On this day in 1720 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, an outstanding artist of the Italian Neoclassicim, was born in Mogliano Veneto. He was a person with striking perception of the world that inspired his so-called ‘paper architecture’. A breathtaking scope of his talent can be expressed just in one quote of the artist: “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.” If you want to know more about Piranesi – visit the page with his biography here.
Thomas de Quincy managed to pen a very eloquent description of his impression from viewing Piranesi’s pieces in his Confessions of an English Opium Eater and Other Writings:
“Many years ago, when I was looking over Piranesi’s Antiquities of Rome, Mr. Coleridge, who was standing by, described to me a set of plates by that artist, called his Dreams, and which record the scenery of his own visions during the delirium of a fever. Some of them (I describe only from memory of Mr. Coleridge’s account) represented vast Gothic halls: on the floor of which stood all sorts of engines and machinery, wheels, cables, pulleys, levers, catapults, &c.&c. expressive of enormous power put forth and resistance overccome. Creeping his way upwards, was Piranesi himself: follow the stairs a little further, and you perceive it come to a sudden abrupt termination, without any balustrade, and allowing no step onwards to him who had reached the extremity, except into the depths below. Whatever is to become of poor Piranesi, you suppose, at least, that his labours must in some way terminate here. But raise your eyes, and behold a second flight of stairs still higher: on which again Piranesi is perceived, by this time standing on the very brink of the abyss. Again elevate your eye, and a still more aerial flight of stairs is beheld: and again is poor Piranesi busy on his aspiring labours: and so on, until the unnfinished stairs and Piranesi both are lost in the upper gloom of the hall.–With the same power of endless growth and self-reproduction did my architecture proceed in dreams. In the early stage of my malady, the splendours of my dreams were indeed chiefly architectural: and I beheld such pomp of cities and palaces as was never yet beheld by the waking eye, unless in the clouds. (Climates 65-66).”
Enjoy a selection of wonderful Piranesi’s works!
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