“Giovanni Battista Piranesi” at the National Library of Spain

The study and reasoned cataloging of the very rich collection of prints and books by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (Venice 1720-Rome 1778) conserved in the National Library of Spain, as well as a beautiful drawing for his Carceri series, is the aim of this exhibition.


Piramide di C Cestio © BNE


Since, in 1936, Enrique Lafuente Ferrari made the first and only inventory-catalog reasoned Piranesi fund in the BNE, with some subsequent reprint, has not returned to study one of the sets of books and prints to the most important etching that exist of the Venetian architect, engraver and theoretician.


“Giovanni Battista Piranesi”
7 May – 22 September, 2019
National Library of Spain
Paseo de Recoletos, 20-22,  Madrid


It is true that, both in Europe and in the USA, during the last fifty years, to mention only a recent past, exhibitions, studies, literary and poetic approaches, the anthologies of their texts, the reasoned catalogs of his engraved work and his drawings, as well as those of the collections of the same in different institutions and museums have known an extraordinary fortune. In Spain, since the end of the seventies, there have also been multiplied exhibitions, critical editions of his works and essays of different character and importance, although what is somewhat surprising – and that is why it is inexcusable and necessary – is that have carried out systematic and reasoned studies of the collections kept in different institutions, libraries and museums, with some meritorious exceptions.


Carcel X Interior prision dos garitas © BNE

Carcel XIII Interior fantastico © BNE


It is, in this sense, that the fund of the National Library of Spain, one of the most extraordinary preserved in Spain, together with that of the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando (knowing the importance of other backgrounds, many of them composed by the prints of the early nineteenth century, the work of his son Francesco Piranesi), can be studied and put into value in the light of the most recent bibliographical contributions on his work.


Veduta della vasta Fontana di Trevi © BNE

Veduta dell avanzo del Castello che predendo © BNE


More than an umpteenth exhibition about Piranesi, the proposed proposal wants to become also the reasoned and updated catalog of the extraordinary fund preserved in the BNE, fulfilling one of its main functions.


Vista del Canal Grande con Santa Maria della Salute © BNE

Fantasia arquitectonica © BNE


The fund is so rich that its reasoned study would turn it into a reference catalog: there are many variants, states and novelties that it contains. On the other hand, the exhibition of the Piranesi is enriched by the presence in the exhibition and in the catalog of collections of prints and engravings by other authors that greatly influenced the work of the Venetian architect and engraver, from the 16th to the 18th century, by Palladio , Duperac or Juvarra to Fischer von Erlach, Vasi, Tiepolo or Canaletto, among many others.


Dos magos y un nino © BNE

Campus Martius antiquae urbis Romae © BNE

Antichita Romane Opera © BNE

Antichita Romane Opera © BNE

Antichita Romane Opera © BNE

Veduta sul Monte Quirinale del Palazzo © BNE


There will be about three hundred engravings, mostly from the National Library of Spain, but also other drawings, objects, sculptures and canvases from other Spanish and Italian institutions.
One of the most attractive aspects for the public are, without a doubt, the series dedicated to his dreams and nightmares represented by the Carceri (1745-1750 and 1761), the Opere Varie (1750), Il Campo Marzio dell’Antica Rome (1762) ) or the Raccolta di disegni del Guercino (1764). Other works of the XVI and XVII centuries are also represented that helped our architect to build his image of Rome, from Pirro Ligorio to Overbek, from I. Silvestre to Falda, among others.


News source: National Library of Spain
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