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Work Architectural Caprice with the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and the Forum of Trajan

Department of Prints and Drawings: 18th century

Caprice d'architecture avec le Panthéon, le Colisée, le forum de Trajan

Prints and Drawings
18th century

Mancini Federica

Giovanni Paolo Panini resided in Rome from 1711 on: the Eternal City with its history and ancient buildings inspired him to produce some of his most brilliant drawings depicting imaginary views. His compositions illustrated rearranged landscapes, in which the sculptural and architectural elements were real but were reconfigured in an imaginary way, as is the case in the drawing on display in the Louvre.

A Primer to Ancient Rome

The imaginary composition in the Louvre shows some of the most famous historic buildings in Rome: in a dreamlike atmosphere, a group of figures is depicted among the ruins. On the left, there is a temple ornamented with the frieze of lions from the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, while on the right the statue of Hercules fighting with the Hydra can be ascribed solely to the artist's imagination. In the background, major buildings have been grouped together in a subjective arrangement: the Column of Marcus Aurelius is located between the Pantheon on the left and the Colosseum on the right.

Organized fantasy

The presence of figures has made it possible to establish a "terminus post quem" for the drawing: there is evidence of a preliminary study for the leaning figure (Berlin, Kupferstichkabinett) dated between 1736 and 1740. The general composition was repeated in other drawings, now in museum collections in Berlin and in the Albertina Museum in Vienna (1762), a sign of its success as well as of the careful preparation that went into it, for it is not in the least bit improvised.

The ruins of the Roman empire

Due to his "vedute" (views) and his Roman Ruins, Panini contributed to the growth of knowledge about Roman antiquities and to the development of an interest in archeology at an international level. He formed part of a widespread Italian tradition which, since the sixteenth century, had been consolidated in the work of artists like the Codazzis and Ghisolfi. Although he became famous during his own lifetime for his pictures and drawings, a distinction needs to be made between the two genres, notably in terms of the perspective in the views portrayed. As in the Louvre drawing, the viewer's attention is drawn to the meticulously depicted architectural detail of historic buildings in an atmosphere which, due to the technique utilized, is clearly defined, whereas the horizons are more extensive in the wider canvases of the pictures.


Loisel C., Le Paysage en Europe du XVIe au XVIIIe siècle, Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1990, notice : 146,
Kiene M., Giovanni Paolo Pannini, Editions de la Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1992-1993, notice 46

Technical description

  • Giovanni Paolo PANINI

    Architectural Caprice with the Pantheon, the Colosseum, and the Forum of Trajan

    After 1736-40

  • Pen and brown ink, brown wash and watercolor over traces of black chalk.

    H.: 25.2 cm. ; W. : 35.7 cm.

  • Saint Morys collection (1743-95); Distraint upon émigré goods, 1793.

    INV 6723

  • Prints and Drawings

    Due to their fragility, works on paper are not on permanent display in the museum.

Practical information

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Musée du Louvre, 75058 Paris - France
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Additional information about the work

In the centre "J.P. Pannini"