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St Peter’s from the Gianicolo

The Gianicolo (or Janiculum) towers above the city of Rome directly above the Trastevere district on the west side of the Tiber River. This hill offers fantastic views of the city and is a favourite destination for locals. That must have been the case for Escher as well, especially the park around the Villa Doria Pamphili. Here, in the largest public park in Rome, he was able to escape the noise and chaos of the city. It was less than a 30-minute walk from his home on Via Alessandro Poerio. He took pictures here and incorporated the view into his prints. One of them is St Peter’s [seen] from the Gianicolo [Rome], from February 1935.

As is usually the case with Escher, the print is a combination of fact and fiction. The wood engraving combines a parcelled farm landscape containing a solitary tree with a view of St. Peter’s and the surrounding buildings – an idealistic and tranquil image that has little to do with reality. Even back then, there were no clear views of the famous church and the view certainly did not include agricultural fields. The tree, which Escher contrasts beautifully with its surroundings by cutting a white line around it, must have been there, although it is unlikely that it could dominate the field of vision by itself. Escher took reality into his own hands, just as he does in the other print prominently featuring St. Peter’s: San Michele dei Frisoni.

Gianiculo, 17 March 1924
Jetta in the park at Villa Doria Pamphili, 7 April 1924
Gianicolo, 2 February 1924
Gianicolo, 2 February 1924

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