Elena Chernaya


The article deals with the exhibition “Piranesi. Before and After. Italy—Russia. XVIII–XXI Centuries” held at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow in autumn, 2016. The exhibition revealed a new scientific interest to the creative heritage of the architect.

The author of the article visited the exhibition. During the analysis of the exposition, she discovered a justification of the hypothesis on existence of a common visual language in architectural graphics of G. B. Piranesi. Through the case study of the series “Antique Vases, Candelabra, Tombstones, Tomb-Chests, Trivets, Braziers, and Ancient Carvings…” the author examines the hornbook of “spatial constructions” of the artist.

Piranesi creatively interpreted techniques of Andrea Palladio’s architectural graphics and introduced in them a “plasticity approach” peculiar for the art of theatrical scenery of his teacher Gіuseppe Valeriani. He created a system of contrasting structural arrangements where angular and front perspectives appeared to be alignment elements, visually connecting different sketch sheets of the series. Following this approach, a geometric arrangement of his engravings acquired new features different from those used in the Andrea Palladio’s “orthogonal approach” and form arrangement with the help of drawings and perspective geometry used by his contemporaries.

Multi-dimensional and multi-layered graphics is a composition technique typical of his engravings of other series, such as “Raccolta di varie vedute di Roma si antic ache moderna, intagliate la maggior parte dal celebre Giambattista Piranesi e da altri incisori” (“Collection of various views of Rome ancient and modern…”) (1752). The synthesis of “linear” and “plastic” approaches in arrangement of a composition, when different principles prevail at certain stages is one of the factors affecting formation of individual visualization in his work. To illustrate this fact, we looked at compositional sketches of his predecessors, like G. Valeriani and M. Ricci. Using the example of one of the engravings by Piranesi (series “Carceri” (“Prisons”)) we will show the process of forming the plastic composition.

In the process of compositional analysis of sketch sheets of the series “Antique Vases, Candelabra, Tombstones, Tomb-Chests, Trivets, Braziers, and Ancient Carvings…”, we for the first time proposed mechanisms for determining the compositional center in the “three-dimensional” system of G. B. Piranesi’s architectural graphics.


language of architectural graphics, composition, angular perspective, spatial constructions, drawing, orthogonal projections, geometric structure, image

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