Exhibition | Piranesi’s Antiquity: Findings and Polemics

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on December 22, 2013

From the Wallraf-Richartz Museum:

Piranesis Antike: Befund und Polemik / Piranesi’s Antiquity: Findings and Polemics
Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne, 25 October 2013 — 26 January 2014

Plakat_Piranesi_web‘Rome or Athens?’ In the eighteenth century, this simple and yet so complex question was at the heart of a vehement dispute concerning the exemplary function of classical antiquity for contemporary art. One major advocate of Rome was the artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778). Over a period of about 30 years, he produced more than 130 large-format etchings with views of ancient and modern Rome, as well as of buildings from the immediate surroundings. These etchings were compiled into a self-contained series under the title Vedute di Roma. Piranesi uses dramatic perspectives, strong contrasts between light and dark, and gigantic enlargements of sections of ancient buildings in order to convince his contemporaries of the importance of classical Rome.

Some 20 of these fascinating works can now (25 October 2013 to 26 January 2014) be seen in Cologne at the Wallraf-Richartz Museum’s Department of Drawings and Prints under the title Piranesi’s Antiquity: Findings and Polemics.

One of the most versatile Italian artists of the eighteenth century, Piranesi still fascinates us today with his extensive œuvre. During his lifetime he produced more than 1,000 etchings and thus left us impressive witnesses of his age. In addition to his graphic work, Piranesi also wrote numerous theoretical treatises, defending Roman civilization against the claims of Greek culture. The exhibition in Cologne shows how, in the large-format Vedute or views of Rome, the multifarious and contradictory ways in which classical antiquity was appropriated by the eighteenth century are superimposed. Meticulous archaeological investigations stand alongside market-oriented production of prints, and a polemical debate on the true legacy of antiquity (Rome versus Athens). By selling his views of Rome to foreign visitors to the city, Piranesi made a fortune and became well known throughout Europe.

This exhibition is being held to mark the 625th anniversary of the foundation of Cologne University. Together with teachers and students of art history and classical archaeology, the works were selected and researched from among the holdings of the university archives. The archive has 46 views of Rome by Piranesi, an unusual wealth of material for a university collection. It is the result of a donation by the university’s first Professor of Greek Philology, Dr Joseph Kroll.

Information on the exhibition symposium is available here»

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