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Giovanni Battista Piranesi

(1720 Mogliano – 1778 Rome)

The Arch with a Shell Ornament. Etching, engraving, drypoint. 40.5 x 54.8 cm. Focillon 34; Robison 37 VI (of VII).

The first edition of the Carceri, published by Giovanni Bouchard in 1749–50, comprises fourteen etchings whose appearance is generally lighter and sketchier than in the subsequent states. Piranesi himself published a second edition of the suite some eleven years later with his name on the title plate. These impressions are generally darker and show dramatic chiaroscuro effects. Moreover Piranesi added two further etchings. The present composition belongs to the original nucleus of fourteen etchings. Its composition depicts a highly suggestive and spacious vaulted hall seen from a low vantage point. Tiny human figures emphasize the breathtaking dimensions of this imaginary architecture. The exuberant imaginative power and dramatic impact of Piranesis’s Carceri are unrivalled in 18th century European printmaking. A very fine, strong and contrasting impression with wide margins. An unobtrusive centre fold, minor soiling and ageing, otherwise in very good condition.

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