Giovanni Battista Piranesi

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Giovanni Battista Piranesi
1720-1778
Decorative Shell Ornament
Pen and brown ink and wash, over black chalk, on laid paper.
9 11/16 x 7 1/4 inches (246 x 184 mm)
Bequest of Junius S. Morgan and gift of Henry S. Morgan.
1966.11:14
Provenance: 
Mrs. J.P. Morgan, New York; by descent to her sons Junius S. Morgan, Princeton and Paris (no mark, see Lugt 1536) and Henry S. Morgan, New York.
Bibliography: 

Stampfle, Felice. Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Drawings in the Pierpont Morgan Library. New York : Dover, 1978, no. 14, repr.

Notes: 

Watermark: Deer inside large scalloped oval.
This ornament and the adjacent wall panel are drawn on Venetian paper and in the style that Piranesi adopted when he visited his hometown in 1745. The purpose of this drawing is not clear. While it seems to be a scheme for some sort of lidded vessel--an urn or perhaps even a coffeepot--Piranesi had not yet started to produce decorative objects when he drew the sheet. In any case, in its mix of natural form and fantastic abstraction, the drawing demonstrates an approach to ornamental design that Piranesi would employ throughout his career.

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