The Biography of Giovanni Battista Piranesi

  • Ilse Grasmeijer - Faculty of Economics and Business
  • Judith Heida - Faculty of Medicine
  • Wouter Taheij - Faculty of Arts

Giovanni Battista Piranesi [2]

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (Venice 1720 - Rome 1778) was an eighteenth century architect and printmaker famous for his Vedute di Roma (Views of Rome) and his Carceri (Imaginary Prisons).

Contents
1. Youth and Instruction
2. Early years
3. Etchings
4. Writing on architecture
5. Personal life and influence
Sources

1. Youth and Intruction


Piranesi was born a son to Angelo Piranesi (date of birth and death unknown), stone mason and master builder in a town close to Venice called Mogliano Veneto. His formal training as an architect began as a student of Matteo Lucchesi who was a brother of his mother. After an argument with an unknown cause Piranesi left and finished his study with the help of Giovanni Antonio Scalfarotto (c. 1700 - 1764), who learned him how to draw architectural studies. He later was trained by Scalfarotto's cousin Tommasso Temenza (1705 - 1789). Piranesi's first experience with etching came when he met the engraver Carlo Zucchi (1721 - 1805). He learned the young Piranesi how to draw perspective which would become very important.[1]


2. Early years


At the age of twenty Piranesi followed the Venetian envoy Marco Foscarini to the papal states to Rome. Here he came in to contact with Giuseppe Vasi (1710 - 1782). This engraver from Sicily played an important role in transferring the Vedute style from paintings to etchings. Piranesi was his pupil and learned the refined techniques of etching from Vasi. Piranesi left after an argument: he accused Vasi of holding back important etching techniques for him. In 1743 Piranesi returned to Venice, perhaps due to financial troubles. Here he was often to be found in the workshop of printmaker and painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1696 - 1770). Piranesi moved back to Rome in 1745 to open his own workshop.[3]


3. Etchings


Already in his days with Vasi, Piranesi made a few Vedute of Rome, which were published in a book by Vasi called Magnificenze di Roma antica e moderna. In 1745 Piranesi published a series of vedutine which are smaller scale vedute. These vedutine became popular to be used as touristic guides to the city of Rome by the foreigners on Grand Tour. From 1747 Piranesi abolished these small versions and began to work on larger etchings, often twice as big as the original vedutine. These etchings were detailed pictures of the ruins of antiquity present in Rome but included some etchings of modern buildings too. They were sold individually and thus they would become a major business for Piranesi. The prints were meant as an cheaper alternative for the painted vedute and by using certain techniques in his etchings Piranesi made sure he could print 4000 pieces from one etching plate. With that money he could afford to make now famous etchings are the Carceri d'invenzione. Since the beginning of his career as an engraver Piranesi worked on a series depicting architectural complicated prisons drawn from fantasy. The final prints appeared in 1761 with an addition of two etchings and the other 14 reworked to make them more detailed. Their style is dark and what we now would call Kafkaesque.[4]

Santa Maria del Priorato [7]

4. Writing on architecture


Printmaking was not Piranesi's only profession. As a trained architect, he also designed a few buildings and interiors in his life but this was more of an exception than daily work. A much bigger part of Piranesi's work are his writings on architecture and antique Rome which show his vision on architecture and furthermore his view on etching. These books were illustrated by Piranesi's prints. They often depict a Rome of centuries back, made up by a combination of archaeological research and Piranesi's imagination.[5]


5. Personal life and influence


In 1752 Piranesi married Angela Pasquini (date of birth and death unknown) and had five children with her. His son Francesco (1758/59 - 1810) would later carry on his legacy as a printer and engraver. Piranesi became a honorary fellow of the Society of Antiquarians in 1757 and was knighted by the Pope ten years later. Piranesi died in Rome in 1778 and was buried in the Santa Maria del Priorato, which was of his own design. His son Francesco would print and publish previously unpublished work of Piranesi after his death. Piranesi is said to had a new view on art and architecture especially on that of antique Rome. This would later influence what we now call neoclassicism. Already in his days, Piranesi was a well-known name in Europe. Some argue that with his imaginative prints Piranesi influenced 19th century Romanticism and even 20th century Surrealism and the drawings of M.C. Escher (18-98 - 1972).[6]



This page is a supplement to the main article Piranesi's Etchings of Modern Rome: Reasons for Constricting Unreality


Sources


  1. John Wilton-Ely (1978). The mind and art of Giovanni Battista Piranesi. (p9-10) London: Thames and Hudson
  2. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pietro_Labruzzi_portrait_of_Giovanni_Battista_Piranesi.jpgWikimedia Commons: File:Pietro Labruzzi portrait of Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Retrevied December 1 2014
  3. http://biography.yourdictionary.com/giovanni-battista-piranesi: Giovanni Battista Piranesi Facts. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27 2014
  4. http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/pira/hd_pira.htm: Thompson, Wendy. "Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720 - 1778)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. Retreived October 2014
  5. Hind, A. (1967). I. Biographical. In Giovanni Battista Piranesi; a critical study, with a list of his published works and detailed catalogues of the prisons and the views of Rome. (p. 1-3). New York: Da Capo Press.
  6. http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giovanni_Battista_Piranesi: Giovanni Battista Piranesi. (n.d.). Retrieved November 28, 2014
  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Maria_del_Priorato_ChurchWikipedia: Santa Maria del Priorato. Retrieved December 1 2014