Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Italian (1720 - 1778)
Giovanni Battista Piranesi An Imaginary Prison Unknown


Born 1720
Died 1778
Nationality Italian

The son of a stonemason, Piranesi was born near Mestre on the Venetian mainland. In his early years, he studied architecture, engineering, and stage design. He travelled to Rome in 1740 in the entourage of the Venetian ambassador to the Pope, and immersed himself in the study of the remains of the ancient city. Within a year Piranesi started producing etched views of Rome, and in 1743 he created his first major publication, the Prima Parte di Architettura. Following a brief return to Venice, he settled in Rome, where he remained for the rest of his life, although he continued to describe himself as an ‘architetto veneziano’ (Venetian architect). He was one of the most inventive and influential printmakers of the eighteenth century.

Glossary terms

  • The printmaking technique in which an image is inscribed on a copper plate with a tool that cuts a groove in the surface. This groove holds the ink that creates the print when it is applied to paper. Also refers to the method of making an incision on a material such as glass.

  • Derived from an element in classical architecture, it is used broadly to refer to any decorative horizontal band running along a wall or piece of furniture.