What to derive in Piranesi's etchings

2024-06-15 @Arts

Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s (1720-78) half-architectural, half-phantasmagorical etchings aren’t unique across the Ultra-Baroque evolution, but among the more influential. Personally, I derive something harrowing, wit-disturbing in those abysms. It can haunt dreams.

I’d lately browsed a large-format book covering an impressive span of Piranesi’s work. Considering the unprecedented detail within those etchings, this form of browsing far beats the computer screen, where my eyes typically succumb to too much strain. One might argue it even beats the museum (if I ever make it to those galleries in Italy, London and wherever else), the book enabling a far calmer and less agitated user experience.

The all-encompassing realms of wide dimensions, distant exposure, distorted perspectives and allegory can fool the beholder into conceiving the whole motley as entirely convincing.

A deranged world juxtaposes realism, the grotesque and the surreal in painstaking minutiae. What Piranesi did not anticipate …

Prison chambers of gargantuan proportion unveil hanging cells and torture apparata that suggest more than depict.

The artifice of Roman ruins traces grandeur turned decadence.

Avarice and voluptuousness characterise all epochs of mankind.

Serpentine shapes, lions' heads, dolphin shaped smoke, heraldry, insignia, effigies and such or other symbolic ornamentations cunningly intermingle.

Contention of magnificent ports, bridges and canals; along with complex arches, basilicas, baths, theatres, piazzas, cisterns, temples, sarcophagus, statues, domes enveloped by domes, parasitical growth and tiny figures of ambiguous origin.

Upon a thorough inspection, multiple periods appear to coalesce within one canvas. Plain creepy at times.

Questions, comments? Connect.