Piranesi's Imitation of the Classics
SCHOLARS HAVE sometimes defined classicism as a debate between copying and representation. Speaking of the French artist Nicolas Poussin, art historian Richard T. Neer claimed: "Copying is the death of art, because a Copy is not really a picture in Poussin's understanding of the term: lacking idealization or elevation, it is just the replication of Nature."1 For Poussin, the "most deplorable" example of this kind of copying is printmaking, considered here as the unthinking production of the original. 2 Poussin contrasts this to painting, which he claims has a literary and intellectual quality.
This book chapter is published as Nemiroff, J.M. Piranesi's Imitation of the Classics in Classicisms, edited by Larry F. Norman and Anne Leonard, 2017. Posted with permission.