Piranesi, Rome, and the Arts of Design | Part 1
Symposium: Piranesi, Rome, and the Arts of Design
March 30, 2013
Jeffrey L. Collins, Ph.D., Professor and Chair of Academic Programs, Bard Graduate Center
More is More: Piranesi and Design
Giambattista Piranesi is best known today as a printmaker. Yet in his lifetime, he routinely signed his plates—and clearly wished to be known—as an architect, a profession that in the eighteenth-century often embraced interior decoration and furnishing. As an architect-designer, Piranesi "invented" not just buildings but chairs, tables, clocks, coaches, vases, candelabra, tablewares, chimneypieces, wall ornaments, and even complete rooms. Many feature in this exhibition, some on paper (where they largely remained) and some brought to life for the first time in three dimensions. In their eclecticism, visual density, and even whimsy, these exuberant modern designs may challenge our idea of Piranesi as a neoclassicist devoted solely to an image of ancient grandeur. But what were the sources and inspirations for Piranesi's ideas, and how do they relate to prevailing eighteenth-century tastes? This lecture places Piranesi's design work in its cultural and conceptual context, asking how this seemingly marginal activity exemplified the artist's broader concerns and constituted, albeit secondhand, a central part of his legacy.