About Giovanni Baptista Piranesi
Address and work: Italy
Italian etcher, archaeologist, and architect, born in Venice but active for almost all his career in Rome, where he settled in 1740. In Venice he studied perspective and stage design and in Rome he achieved great popularity with his dramatically conceived etchings of the ancient and modern city- the Vedute- published from 1745 onwards. He often altered the scale of buildings to make them look even grander than they are in actuality – he conceived visions of Rome beyond what it boasted even in the meridian of its splendor and his work played a major role in shaping the popular mental image of the city. Piranesi produced numerous other plates of Roman antiquities and architectural details, by the age of forty he was famous throughout Rome and Europe. He was also known for a series of fantastic imaginary prisons. These highly original works were later claimed by the Surrealists as an anticipation of their principles. Although only one of Piranesi’s architectural designs was built (Sta Maria del Priorato, Rome, 1764-6), he was important as an architectural polemicist, most notably in his Della magnificenza ed architettura de’ Romani (1761), in which he championed the superiority of Roman architecture over Greek. Piranesi’s influence was felt not only by architects, but also by stage designers and painters but perhaps most of all on the literary mind. After his death in 1778, his etchings continued to be published and his son, Francesco Pietro; also a skilled artist, continued his work.