Sublime Ideas; Drawings by Giovanni Battista Piranesi
In a letter written near the end of his life, Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) explained to his sister that he had lived away from his native Venice because he could find no patrons there willing to support "the sublimity of my ideas." He resided instead in Rome, where he because internationally famous working as a printmaker, designer, architect, archaeologist, theorist, dealer, and polemicist.
While Piranesi's lasting fame is based above all on his etchings, he was also an intense, accomplished, and versatile draftsman, and much of his work was first developed in vigorous drawings. These studies include architectural caprices, archaeological investigations, measured design drawings, sketches for a range of decorative objects, a variety of figures drawings, and views of Rome and Pompeii.
Yet, few of his drawings are finished works, and virtually none matches exactly the final version of whatever print, object, or building for which it was preparatory or preliminary. Instead, we see in the drawings both the germination fo his sublime ideas and then their rigorous editing, a process in which Piranesi might take his start from a view of Rome, a fragment of ancient sculpture, or a bit of architectural theory before creating something with a Piranesian stamp all its own.
Discussing Piranesi’s drawings in both public and private collections worldwide, this publication presents a complete survey of Prianesi’s work as a draftsman, offering a new account of Pranesi’s life and work based on the evidence of his drawings.