“I need to produce great ideas, and I believe that if I were commissioned to design a new universe, I would be mad enough to undertake it.” states Piranesi (The Met, 2017).
Imaginary Prisons (1745) are interesting because of the technique employed within their creation and the composition within. Piranesi has created vast spaces of Roman and Baroque ruins drawn in an exaggerated scale and using a perspective that has been manipulated. His intention being to create a piece that is claustrophobic to view.
Imaginary Prisons began as a series of 14 etchings and were reworked a decade later when deeper shadows and items of torture were added with the intention of making what was already sinister more so. The subsequent 16 works served to demonstrate Piranesi was an accomplished architect and an inspired fantasist. It’s obvious Piranesi has an understanding of architecture (his father was a stonemason and master builder) and a tendency for the extreme.
I’m drawn to Imaginary Prisons because, as Belgium writer Marguerite Yourcenar writes: “negation of time, incoherence of space, suggested levitation, intoxication of the impossible reconciled or transcended” (Yourcenar, 1984). Marguerite goes on to relay these factors are the same as dreams, or nightmares. They certainly create anxieties for the viewer due to the labyrinth and the overall effect of the work is both immense and ambiguous.
THE MET (2017) Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778) [Online] Available at: https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/pira/hd_pira.htm [Accessed 20/11/17]
YOURCENAR, M. (1984) The Dark Brain of Piranesi and Other Essays New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ITALIAN WAYS (2017) Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s “Imaginary Prisons” [Online] Available at http://www.italianways.com/piranesis-imaginary-prisons/ [Accessed Nov / Dec 2017]
Images – Imaginary Prisons.