Giovanni Battista Piranesi

The Arch with a Shell Ornament

The Arch with a Shell Ornament by Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Artwork Detail

Over two decades of the mid-eighteenth century, the printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranesi produced a series of 16 monochrome prints entitled The Imaginary Prisons (Carceri d'invenzione). They depict imaginary architectural interiors with labyrinthine, machinery-filled spaces composed of interlocking vaults, staircases and tunnels,

evocative of ruins, archaeological excavations, and the penal institutions of dystopic authoritarian regimes, past and present.

Piranesi began the series in 1745, producing 14 untitled and unnumbered early states, which were published in 1750 by Giovanni 'Buzard' (Bouchard) under the title Invenzioni capric di carceri. A decade later the artist reworked the plates for a second edition, published in 1761, which included the more developed etchings which were now-numbered I–XVI (1–16) with two additional images (nos II and V).

The Arch with a Shell Ornament
Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Production date
etching, engraving and drypoint
405 x 548 mm
Credit line
Mackelvie Trust Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, purchased 2022
Accession no
No known copyright restrictions
International Art
Display status
Not on display

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