Piranesi's Rome on display at the National Gallery of Umbria

From Sept. 30, 2022 to Jan. 8, 2023, the National Gallery of Umbria in Perugia will host the exhibition 'Giovanni Battista Piranesi in the Collections of the National Gallery of Umbria,' dedicated to views of Rome by the great Venetian artist.

From Sept. 30, 2022 to Jan. 8, 2023, the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria in Perugia is hosting the exhibitionGiovanni Battista Piranesi in the Collections of the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria. The exhibition, curated by Carla Scagliosi, head of the Gallery’s Modern and Contemporary Collections, celebrates the visionary genius of the great Venetian architect, engraver and theorist Giovanni Battista Piranesi (Mogliano Veneto, 1720 - Rome, 1778), through a selection of 70 etchings dedicated to the ancient and modern beauties of Rome and its surroundings taken from the two volumes of the Views of Rome, chosen among the most representative of his research path and his stylistic, formal and technical evolution.

No other work like the Views of Rome, in fact, accompanies Piranesi throughout his life and symbolically covers every aspect of his production, highlighting his extraordinary inventive, technical, and perspective skills, as well as the vast imagery underlying his archaeological and antiquarian, as well as visionary and fantastic, “obsessions.” We are thus able to appreciate the pictorial characteristics of the views, with the broad palette of blacks and grays that demonstrates the perfect mastery of the etching technique, as well as to grasp Piranesi’s increasingly evident interest in antiquity and antiquarian research, which gradually became an increasingly predominant subject of the plates, so much so that the artist went as far as Villa Adriana, to which he would have liked to dedicate an entire work that has remained only a wish.

The Views would shape and hand down for centuries the appearance of a Rome filtered through the author’s genius and spread its fame throughout Europe. The city, caught in its melancholy decline and dazzling coexistence of present and past, with its cyclopean ancient monuments and grandiose, magniloquent, modern architecture, populated by tiny, frenetic and anonymous presences, condenses all the characteristics that distinguish great modern capitals, through the anticipatory vision of an artist who claims the fundamental role of “license” and imagination in the creation of an art that reflects his own era.

The exhibition is completed with a video installation featuring the 3D animated film Piranesi, Carceri d’Invenzione 300 anni made by artist and designer Grégoire Dupond with music by composer, musician and sound designer Teho Teardo, commissioned by GNU and presented in October 2020 on the occasion of the third centenary of the artist’s birth.

The film, dedicated to one of the most emblematic masterpieces of Piranesi’s entire production, the Carceri d’Invenzione, allows us to explore through new technologies the spaces created by Piranesi’s “black mind,” traversing them and accessing them with our gaze through openings and windows, thus amplifying the feelings of bewilderment and claustrophobia generated by the vision of this labyrinthine succession of stairs, heights, towers, bridges, and suspended elements.

For the occasion, the seventh volume of the series “Quaderni della Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria,” published by Aguaplano Libri, will be published, dedicated to the Perugian collection of Piranesi engravings, of which a limited edition has also been produced, to which is coupled the 7-inch vinyl record The Ghost of Piranesi, with the original music composed by Teho Teardo for the animated film Piranesi, Carceri d’Invenzione 300 anni.

Scheduled for 2020 and then postponed due to the pandemic emergency, the exhibition dedicated to Giovanni Battista Piranesi on the occasion of the third centenary of his birth (1720-2020) marks an important milestone in the Piranesi Project launched in recent years by the National Gallery of Umbria. In fact, in the two-year period 2018-2020, the Perugia museum promoted a major restoration campaign of works on paper from its collections, including the approximately 140 engravings collected in the two volumes of the famous Views of Rome drawn and engraved by Giambattista Piranesi, a Venetian architect, for the purposes of knowledge, conservation and enhancement of the museum’s heritage and the works kept in its deposits.

The delicate restoration has restored the perfect legibility of the engravings and initiated their digitization and entry into the vast digital archive of the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, as well as the study and research project on Piranesi’s works preserved in the Gallery, which also include the volume Antichità d’Albano e di Castel Gandolfo descritte ed incise da Giovambattista Piranesi, whose plates will be the subject of a forthcoming conservation campaign.

The exhibition can be visited during museum opening hours (in September and October Mondays from 12 to 7:30 p.m., Tuesdays to Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; in November, December and January closed Mondays, Tuesdays to Sundays from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.). Last admission one hour before closing. Closed December 25 and January 1. For information visit www.gallerianazionaledellumbria.it

Image: Giovanni Battista Piranesi, View of the Colosseum (etching on copper with burin interventions; Perugia, Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, inv. 1704)

Piranesi's Rome on display at the National Gallery of Umbria
Piranesi's Rome on display at the National Gallery of Umbria

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