Piranesi, Giovanni Battista (1720-1778)


Dramatic Views of Roman Ruins
by Giovanni Battista Piranesi
A selection of etchings from Vedute di Roma
Paris: circa 1830

Giovanni Battista Piranesi was an archaeologist, an architect and an engraver. With his sovereign mastery of graphic techniques and virtually superhuman powers of invention, he redefined the possibilities of the print medium as only Durer and Rembrandt had done before him. Generations after him would continue to imagine Ancient Rome as it is portrayed in his magnificent Vedute di Roma (Views of Rome), from which this selection of images originates. Piranesi’s oeuvre demonstrates the yearning for classical antiquity felt by an era which was looking back to Ancient Rome in search of its own lost greatness. At the same time, it reflects the dramatic intellectual changes taking place in Europe on the threshold of the modern era. These weathered ruins of ancient Rome reflect Piranesi's own interest in architecture. Born in Venice, the son of a stone mason, he moved to Rome in 1745 to establish his own printing workshop to produce his architectural drawings. These particular prints from the Vedute di Roma series, the Le Antichità Romane series, and others are exemplars of Piranesi's clean, crisp style and dramatic use of light and dark. Even when depicting the crumbling structures of antiquity, Piranesi imbued his etchings with a sense of vitality and timelessness. The Vedute di Roma and Le Antichità Romane series embody the reasons for which Piranesi has remained one of the most enduring, creative etchers and artists of all time. These views are evocative examples of Piranesi's finest work.