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  • The Round Tower by Giovanni Battista Piranesi

The Round Tower by Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Sarah Sauvin (IFPDA)



Edition Size: Unknown

Image Size: 54.8 x 41.6 cm

Sheet Size: 74.5 x 52.8 cm

Reference: Robison 30, 4th state (of 6), 2nd edition (of 6), 3rd issue (of 4); Focillon 26; Hind 3.

Signed In Plate

Condition: Excellent

Details — Click to read

Etching, engraving, sulphur tint or open bite, burnishing, 548 x 416 mm. Robison 30, 4th state (of 6), 2nd edition (of 6), 3rd issue (of 4); Focillon 26; Hind 3.

Plate III of the Carceri d’Invenzione [Imaginary prisons] or Invenzioni capric. di carceri [Fanciful Images of Prisons] series.

Impression of the 4th state (of 6 according to Robison) with the Roman numeral and the reworks of the fourth state, including the fine diagonals added above the two darkened openings on the round tower, but before the additional work of the fifth state including the horizontals on the blocks of the foreground wall along the right edge.

Second edition, third issue: mid 1760s-early 1770s.

The second edition was published by Piranesi himself and comprises four successive issues in which Piranesi added Roman numerals and new work to the plates between 1761 and his death in 1778. This second edition was followed by four posthumous editions.

Very fine impression printed on heavy laid paper. Generally in excellent, fresh condition. Horizontal median crease due to an old album mount, very faintly visible on the front. Two small printing creases on the right and left edges of the sheet and an old number 3 inscribed in pen and ink in the upper right corner of the sheet. Thinning along the central crease on the reverse. Full margins (sheet: 745 x 528 mm).

Piranesi completely reworked his plate between the first and second state. In particular, he added a second bridge behind and under the bridge he had already etched in the first state, as well as a sort of cage in the left foreground. The shadows have been completely reworked and accentuated. These modifications reinforce the three-dimensionality of the plate.

Andrew Robison notes that ‘the general forms and arrangement of the composition are strongly reminiscent of Piranesi’s in the Prima parte [di Architetture e Prospettive]’ (Robison, p. 148). In fact, in both cases we find a circular architectural element (a colonnade in the case of the Tempio antico), included in a larger architecture and surrounded by a staircase where tiny figures are busy.

Reference: Andrew Robison: Piranesi. Early Architectural Fantasies, A catalogue Raisonné of the Etchings, 1986.

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The Artist

Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Giovanni Battista Piranesi was an Italian Classical archaeologist, architect, and artist, famous for his etchings of Rome and of fictitious and atmospheric “prisons”.

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