation of the website spanned two courses and two semesters. Students in Cassibry’s fall 2016 Roman Monuments seminar began by building the Piranesi in Rome website in Omeka. They also created an audio guide that explores the structures in Piranesi’s etchings. As Cassibry described, “One of the best ways to learn a topic is to teach it. I wanted my students to experience that kind of learning. I also liked the idea of producing a scholarly work that would outlive the seminar. The website gave us a shared goal, a broader audience, and a product that we can all continue to use.”

During the spring semester, students in Oliver’s Art of the European Enlightenment course expanded on the existing website. Their new additions focused on how the Roman monuments were understood by audiences in Piranesi’s own time. In Liza Oliver’s words, “This project required that my students engage with and build upon work done in a previous class. This was helpful in getting them to contextualize and think relationally about the 18th century. I would definitely consider the project a success.”