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  • [Prints and Drawings Exhibition]
  • The Prisons by Giovanni Battista Piranesi
  • Tuesday 6 March – Sunday 20 May 2012
  • Prints and Drawings Gallery, NMWA

    Organized by:The National Museum of Western Art

    In academic cooperation with :Musée de Valence

Giovanni Battista Piranesi was a major 18th century Italian print artist. The Prisons [Carceri d'invenzione], a series of prints, are amongst his most famous works. Amidst the rise of Romanticism at the beginning of the 19th century, this series stimulated the imaginations of a number of writers. In the intervening decades and centuries, this series has continued to exert an influence in architecture, literature and film, as well as fine art.

As indicated by its title, this series presents various views of prisons. But these images are not depictions of actual prisons; rather they are images of a fantastic, imaginary world. Giant pillars, beams, chains and torture implements, along with prisoners, are depicted amongst bold compositions made up of powerful lines.

The NMWA collection includes a set of the first state of the Prisons, along with the second state, which involved considerable reworking of the first, plus two additional prints. The second state was made by Piranesi in 1761, the year in which he established his own printing studio, and is characterized by its stronger light-dark contrast and its more dramatic impression. Piranesi sought the full expressive range of the print in this series, at times going so far as to use his own finger and the palm of his hand to achieve desired results.

This exhibition presents approximately 30 works from both the first and second states, allowing visitors a chance to compare the two states and the changes in Piranesi's conception of the prints. We hope that you will enjoy these many prints with their powerful impact.


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