barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham


Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778)

The Grand Piazza, Plate IV from ‘The Prisons (Carceri)’

Rome, 1773

Etching with engraving

545 x 416 mm

 

Piranesi’s set of architectural fantasies, ‘The Prisons’, were first published in 1745, but he extensively reworked the plates before reusing them in the 1760s. This transformed the architectural, stage-like designs into a dramatic world of gloom and horror. Some of the plates feature instruments of torture, but here elements such as the spikes, the wheel and the chains create a more subtle image of terror, enhanced by the dramatic tonal contrasts employed by the great printmaker. The set of ‘The Prisons’ eventually comprised sixteen prints.

Purchased 2007 (No.2007.3)

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