British Museum, London – Piranesi Drawings: visions of antiquity

This year is the 300th birthday of artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi (4 October 1720 – 9 November 1778), who was born in Treviso in the Republic of Venice and was brought up in Rome.

Basilica San Marco, Venice

His father worked as a stonemason – but Piranesi moved to Rome in 1740 to work as a draughtsman. He was able to live at Palazzo Venezia in Rome as draughtsman to the Venetian ambassador to Pope Benedict XIV.  The palazzo is situated in Piazza Venezia, adjacent to the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, in the heart of Rome.

He is generally known simply as Piranesi – and as a Neoclassical printmaker.

Palazzo Venezia, Rome (Image by Corti, Wikipedia)

He is also known for his etchings of Roman architecture and the interiors of prisons – some real, some imagined.  He also produced drawings of the ruins of Pompeii, which were discovered in 1748.

Piranesi opened a workshop on Via del Corso – the main thoroughfare that leads from Piazza Venezia to Piazza di Spagna – but he also visited Venice and fellow artists there from time to time.

To celebrate his 300th – and who wouldn’t want to mark such a milestone birthday? – the British Museum in London is throwing open a gallery full of his etchings in pen and chalk.

The exhibition Piranesi Drawings: visions of antiquity is free and runs from 20 February – 9 August 2020 in Room 90.

The museum’s opening hours are:

Daily: 10.00–17.30
Fridays: 10.00–20.30

More information about the exhibition Piranesi Drawings: visions of antiquity is available at the British Museum website

Buon viaggio!


The British Museum

Great Russell Street
London WC1B 3DG


Piranesi Colosseum
Featured image: The Colosseum, Rome 1757, By Giovanni Battista Piranesi – R.S. Johnson fine art, Public Domain, Wikipedia
The Colosseum from the Temple of Venus (Image A. Meredith 2018)



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