Explore the complete etchings of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, the 18th-century engraver famed for his architectural views of Rome and his imaginary prisons. In this edition, you’ll find all the extraordinary detail and fantasywith which Piranesi shaped not only the European image of Italy, but also an impressive artistic legacy, from Edgar Allan Poe to the moving staircases at Hogwarts.
Impossible staircases and startling ruins from Italy’s master engraver The most famous 18th-century copper engraver, Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778) made his name with etchings of ancient Rome. His startling, chiaroscuro images imbued the city’s archaeological ruins with drama and romance and became favorite souvenirs for the Grand Tourists who traveled Italy in pursuit of classical culture and education.
Today, Piranesi is renowned not just for shaping the European imagination of Rome, but also for his elaborate series of fanciful prisons, Carceri, which have influenced generations of creatives since, from the Surrealists to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Edgar Allan Poe, Jorge Luis Borges, and Franz Kafka.
Loosely based on contemporary stage sets rather than the actual dingy dungeons of Piranesi’s day, these intricate images defy architectural reality to play instead with perspective, lighting, and scale. Staircases exist on two planes simultaneously; vast, vaulted ceilings seem to soar up to the heavens; interior and exterior distinctions collapse. With a low viewpoint and small, fragile figures, the prison scenes become monstrous megacities of incarceration, celebrated to this day as masterworks of existentialist drama.
Luigi Ficacci studied art history in Rome under Giulio Carlo Argan. For many years, he was curator at the Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica in Rome and lectured at various Italian universities. From 2007 to 2015, he was Bologna’s general museum director (Soprintendente ai Beni Culturali); today he is general museum director in Lucca. The focal points of his research work are the issues raised by 17th and 18th century and contemporary Italian and European art.
Piranesi. The Complete Etchings Luigi Ficacci Hardcover, 25 x 34 cm, 3.80 kg, 788 pages ISBN 978-3-8365-8761-7 Multilingual Edition: English, French, German