Imaginary Prisons

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Prisons (Carceri d'invenzione or Imaginary Prisons) is a series of 16 prints by the Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi in the 18th century. They depict enormous subterranean vaults with stairs and mighty machines.

The images influenced Romanticism and Surrealism. While the Vedutisti (or "view makers"), such as Canaletto and Bellotto, more often reveled in the beauty of the sunlit place, in Piranesi this vision takes on what from a modern perspective could be called a Kafkaesque distortion, seemingly erecting fantastic labyrinthine structures, epic in volume. They are capricci, whimsical aggregates of monumental architecture and ruin.

The series was started in 1745. The first state prints were published in 1750 and consisted of 14 etchings, untitled and unnumbered, with a sketch-like look. The original prints were 16" x 21". Piranesi reworked the drawings a decade later.[1] For the second publishing in 1761, all the etchings were reworked and numbered I–XVI (1–16). Numbers II and V were new etchings to the series. Numbers I to IX were all done in portrait format (vertical), while X to XVI were landscape format (horizontal+). Though untitled, their conventional titles are as follows:

First Edition (1750) Second Edition (1761) Descriptive title Text
Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - First Edition - 1750 - 01 - Title Plate.jpg Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - Second Edition - 1761 - 01 - Title Plate.jpg Title Plate 1st: ‘’INVENZIONE CAPRIC DI CARCERI ALL ACQUA FORTE DATTE IN LUCE DA GOVANI BOUCHARD IN ROMA MERCANTE AL CORSO

2nd ’’CARCERI D’INVENZIONE DI G. BATTISTA PIRANESI ARCHIT. VENE’’

(None) Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - Second Edition - 1761 - 02 - The Man on the Rack.jpg The Man on the Rack L BARE…ORAN
Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - First Edition - 1750 - 03 - The Round Tower.jpg Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - Second Edition - 1761 - 03 - The Round Tower.jpg The Round Tower
Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - First Edition - 1750 - 04 - The Grand Piazza.jpg Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - Second Edition - 1761 - 04 - The Grand Piazza.jpg The Grand Piazza
(None) Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - Second Edition - 1761 - 05 - The Lion Bas-Reliefs.jpg The Lion Bas-Reliefs
Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - First Edition - 1750 - 06 - The Smoking Fire.jpg Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - Second Edition - 1761 - 06 - The Smoking Fire.jpg The Smoking Fire
Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - First Edition - 1750 - 07 - The Drawbridge.jpg Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - Second Edition - 1761 - 07 - The Drawbridge.jpg The Drawbridge
Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - First Edition - 1750 - 08 - The Staircase with Trophies.jpg Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - Second Edition - 1761 - 08 - The Staircase with Trophies.jpg The Staircase with Trophies (Illegible)
Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - First Edition - 1750 - 09 - The Giant Wheel.jpg Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - Second Edition - 1761 - 09 - The Giant Wheel.jpg The Giant Wheel
Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - First Edition - 1750 - 10 - Prisoners on a Projecting Platform.jpg Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - Second Edition - 1761 - 10 - Prisoners on a Projecting Platform.jpg Prisoners on a Projecting Platform
Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - First Edition - 1750 - 11 - The Arch with a Shell Ornament.jpg Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - Second Edition - 1761 - 11 - The Arch with a Shell Ornament.jpg The Arch with a Shell Ornament
Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - First Edition - 1750 - 12 - The Sawhorse.jpg Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - Second Edition - 1761 - 12 - The Sawhorse.jpg The Sawhorse
Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - First Edition - 1750 - 13 - The Well.jpg Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - Second Edition - 1761 - 13 - The Well.jpg The Well
Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - First Edition - 1750 - 14 - The Gothic Arch.jpg Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - Second Edition - 1761 - 14 - The Gothic Arch.jpg The Gothic Arch
Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - First Edition - 1750 - 15 - The Pier with a Lamp.jpg Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - Second Edition - 1761 - 15 - The Pier with a Lamp.jpg The Pier with a Lamp
Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - First Edition - 1750 - 16 - The Pier with Chains.jpg Giovanni Battista Piranesi - Le Carceri d'Invenzione - Second Edition - 1761 - 16 - The Pier with Chains.jpg The Pier with Chains 2ND: AD TERROREM INCRESCEN AUDACIAE; IMPIETATI ET MALIS ARTIBUS; INFAMES CEIUS RUNFELICIS SUSPE

Legacy[edit]

Thomas De Quincey in Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1820) wrote the following:

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 ... 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) representing vast Gothic halls, on the floor of which stood all sorts of engines and machinery, wheels, cables, pulleys, levers, catapults, etc., etc., expressive of enormous power put forth, and resistance overcome. Creeping along the sides of the walls, you perceived a staircase; and upon it, groping 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.

In the second publishing, some of the illustrations appear to have been edited to contain (likely deliberate) impossible geometries.[2]

An in-depth analysis of Piranesi's Carceri was written by Marguerite Yourcenar in her Dark Brain of Piranesi: and Other Essays (1984). Further discussion of Piranesi and the Carceri can be found in The Mind and Art of Giovanni Battista Piranesi by John Wilton-Ely (1978). The style of Piranesi was imitated by twentieth-century forger Eric Hebborn.[citation needed]

Piranesi's dark and seemingly endless staircases and blocked passages prefigure M. C. Escher's images with endless stairs such as his 1960 lithograph Ascending and Descending, and are said to have inspired Edgar Allan Poe's story The Pit and the Pendulum.[3]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "BBC - Somerset - BBC Restoration man in Bath". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  2. ^ ""Piranesi's Carceri as Inconsistent"". The University of Adelaide -- Inconsistent Images. November 2007. Retrieved 2017-09-06.
  3. ^ Altdorfer, John. "Inside A Fantastical Mind". Carnegie Museums. Archived from the original on 6 July 2010. Retrieved 7 November 2015.