Hello, I am Colin B. Bailey, Director of the Morgan Library and Museum, and I would like to welcome you to Sublime Ideas: Drawings by Giovanni Battista Piranesi. Among the greatest printmakers of the eighteenth century, Piranesi is best known today for his etchings of fantastic prisons, the Carceri, and for his views of Rome, which have been reprinted many times, and which still define the image of the Eternal City two centuries later. Yet, these print series—and indeed all of Piranesi’s works—rest on the foundation of his drawings. Whether producing a view of Rome, a study for one of his archaeological treatises, or the design for a marble chimneypiece, Piranesi first worked out his ideas with drawings, and it's in these working studies that we can perhaps best see the artist’s mind at work.

The Morgan Library & Museum is fortunate to hold the world’s most important collection of Piranesi’s drawings, well over 100 studies that represent around one fifth of his surviving sheets. They range in date from his earliest works to his final year, and they include virtually every type of drawing that he made. Very few of these, however, were independent works made for gift or sale. Instead, most remained in his studio until after his death, and one of the remarkable aspects of studying the drawings is to see how they were reworked and repurposed for multiple projects. This exhibition is thus designed not only to show the range of Piranesi’s inventions, but also to trace the path of paper through his busy studio.

As you move through the gallery, look for the audio symbols to discover commentary by John Marciari, the Morgan’s Charles W. Engelhard Curator of Drawings and Prints.

Thank you for joining us at the Morgan. We hope you enjoy your visit.