Dramatic Architectural Etchings of Roman Ruins are Featured in PIRANESI: THE GRANDEUR OF ANCIENT ROME

Exhibition at Penn Museum 17 March 2007 through 16 June 2007

The architectural remains of ancient Rome were a major source of inspiration to renowned 18th century Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi, whose remarkable etchings captured the melancholy splendor of “ruined Rome” as never before. Piranesi: The Grandeur of Ancient Rome, an exhibition of 60 of Piranesi’s etchings, original prints from the 18th century, comes to the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 3260 South Street in Philadelphia.

Considered one of the major artists of 18th century Italian etching, Piranesi (1720-1778) was born in Venice and educated to be an architect. At age 20 he learned the art of etching, and by age 23 he had published his first works. Piranesi spent most of his life in Rome, becoming an authority on Roman archaeology throughout Europe, and completing a prodigious corpus of more than 1,300 etchings—or about one plate every two weeks for 39 years.

The exhibition at Penn Museum features a number of works from his Vedute series, which featured 137 etchings of an ancient and a contemporary Rome, published in 1745. Especially popular among British visitors to Rome, this influential series of prints helped to shape a glorious romantic concept of the city, portraying Rome as the source of western culture and civilization.

Piranesi’s intent—to show the world the majesty of Roman architecture—was realized in numerous, often large-scale etchings of famous ancient sites. A superb technician, Piranesi combined a mastery of draftsmanship and perspective, a strong knowledge and love of Roman antiquities, a sense of drama and an epic imagination in his work, which frequently featured people dwarfed by their majestic environments. The exhibition includes engravings of Hadrian’s Villa in Tivoli, the ancient Roman Forum, the Temple of Hercules in Cori, the Pyramid Tomb of Caius Cestius, as well as many tombs, ancient amphitheaters, bridges, fountains and temples. Piranesi also created engravings of architectural fragments of friezes, capitals, columns, and ancient ornaments, and these too are represented in the exhibition.

Piranesi: The Grandeur of Ancient Rome complements Penn Museum’s own Mediterranean section galleries, Worlds Intertwined: Etruscans, Greeks, and Romans, a suite of long-term galleries that opened to the public in March of 2003. Worlds Intertwined features more than 1,000 ancient artifacts—including marble and bronze sculptures, jewelry, metalwork, mosaics, glass vessels, gold and silver coins, and pottery of exceptional artistic and historical renown.

Piranesi: The Grandeur of Ancient Rome is a traveling exhibition coordinated by Blair-Murrah, which offers traveling loan exhibition on a variety of historical and contemporary subjects each year to institutions world-wide.

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, located at 3260 South Streets on the Penn campus in Philadelphia, is dedicated to the study and understanding of human history and diversity. Founded in 1887, the Museum has sent more than 400 archaeological and anthropological expeditions to all the inhabited continents of the world. With an active exhibition schedule and educational programming for children and adults, the Museum offers the public an opportunity to share in the ongoing discovery of humankind's collective heritage. For general information, visitors may call (215) 898-4000, or visit the Museum’s award-winning website at http://www.penn.museum.


3260 South Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 898-4000


Tuesday-Sunday: 10:00am - 5:00pm
First Wednesdays: 10:00am - 8:00pm
Monday: CLOSED


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