Indiana University Bloomington IU Bloomington IUB


Inspired by the ruined grandeur of Rome and depressed by the mediocre quality of contemporary architecture, Piranesi launched a series of prints to challenge the builders of his own day.

This frontispiece to his portfolio of sixteen images presents the tumbled and overgrown remnants of a heroic past, visited by puny figures who attempt to read the lessons Piranesi found in the “speaking ruins.”

Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Italian, 1720–1778
Frontispiece from Part One of Architecture and Perspectives
Etching on paper
Image: 13 7/8 x 9 7/8 in. (35.2 x 25.1 cm); plate: 14 x 10 1/16 in. (35.6 x 25.6 cm); sheet: 20 5/16 x 15 7/16 in. (51.6 x 39.2 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Collection of Diether Thimme, 98.279.1