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Spectacular ‘Piranesi’ Collection of 135 Etchings Now at the Lilley Museum of Art at UNR

~By Norm Robins~

“Giovanni Piranesi” was born in 1720 in the Republic of Venice to a stonemason and master builder father and the sister of a renowned architect and engineer. He began work on the 135 etchings now in the Lilley collection in 1747. His works were known for their bold style, dynamic compositions, high contrast, and drama.

“Piranesi’s” family expected him to become an architect. Certainly, the Venetian architecture of the 18th Century influenced him. In some of his etchings, he even signed his name “Piranesi architect.” In 1745 at age twenty-five he moved to Rome never to leave. Between 1745 and 1747, when he started etching, he published no works of art. He spent the hiatus going around Rome observing people, vulgar and otherwise, temples, palaces, bridges, aqueducts, and all the interesting remnants of Roman history. He also studied the new construction and restoration going on around those crumbling ruins.

He married Angela Pasquini in 1753 and used his wife’s dowry to purchase an abundant supply of copper plates allowing him to continue his etching. In the next 35 years, he produced over a thousand large plates. He created and sold prints from those plates, making him a fortune. Some of his copper plates are used in Rome to this day.

Each individual piece is a masterwork. Taken altogether, the collection of 135 etchings is overwhelming. It takes up the entire first floor of the Museum.

As I looked at the work of “Giovanni Piranesi”, I found myself transported back in time in an unexpected way. The perfection of his work, combined with the honesty of the scene is genuinely awe-inspiring. There is a blending of beauty and wreckage that draws the viewer into an emotional conundrum when viewing “Piranesi’s” etchings.

~Dana Nollsch~

This enormous 135 etchings collection will be on view at the Lilley Museum at UNR from June 20, 2019, through September 26, 2019. From July 3 through August 21 free docent tours will be given each Wednesday at noon. No RSVP will be required.

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2 thoughts on “Spectacular ‘Piranesi’ Collection of 135 Etchings Now at the Lilley Museum of Art at UNR

  • Hanna R. Porter

    Enjoyed the show already. A rare opportunity to see Rome without
    leaving Reno-or to be inspired to see the city.
    Even a magnitude of images are sadly gone.
    Bring a magnifying glass to see all the details.

    • Dana Nollsch

      Good call on the magnifying glass..


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