Brilliant Italian architect who became famous all over the world for his fantastic engravings
Giovanni Battista Piranesi became famous for the creation of many original etchings depicting monuments of ancient architecture. His work had a huge impact on adherents of neoclassicism and romanticism, and the fantastic etchings and prints created by the master still serve as a source of inspiration for new architectural projects. The artist’s biography is closely connected with Rome, in which he lived most of his life.
Giovanni Battista Piranesi left to descendants hundreds of unique drawings and drawings, which depicted the reconstructed ruins of ancient Roman buildings. His work is still used today as teaching aids in teaching architecture students at many prestigious European universities.
Biography of Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Giovanni Battista received his primary education not at school, but thanks to classes with his older brother Andrea. And his maternal uncle Matteo Lucchesi taught Giovanni the basics of architecture and engineering. Then the young Piranesi studied for several years with the famous architect Giovanni Scalfarotto and worked as an apprentice with Carlo Zucchi.
In 1740, Piranesi went to Rome, where there were many more opportunities for the aspiring artist to make a successful career than in his native Venice. Arriving in the capital of Italy, the 20-year-old boy got a job as a draftsman in the house of the Venetian ambassador Marco Foscarini and continued his study of architectural science with Giovanni Battista Nolli. And Giuseppe Vasi taught him the basics of engraving and instilled in him a love of ancient antique architecture. At the same time, Piranesi became interested in archaeological excavations, after which he repeatedly took part in search expeditions in various regions of Italy.
In 1743, Giovanni created the first part of the scientific work “Architectural Forms and Perspectives”, which collected 12 engravings depicting ancient Roman examples of architecture. Thanks to this work, the young artist gained fame in the architectural society of Italy and became its full member. But soon Piranesi had to return to Venice, as in Rome he could not find worthy customers and earn money.
He lived in his hometown for 4 years, during which time he met and became friends with the famous artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, who helped his young colleague to improve his engraving skills. In 1745 the famous “Fantastic Images of Dungeons” were published. Unlike most other printers, Piranesi depicted the ancient ruins in his book from an unusual perspective. He turned them into gloomy dungeons, supplemented with numerous staircases, galleries and arcades, as a result of which the readers were able to see the original architectural compositions created by the brilliant mind of the young artist.
In 1747, the master again left for Rome, where he lived until his death. He made a living creating engravings of the charming cityscapes of the Italian capital, which were in great demand not only among the locals, but also among many tourists. In addition, Giovanni periodically published voluminous books with dozens of his own engravings depicting altered antique masterpieces of architecture “graphic fantasies”. His work was in great demand among professional architects who did not hesitate to borrow original ideas from Piranesi when creating their projects.
In 1752, the artist married the daughter of a gardener of the influential Corsini family, Angela Pansini. In marriage, he had five children, and his son Francesco and daughter Laura subsequently continued their father’s work and became famous engravers. The 1760s was the peak of the heyday of Giovanni Piranesi’s career, when, in recognition of his merits, he became an honorary academician of the Guild of St. Luke and received the title of Knight of the Golden Spur from the Pope.
Until the end of his life, the brilliant Italian enjoyed great prestige among his colleagues, was engaged in archaeological excavations and published books. More than 700 original etchings of the master, printed in scientific works, have survived to this day. In a halo of glory and honor, Giovanni Battista Piranesi died on November 9, 1778 at the age of 58 in the capital of Italy, where he was buried with great honors.
The most famous works of Giovanni Battista Piranesi
The great artist left to posterity many wonderful masterpieces, which are still of great interest to professional architects and art connoisseurs. And yet, some of the most famous works of Giovanni Battista Piranesi include:
- Architectural Forms and Perspectives (1743) a collection of 12 tables, thanks to which Piranesi gained his first popularity. The unusual manner of depicting ancient ruins, invented by the author, pleased both ordinary readers and professional architects. And in numerous subsequent reprints, starting in 1751, 4 more tables were added.
- “Fantastic Images of Dungeons” (1745) is the most famous book of the master, which for many years was in great demand among the European cultural elite. In 1761 Piranesi published an extended second edition with numerous graphic additions.
- The Church of Santa Maria del Priorato (1764-1766) is the author’s only architectural masterpiece, commissioned by the Roman pontiff Clement XIII. This old Catholic church, which houses the tomb of the great artist, was built in the 10th century, but almost 800 years later it was completely rebuilt according to Piranesi’s design.
Giovanni Battista Piranesi is widely regarded as one of the greatest printers of all time. He forever immortalized for posterity a huge number of ancient architectural monuments and supplemented them with his own original ideas.