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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

“Interior of the Pantheon, Rome” by Giovanni Paolo Panini

"Interior of the Pantheon, Rome" by Giovanni Paolo Panini

“Interior of the Pantheon, Rome” by Giovanni Paolo Panini

“Interior of the Pantheon, Rome” by Giovanni Paolo Panini depicts the interior of the famous and best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings, the Pantheon, which has been a prominent tourist attraction in Rome for hundreds of years. Built by Hadrian in 113–125 AD, this grand domed temple has survived structurally intact because it was consecration as a Christian church, “St. Mary and the Martyrs”, in 609 AD. Panini’s depiction style, in this painting,  was populated with foreign visitors and it featured a diverse mix of Romans and visitors from all parts of society who congregate in the Pantheon to pray and to admire the amazing architecture.

Panini exaggerated the perspective to provide a broader view of the interior than is possible from any single vantage point. The viewpoint is deep within the building, facing the entrance. The portals open to the colossal columns of the porch and a glimpse of the obelisk in the piazza before the church. Through the central opening, called the Oculus, to the sky in the centre of the dome, Panini revealed the bright blue sky flecked with clouds. Panini became famous in documenting with detailed skill and vibrancy the monuments and views of Rome.

Pantheon, Rome

The Pantheon (“temple of all the gods”) is an ancient Roman temple, now a church, in Rome. It was built on the site of an earlier temple, and it was completed by the emperor Hadrian and dedicated about 126 AD. Hadrian chose not to inscribe the new temple but rather to retain the inscription of the older temple, which had burned down.

The building is cylindrical with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43 metres (142 ft).

It is one of the best-preserved of all Ancient Roman buildings because it has been in continuous use throughout its history and, since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been in use as a church informally known as “Santa Maria Rotonda”. The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda.

The Pantheon’s large circular domed cella, with a conventional temple portico front, was unique in Roman architecture. Nevertheless, it became a standard example when classical styles were revived and have been copied many times by later architects. The form of the Pantheon can be seen in many buildings built in the 19th and 20th centuries, including numerous government and public buildings, city halls, universities, and libraries echo its portico-and-dome structure.

"Interior of the Pantheon, Rome" by Giovanni Paolo Panini

External view of the front of the Pantheon, Rome

Giovanni Paolo Panini

Giovanni Paolo Panini or Pannini (1691 – 1765) was a painter and architect who worked in Rome and is primarily known of his vedutisti (“view painters”). Among his most famous works is his view of the interior of the Pantheon, and his vedute—paintings of picture galleries containing views of Rome. Most of his works, especially those of ruins, have a fanciful and unreal embellishment characteristic of imagined architectural themes.

Panini’s style influenced other vedutisti, such as Antonio Joli, Canaletto and Bernardo Bellotto, who sought to meet the need of visitors for painted “postcards” depicting the Italian monuments and views. Some British landscape painters, such as Marlow, Skelton and Wright of Derby, also imitated his architectural depictions.

Interior of the Pantheon, Rome

  • Title:                Interior of the Pantheon, Rome
  • Artist:              Giovanni Paolo Panini
  • Year:                1734
  • Medium:         Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions:    Height: 1,280 mm (50.39 ″); Width: 990 mm (38.97 ″)
  • Museum:        National Gallery of Art, DC

Giovanni Paolo Panini

  • Name:            Giovanni Paolo Panini
  • Born:              1691, Piacenza, Duchy of Parma, Holy Roman Empire
  • Died:              1765 (aged 74), Rome, Papal States (now Italy)
  • Nationality:     Italian
  • Notable Works

Reflections

  • The Pantheon has influenced many government and public buildings in Western culture.

Explore the National Gallery of Art

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“Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.”
– Giotto di Bondone

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Photo Credit: 1) Giovanni Paolo Panini [Public domain] 2) Nono vlf [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]

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