Art Gallery of Alberta

PIRANESI’S PRISONS: Architecture of Mystery and Imagination
June 19-November 7, 2010


image credits [click to view]


Giovanni Battista Piranesi, The Drawbridge, 1761
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Photo © NGC



Organized by the National Gallery of Canada and the Art Gallery of Alberta.

In the summer of 2010, The National Gallery of Canada at the Art Gallery of Alberta features Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s haunting and dramatic images from the print series, Carceri d’invenzione (The Imaginary Prisons).

Freely invoking the grottoes and subterranean ruins of Rome’s ancient past, fourteen copper plate etchings of Piranesi’s first series were published in that city in 1749–1750 by Giovanni Bouchard as Invenzioni Capric di Carceri. In 1761, the artist himself published a second edition with an adjusted title and two additional plates. His mastery of the etching needle, with its fluid line and tonal effects, resulted in prints possessing a compelling atmospheric quality. The psychological atmosphere of these architectural fantasies has caught the imagination of many artists over succeeding centuries. Their menacing, exotic atmosphere inspired the 19th century Romantics, while the Surrealists of the 20th century admired their irrational portrayal of objects in space.

For this special exhibition, the AGA will be featuring the superb example of the second edition from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada, complemented by a selection of 5 impressions from the first edition, demonstrating how Piranesi dramatically re-worked many of the plates between subsequent printings.

Organized by the National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada at the Art Gallery of Alberta, with the support of Capital Powered Art; an exhibition series sponsored by Capital Power Corporation.

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