Giovanni Battista (also Giambattista) Piranesi (4 October 1720 – 9 November 1778) was an Italian artist famous for his etchings of Rome and of fictitious and atmospheric "prisons" (Carceri d'Invenzione).(....) The remains of Rome kindled Piranesi's enthusiasm. He was able to faithfully imitate the actual remains of a fabric; his invention in catching the design of the original architect provided the missing parts; his masterful skill at engraving introduced groups of vases, altars, tombs that were absent in reality; and his broad and scientific distribution of light and shade completed the picture, creating a striking effect from the whole view. Some of his later work was completed by his children and several pupils. Piranesi's son and coadjutor, Francesco, collected and preserved his plates, in which the freer lines of the etching-needle largely supplemented the severity of burin work. Twenty-nine folio volumes containing about 2000 prints appeared in Paris (1835–1837). The late Baroque works of Claude Lorrain, Salvatore Rosa, and others had featured romantic and fantastic depictions of ruins; in part as a memento mori or as a reminiscence of a golden age of construction. Piranesi's reproductions of real and recreated Roman ruins were a strong influence on Neoclassicism.
In his stunning series of prints called Imaginary Prisons, 18th-century Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi created haunting, expressive, and entirely fantastical architectural scenes. The large-scale etchings and engravings—with their cavernous, gloomy chambers and labyrinthine corridors and staircases filled with unreal machines, enormous chains, and contorted prisoners—allow for an investigation of the line between architectural observation and the imagination. Prints from Piranesi’s series Views of Rome likewise demonstrate his tremendous skill at rendering perspective and creating complex compositional environments. Even in views of known locations in Rome, Piranesi frequently elaborated, exaggerated, and added imaginary devices or dramatic figural vignettes. Additional works by Piranesi and by his contemporaries and followers reveal the broad context of his career and his legacy. A selection of dramatic photographs by Clyde Hare of Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County Courthouse, designed by renowned architect Henry Hobson Richardson, offer a striking parallel to Piranesi’s fantastic designs. It is just one local example of Piranesi’s continued relevance to a wide range of artists and practicing architects through the generations.
REFERENCE: Carnegie Museum of Art