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Seashells (Plate from Diverses maniere d' adornere i cammini)

Seashells (Plate from Diverses maniere d' adornere i cammini), 1769, Etching
Giovanni Battista Piranesi (Italian, 1720 – 1778)

Italian printmaker, draftsman and architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi was born in 1720 near Venice. At twenty years old, Piranesi went to Rome to work and study under architect and engraver Giuseppe Vasi. There, he learned etching and engraving techniques for which he is famous and gained an affinity for close studies of the city’s monuments. Shortly thereafter, he opened a workshop in Rome and created his first famous series of views of Rome. His detailed views quickly gained him notoriety and his studio became a stop for many undertaking the Grand Tour. The realism achieved in these works allows them to function almost as archaeological catalogs of ancient ruins.

This plate comes from a printing of Piranesi's 1769 publication on architectural ornamentation of chimneys in the Egyptian, Tuscan, and Grecian styles, Diverses maniere d' adornere i cammini. Piranesi writes of shells that "appear to be executed with admirable art and knowledge of architecture."