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Sunday, 31 January 2010
ART SUNDAY - PIRANESI
“Self is the only prison that can ever bind the soul.” - Henry Van Dyke
For Art Sunday today, a flight of fancy or rather a descent into the dark imaginings of a whimsical artist. It is Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778). He was an Italian etcher, archaeologist and architect, born in Venice but active in Rome from 1740. He became famous for his poetic views of Rome, and his drawings of the fanciful reconstructions of antiquities. More original are his fantastic imaginary interiors. His Vedute (Views) is a series of 135 etchings of ancient and contemporary Rome, published from 1745 onwards, which established the popular mental image of the city, which even today we romantically adhere to.
His effects of scale conspired to make the buildings appear larger and grander. He also exaggerated the contrasts of light and shade to invest them with drama. The most remarkable etchings of his oeuvre are those of imaginary interiors, the Carceri d' Invenzione (Imaginary Prisons), a series of plates issued in 1749-50 and reworked in 1761.
Piranesi who believed in the supremacy of Roman over Greek architecture, an argument he propounded in his Della magnificenza ed architettura dei Romani (On the Magnificence of Roman Architecture, 1761). In his other major treatise, the Parere sull' architettura (Observations on Architecture, 1765), he advocated an imaginative use of antique Roman models to produce a new style of architecture. Only one building was ever erected to his designs, the rather ordinary church of S. Maria del Priorato, Rome (1764-6).
Piranesi's influence as an architect may have been negligible, but his romanticised views and imaginary interiors had a profound effect on stage designers, painters and even writers. In the 20th century his imaginary interiors have been admired by the Surrealists and provided source material for horror film set designers.
Here is his Carceri d'invenzione: Plate XI: The Arch with a Shell Ornament (Later State), 1749–50 and 1761 Etching on 18th-century laid paper 15 7/8 x 21 1/2 inches, Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia.
I have been blogging daily on this platform for several years now. It is surprising that I have persisted as the world is changing and "microblogging" is now the norm. I blog to amuse myself, make comment on current affairs, externalise some of my creativity, keep notes on things that interest me, learn something new and to surprise myself with things that I discover about this wonderful, and sometimes crazy, world we live in.
I sometimes get the impression that I am on a soapbox delivering a monologue, so your comments are welcome.