Where’s the Party?
While Panini (1692-1765) lived and worked in Rome, his party is nowhere you could get to with a plane ticket – or even a ride in a time machine. Panini loved creating new, fantasy landscapes filled with monuments of the Classical – that is, ancient Greek and Roman – past.
But he didn’t exactly want to visit an earlier age. Instead, he would rearrange the crumbling monuments and overgrown buildings that surrounded him, to create strange landscapes of ruins. Known as vedute, these ‘view paintings’ presented backdrops for imagined Classical dramas, or simply chances for Panini to produce antique architectural scenes.
Who’s funding it?
A troop of young, 18th century gentlemen. Not all together, but as individual customers they’re they ones who’ve made it possible to throw the party in the first place. You see, Panini earned a large part of his living by producing his antique fantasies for young men on their Grand Tour. Like the most elaborate kind of postcard, Panini’s paintings were carried home and displayed for their beauty but also as souvenirs for these young men — the earliest modern tourists.
What should you get him for his birthday?
A Pinterest account.
He would probably have found the concept of this contemporary social media platform deeply appealing. I’m taking this idea in part from the fact that he produced two paintings – perhaps you could think of them as giant Pinboards – of the ancient and modern monuments of Rome.
In each painting he presents row upon stack of statues and buildings in a deeply sumptuous setting. No rooms like these ever existed – just as the self-curated spaces on Pinterest can never exist. But in throwing all these works together, Panini created, in a way, a beautiful new architectural body, distinctly his own.
Why should you go?
Because you and Panini probably have more in common than you think… If you’re reading this blog, and aren’t a particularly dogged revolutionary, you are probably open to the idea that Classical civilization gave us the most beautiful things and should be preserved. Now these aren’t necessarily true. But these are things that are often thought today — and they are distinctly 18th century ideas.
It was 18th century thinkers and writers who glorified the statuary of the Greeks and marveled at the architecture of the Romans. In fact, it was arguably in this century that art history itself was born in the figure of Joachim Winckelmann (1717-1768), who’s serious volumes glorified the statuary of Classical world.
And yet there’s something distinctly human about Panini’s efforts with his Classical backdrops. By adding figures, arranging the monuments to suite the needs of you, the viewer, even by preserving the fact that these monuments are ruins, Panini always puts a touch of reality in with the extraordinary.