Piranesi: Complete Etchings Paperback – 26 May 2000
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"Piranesi was as savage as Salvator Rosa, fierce as Michelangelo, and exuberant as Rubens... he has imagined scenes that would startle geometry and exhaust the Indies to realize." --Horace Walpole" --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Luigi Ficacci studied Art History in Rome under Guilio Carlo Argan. He is curator at the Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica in Rome and lectures at different Italian universities. The focal points of his research work are the issues raised by 17th and 18th century and contemporary Italian art. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
Piranesi's etchings (which I love) are moody and atmospheric. I was hoping for a book which captured the force of the originals. Here, Taschen have printed as many of the etchings as humanly possible in a book which is, though thick, not very large. The result is that the prints are crammed in, too small, and one can neither see the detail nor appreciate the impact of the whole. I am short-sighted and don't have any difficulties with fine print; anyone with the long sight of age would probably want a magnifying glass.
There is nothing wrong with the scholarly text, but the fact that each page is printed in three languages (as is each caption) means there is not as much of it as there first seems, and again the print is small and rather faint. In all honesty it never claims to be more than an introduction.
If you are a student or scholar, looking for a reference collection of the etchings at a modest price, then this is the book for you. As an artist, I found it unsatisfactory and, ultimately, too frustrating.
With previous reviewers posts are a bit harsh the book I have is more than worth the money paid for and excellent value especially for it contents rarely do you get a book that has a volume of Piranesi work and how refreshing seeing the works again after a year ago seeing the work up close I seen them at Edinbrugh National Gallery so it the reasion I gave full stairs the book should be one the books that all artist should be proud to be on the bookselves along with there other influnces
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The Venetian Piranesi (1720-1778) prided himself on being an architect attributing to his profession the power to revolutionize the world, but oddly he never got the opportunity to build anything. Instead he developed an almost unparalleled mastery of the art of engraving and became an active archaeologist, a zealot defending the claim of Roman antiquity's architectural superiority to that of (a.o.) ancient Greece. He never realized his artistic ambitons : restoring Rome with architecture worthy of its ancient glory. Instead he had to economically support himself by publishing and selling an amazing amount of etchings.
The series he is most known for in our time are on the one hand the "Carceri", a set of darkly haunting fantastic prison scenes that plays with perspective in a way that preludes the work of Escher. On the other hand there are the "Vedute di Roma" : breathtakingly executed sights of Rome that exemplify Piranesi's vision of a dilapidated Rome at the same time in awe of and suffocated by its architectural heritage.
There is however far more to Piranesi's art, as is abundantly shown in these "Complete Etchings". Over a thousand etchings are grouped in this delightful book and they show the staggering breadth and depth of the artist's interests and ambitions. The reproductions are simply marvelous : shown on a cream coloured background the artwork is reproduced with a stunning clarity and sharpness. No postage stamp size plates in this edition (as in so many other ghastly illustrated "Complete Works" endeavours) : maximum two etchings are reproduced per page allowing the reader to fully savour the manic detail of these graphic jewels.
Moreover this publication offers, apart from a short biography, a delightful index of all of Piranesi's subject matters. This allows the reader to easily look up the different treatments of a single building throughout the artist's career. This provides some fascinating insights. Take for instance the Roman Pantheon - a subject that Piranesi has treated no less than nine times : seven times he gives a fairly accurate contemporary picture of the building, once he shows it in its full original splendour and once - in the "Vedute" series - the stage set designer completely takes over from the conscientious documentalist and we get a view of the building's pronaos that is such an exuberant exaggeration of the temple's actual proportions that the human figures seem like ants dwarfed by the dark and looming columns of the building. Fascinating...
Is there nothing negative to be said about this edition ? Well, yes, of course, but given the splendid value for money this book provides you with, all criticism looks a bit like nitpicking. Still, here goes.
I would have liked a bit more detail in the biography written by L.Ficacci, especially about the nature of the intellectual debate Piranesi was so involved in and how he was perceived by his conteporaries - not just his competitors in the engraving business, but by the different factions of scholars participating in the debate. The reason why he never got a real architect's commission is also something that is tantalizingly avoided in this text (although I can imagine that patrons would have shied away after one look at the architectrual fantasies he put on paper : they make the stage sets of Cecil B.DeMille look subdued...).
Another point of criticism is that this book lets us see the eye of the artist, but fails to let us hear his voice. The author points out that the etchings were often not separate works of art but were published together with texts that intensively referred to the prints. However, not a single example of Piranesi's writings is offered in the entire book and that is a pity.
Finally, leafing through this book one often wonders which of the buildings in the etchings have survived to this day and which ones have not, when have they disappeared, where was their exact location and what have they been replaced with ? No answers are offered here. We'll just have to wait for somebody else to make an architectural guide for Rome based on Piranesi's artwork.
Forget the last three alineas and rush out to buy this book. It offers a unique opportunity to get to an in-depth knowledge of the work of one of the most fascinating 18th century Italian artists. The plates, with their seemingly endless detail will provide you with hours of visual delight.
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