- Museum number
Fantastical façade of an antique building with two columns, heads and sphinxes
Pen and brown ink, brown wash, over red and black chalk
Verso: Arcaded colonnades
Pen and brown ink
- Production date
- 1765-1769 (circa)
Height: 666 millimetres
Width: 473 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- An unused drawing for one of the additional plates to the 'Parere su l'Architettura'. This treatise was published in 1765, as one of a trio of polemical works defending the supremacy of Roman over Greek architecture. Five additional plates were added a few years after, as they are signed Cavaliere Piranesi a title granted to him by the Pope in January 1767 (J. Wilton-Ely, 'Giovanni Battista Piranesi, the complete etchings', San Francisco, 1994, II, nos 810-14). Through study of Piranesi's list of works Robison deduced that the five plates were added in 1769 (see the Washington 1995-6 exhib. cat). The text of the 'Parere' takes the form of a dialogue between Protopiro, an advocate of rigorous Greek functionalism, and Piranesi's mouthpiece, Didascalco, who criticises the limitations of such an austere approach and argues in favour of greater creative licence. The new plates demonstrate in a superbly exaggerated fashion the wonderfully bizarre architecture that would result if Egyptian, Greek, Etruscan and Roman motifs were freely combined without thought for convention. In the present drawing the façade is encrusted with surface ornamentation, with unexpected uses of familiar motifs: such as the dolphins with entwined tails decorating the frieze below the pediment; the Sphinxes in volutes derived, as Wilton-Ely noted, from antique capitals in the Villa Borghese and in Robert Adam's collection (illustrated in his 'Della Magnificenza ed Architettura de'Romani, pl. XIII; J. Wilton-Ely, 'Giovanni Battista Piranesi, the complete etchings', San Francisco, 1994, II, no. 773).
Four preparatory drawings for the additional 'Parere' plates are known: for plate V in the Woodner Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington (1991.182.17); plates VI and VIII in the Kunstbibliothek, Berlin (S. Jacob, 'Italienische Zeichnungen der Kunstbibliothek Berlin', Berlin, 1975, nos. 869-70); and plate VII (ex-Christie's 4 July 1989, lot 104 and now David Tunick, New York). Another drawing in Berlin seems, like the present work, to be an unused idea for the series (Jacob, 1975, no. 867).
Lit.: E. Croft-Murray, in exhib. cat., BM, 'Giovanni Battista Piranesi', 1968, no. 147; J. Scott, 'Piranesi', New York and London, 1975, fig. 184; J.-F. Méjanès, in exhib. cat., Rome, Villa Medici, Dijon, Palais des États de Bourgogne and Paris, Hôtel de Sully, 'Piranèse et les Français', 1976, no. 152; J. Wilton-Ely, in exhib. cat., London, South Bank, 'Piranesi', 1978, no. 172
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1968 BM, 'Piranesi', no. 30
1972 BM, 'The Art of Drawing', no. 302
1976 May-Jun, Rome, Villa Medici, 'Piranesi and the French', no. 152
1976 Jul-Sept, Dijon, Musée des Beaux-Arts, 'Piranesi', no. 152
1976 Oct-Nov, Paris, Hotel de Sully, 'Piranesi', no. 152
1978 London, Hayward Gallery, 'Piranesi', no. 172
1978 Aug-Oct, Venice, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, 'Piranesi', no. 37
1990 Apr-Aug, BM, 'Treasures of P&D'
2003 May-July, Sth Bank Tour, Northumbria Univ Gall, Piranesi's Carceri
2003 July-Oct, Sth Bank Tour, York, City AG, Piranesi's Carceri
2003 Oct-Dec, Sth Bank Tour, Milton Keynes AG, Piranesi's Carceri
2003/4 Dec-Feb, Sth Bank Tour, Bath, Victoria AG, Piranesi's Carceri
2020 20 Feb-9 Aug, London, BM, 'Piranesi's drawings'.
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number