Facade of an antique building with columns, heads and sphinxes. Pen and brown ink

Piranesi drawings
visions of antiquity


New dates to be announced

20 February 2020 – 10 January 2021

See full opening hours

Room 90


Step back in time at a landmark display of drawings by Neoclassicist printmaker Giovanni Battista Piranesi.

Celebrating the 300th anniversary of Piranesi's birth in 1720, this display presents the Museum's complete collection of his drawings, which is unique in being entirely by the master himself. From his grand depictions of ancient Rome, to his recordings of the newly-discovered ruins of Pompeii, Piranesi's fantastical drawings are compelling.

Born in Venice and raised in Rome, Piranesi is best known for highly-charged, atmospheric representations of antiquity in his etchings. His work as a printmaker, whether exploring Roman architecture or displaying flights of spatial fancy in the celebrated Carceri ('Prisons') series, has been the subject of numerous exhibitions. His work as a draughtsman, however, is much less explored – yet his drawing underpinned and nourished his flair with the etching needle.

The display also considers fascinating questions about his practice raised by new research: the relationship between drawings and prints, his evolving style as a draughtsman and the involvement of studio hands in his later works.

Explore the formidable quality of his pen and chalk studies and track his evolution as an artist at this stunning new display.