Review of ‘Piranesi and the Temples of Paestum: Drawings From Sir John Soane’s Museum’ at the Morgan Library & Museum

March 24, 2015 9:20 PM

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Review of ‘Piranesi and the Temples of Paestum: Drawings From Sir John Soane’s Museum’ at the Morgan Library & Museum

Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, residence of the architect (1753-1837), comprises three adjoining 18th-century houses whose sober, contiguous exteriors belie fantastical interiors, notably the basement chambers crowded with archaeological relics and illuminated by rooftop skylights. Soane’s revolutionary multistory spaces with dramatic plays of light and shadow reflect the influence of the Italian artist, architect and antiquarian Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-78).

Piranesi’s etchings of architecture and imaginary architectural capricci are among the best-known works of 18th-century Italy, some initially produced to bolster his architectural ambitions to create a modern Rome that reflected a unified, harmonious tribute to historical glory. Ultimately thwarted ...

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