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C. K. Lidster
- Publié sur Amazon.com
This double-volume hardcover set, collecting 'The Complete Etchings' of the 18th century artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi, is another beautiful, remarkably affordable release from Taschen. Piranesi is one of the most renowned artists to make engraving/etching his chosen medium, and this comprehensive slip-cased set shows off both the genius of Piranesi and the stunning possibilities of a now dying, if not dead, art-form. Speaking personally, between the late Baroque and painters like Salvator Rosa (to whom Piranesi was compared to), and the Neo-classicism and Romanticism of the early 19th century, not much worth mentioning was being created in Europe. Except for some masterful vedute by Venetian artists like Canalletto and Tiepolo, the Rococo period was dominated by the decadent, soulless style for which it's named. The Renaissance and Baroque masters were gone, and Italy would never again be the center of European Art.
He is likely most famous for his 'Carceri d'invenzione', a sixteen print group depicting imaginary, sometimes slightly fantastic prisons. Justice and Law were still firmly anchored to Catholic dogma in the 1700's, and the penitentiaries were not concerned with rehabilitating criminals; instead they smaller versions of purgatory and hell. The pain one suffered on the rack was nothing compared to Satan's infernal machinations; but for a man still capable of redemption, torture was a warning, a taste of the eternal pain to come. In that spirit, Piranesi's 'Imaginary Prisons' can be seen as dreamlike, proto-surrealist imagery that captures the black essence of the 18th century prisons and dungeons.
Rome was his inspiration. It is his series of engravings on Roman architectural art, perfectly scaled and minutely detailed, that was perhaps his most important work, as well as his Roman vedute, or views. His drawings of temple ruins, sagging arches and broken edifices captured the sad, beautiful evidence of Rome's former glory to perfection in 'Le Antichità Romane de' tempo della prima Repubblica e dei primi imperatori' ("Roman Antiquities of the Time of the First Republic and the First Emperors") -- which is reprinted in its entirety. Piranesi spent years documenting Rome as it was in his lifetime; crumbling, collapsed, half-shattered and grown-over. Thousand-year-old ghosts still seem to inhabit this dead and broken Rome.
Beyond these unique projects, his gifts as an architectural designer are demonstrated in the hundreds of plates he executed of chimneypieces and vases, etc. If that doesn't sound too interesting, I have to concur. But when Piranesi was set loose on anything, it became a grand and daring experiment. Editor Luigi Ficacci provides an illuminating biography with historical context, and because this is Taschen, it's provided three times over... in different languages. I wish Taschen would just publish separate English, German, and French editions separately, but it's something they do to cut down on costs, and for the price, it's a decent compromise. Each volume is about 10.25"w x 12.25"h, and together are a total of 800 pages. Instead of the thick, glossy art-book pages everyone loves, the paper-stock is a medium matte-finish, light-weight but acid-free. It works quite well for this release, however, since it's reproducing monochromatic and black and white artwork. Highly recommended.