PIRANESI, THE UTOPIA FACTORY AT PALAZZO BRASCHI IN ROME
Giovan Battista Piranesi (1720-1778), one of the greatest engravers of any time, is on at the Museum of Rome (Palazzo Braschi) until October 15th, 2017.
About 200 important graphic works, organized in 16 sections, provide visitors with a complete and fascinating survey of the long career of this Venetian architect, who arrived in 1740 in Rome and fell in love with the archeological heritage of the Eternal City:
“When I saw in Rome how most of the remarks of ancient buildings lay scattered through gardens and ploughed fields, when they dwindled day by day…I resolved to preserve them by means of engravings. I have therefore drawn these ruins with all possible exquisiteness”.
He brought from Venice a solid education in architecture and engineering, as his father and uncle worked respectively as stone cutter and architect for public magistracies there. His brother, Angelo, was a monk and taught him Latin.
At the age of 20 Piranesi follows the new Venetian ambassador in Rome and probably installs himself at Palazzo Venezia.
Soon he gets in touch with the view painter Giovanni Paolo Pannini and with the Academy of France. He visits Naples with the Veneto sculptor Antonio Corradini.
By the mid1740s he starts etching the great Views of Rome, that he will continue to produce successfully over his long career, and together with the Carceri (the Prisons) were his bestselling works.
All along his artistic life he continued to study archaeology, producing accurate and visually impressive reproductions from the Antique. He was involved for instance in the representation of the complex underground structure of Ancient Rome.
On the other end, his visionary imagination and enormous skills gave life to imaginary landscape views and other creations, fruit of his fervent imagination, that ensured him a long-lasting international fame through the centuries, and inspired literature and cinema as well.
The exhibit dedicates an ‘immersive room’ to the famous series of Carceri (Prisons) where the 3D reproductions allow visitors to absorb the surreal, terrific, labyrinthine atmosphere that inspired Escher and Marguerite Yourcenar.
He built one single church, Santa Maria del Priorato in Rome, which eclectically combines Renaissance and Baroque elements, and was received by the experts with some criticism.
Besides his flourishing activity as engraver, in 1561 he started a very successful production of interior decorations, such as chimneys, vases and other objects, inspired to Egyptian, Etruscan, Roman and Chinese art.
Besides receiving important commissions from the Venetian Pope Clemens XIII (Carlo Rezzonico) he was well introduced in the cosmopolitan circle which rotated around the Grand Tour.
He became affiliated with the Freemasonry thanks to a British friend, Thomas Hollis.
In 1761 he published ‘On the Magnificence of Roman Architecture’, a polemical essay proclaiming the superiority of Roman civilization, and denying its Greek origins. The essay arose countless protests in an age that, thanks to Winckelmann, was in awe with the pureness of Greek Art.
The exhibit, very well designed and successfully using modern technology to help the visitor to get involved, allows visitors a complete survey of the art and personality of this great master.