Earlier printed series created during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were designed to appeal to an educated audience interested in classical learning, with the informational texts written in Latin. By the eighteenth century, use of vernacular language in printed work was more prevalent, and Piranesi’s prints, although similarly didactic in tone, include text in Italian.
During the eighteenth century, it was expected that upper-class young men would visit sites in Europe to finish their education. As Greece was then part of the Ottoman Empire which presented difficulties for European travelers, Rome became the focus for easy access to sites and monuments related to ancient culture. The popularity of the so-called Grand Tour sparked the production of travel literature as well as printed illustrations of maps and monuments. This trend persisted through the nineteenth century, although travel patterns changed to attract female and middle-class travelers, and photography became a major way to document the travel experience.
In addition to changing populations of travelers, the focus of travel changed from that of building classical education (with a strong emphasis on texts) to an interest in experiencing and observing daily life and culture. This shift is reflected in the images created for travelers that featured a change in perspective and execution to capitalize on the interest of this new market.
Image: Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Italian, 1720–1778. Temple of Saturn with a Corner of the Arch of Septimius Severus in the Background from Vedute di Roma, 1748–-1780. Etching. Yale University Art Gallery. The Arthur Ross Collection. 2012.159.11.100