1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Piranesi, Giovanni Battista

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PIRANESI, GIOVANNI BATTISTA, Italian engraver of ancient architectural subjects. was born in the earlier half of the 18th century, and studied his art at Rome. The great remains of that city kindled his enthusiasm and demanded portrayal. His hand faithfully imitated the actual remains of a fabric; his invention, catching the design of the original architect, supplied the parts that were wanting; his skill introduced groups of vases, altars, tombs; and his broad and scientific distribution of light and shade completed the picture, and threw a striking effect over the whole. One engraving after another was executed with much brilliancy; and, as the work went on, the zeal of the artist only waxed stronger. In course of time it was found necessary to call in the aid of all his children and of several pupils. He did not, in fact, slacken in his exertions till his death in 1778.

The plates of Piranesi, in which the severity of burin work is largely supplemented by the freer lines of the etching-needle, were collected and preserved by his son and coadjutor Francesco. They were published, to the number of about 2000, in 29 vols. fol. (Paris, 1835–1837).