Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720) was an Italian artist famous for his etchings of Roma and atmospheric “prisons” (Carceri d’Invenzione). He studied as an architect, under his uncle Matteo Lucchesi, who was Magistrato delle Acque, an established Venetian engineer.
His original cammini designs and furniture pieces, established Piranesi place as a versatile and resourceful designer. In 1776, he created his famous Piranesi Vase, which resides at the British Museum in London.
However his most incredible work is The Prisons (Carceri d’invenzione or ‘Imaginary Prisons’), a series of 16 prints that show enormous vaults and mighty machines. These later influenced Romantism and Surrelism. His visions took on fantastic labyrinthian structures, epic in volumes. They are described as capricci- ‘’whimsical aggregates of monumental architecture and ruin’’. The best way to see and understand the thought process of this grandeur is to enter his mind through an animation. Factum Arte las, produced 3D animation, directed by Gregoine Dupond from the 1761 edition of the Carneci. It’s an invitation to delve into the dark side of Piranesi’s imagination. It is based on sections, perspectives and vanishing points taken from each of the 16 etchings on display. The film is accompanied by Bach’s Cello Suite No2 and envelopes and captures the viewers.
It has been said that, although whimsical, the ideas were not without great potential. ‘’Piranesi’s capricious prisons could never stand up in reality. The architecture itself reveals it is impossible outside the invention, that is, the mind where the artist found the structures, for paradoxically what is imprisoned there is infinite’’ Adriano M., Venice 1971.
One of his major works was Trafeo o Sia Magnifica Colonna Calide (1174-1179) it originally included 21 plates, later new plates were added. This remains one of his most ambitious achievements on a colossal scale which to vie with grandiosity of the originals.
My favourite piece from the collection is Gilted Grotto Chair. If not for its grandiosity, then for the ever present gilded finish. Piranesi’s taste, is somewhere between Venetian capriccio and Roman imperial splendour. He had a profound influence on future generations of artists, architects, designers, decorators and film makers. Towards the close of his essay, Diverse Maviene a’adorne I cammini he makes a full plea for a new style of design, unconstrained by theory, simpered by nature and sanctioned by the past.
Diverse Maniere gave full rein to what he called ‘’that mad freedom of working according to whim’’ what we consider the luxury available within operational business targets, finances and time restrictions of the projects. All are necessary for completion and birth of the idea and paradoxically the very thing which kills true genius.
The exhibition took place from 25 Aprile 2012 – 09 Settembre 2012 Madrid, Caixa Forum
9 October 2012 – 6 January 2013 Barcelona