the marks of Piranesi

yesterday, we went to the Piranesi exhibition at the State Library of Victoria. his work was amazing! such fine detail in his etchings and prints. there were around 100 works on display, but i found that I was transfixed by the close-up detail of his mark making in the works. when he was younger, the prints were lighter and later in his life he ran his own printmaking business and developed darker, denser prints of imaginative buildings, street scenes and maps. the exhibition included his visions of Rome etchings. most of the buildings did not actually exist outside his mind and works — they are imaginary buildings and cities. he showed amazing skill with depth of vision, fine detail in the clouds and architectural designs and showing darkness and light in the images. Giovanni Battista Piranesi lived from 1720-1778. a statement reported by one of his early biographers, via his Met Museum article shows his love for imaginary architecture:

“I need to produce great ideas, and I believe that if I were commissioned to design a new universe, I would be mad enough to undertake it.”

I tried drawing some of the marks in my notebook but found the pen i was using didn’t give me enough variation in the lightness and darkness of the lines.

 

I bought a copy of the book to look more closely at his lines and marks later. I’m afraid i didn’t notice all of the individual pictures from far away – I was too busy concentrating on a few of them close up. his mark making style was similar for most of his earlier and later works, but the large map that was printed onto the foyer outside the exhibition is of a more modern, draftsman drawing style.

 

the article in the paper about the exhibition mentioned that most of Piranesi’s works are held by libraries, rather than galleries. this is an interesting comment – perhaps due to his printing background, his works are highly regarded by printed works specialists. architects also study his works.

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