XXXI. A. Pianta del Sepolcro di Alessandro Severo, situato fuori di Porta S. Giovanni… – Giovanni Battista Piranesi Prints
First Edition, published by Bouchard and Gravier, Rome 1756. Giovanni Battista Piranesi Prints
Piranesi spent his first few years in Rome measuring and sketching ancient architectural sites. The results of Piranesi’s comprehensive research were presented in the four volumes of the Antichità Romane (1756).
The Antichita illustrate the tombs along the Appian Way and similar areas outside the city.
While the tombs, their occupants and their builders are mostly unknown, these plates are among Piranesi’s most romantic views. His crumbling masonry given weight and grandeur by the low viewpoints. The strong light affects and the tiny figures of tourists, peasants, and goats.
Piranesi’s studies of the antiquities of Rome were one of the great archaeological works of its era, appealing both to the architects and designers of the day as well as to the students of the past.
While its influence spread across Europe, it was most eagerly studied in England, where it led in 1757 to Piranesi’s election as an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.
A fine, early, lifetime edition. Strong impressions on uncut sheets.
Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-78)
When Piranesi first arrived in Rome in 1740 there was an already established market for views of the city as Grand Tour souvenirs.
His Vedute however, executed from about 1748 until the end of his life transcended mere topographical accuracy and became a heroic and tragic vision to the power of Roman architecture.
Two aspects of Piranesi’s Venetian background were key to the enabling of this vision:
- his training in engineering and stone construction which helped engender an appreciation of the effects of massive masonry. In particular the poetic effect of ruins
- and his training in stage design which cultivated a sensitivity to effects of light and great skill in both linear and atmospheric perspective.
These architectonic/scenographic concerns found heightened and highly personal expression in Piranesi’s series of fantastic prison interiors. The Carceri d’Invenzione – which first appeared in the 1740’s.
Piranesi’s work as a designer is characterised by a highly imaginative eclecticism of style. A trait reflecting his belief in a creative attitude towards the use of antique sources.