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The dream of classicism

  • On Show : a selection of 90 works 

  • Language : EN | FR | NL

  • Specifications : here

The master Italian etcher

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720 - 1778), also know as Giambattista,  is considered the last great exponent of the eighteenth century Venetian engraving.  In his youth he defined himself as a Venetian architect but once he moved to Rome he became famous for his engravings representing classical ruins and ancient monuments.  


Inspired initially by Marco Ricci’s ruined intuitions and assimilated the lesson of Tiepolo and Canaletto, Piranesi gradually transformed his style. His celebration of ancient Rome was also of a theoretical nature when, as opposed to Winckelmann’s neoclassicism, he placed the emphasis on the superiority of Roman art over the Greek one.  


Ancient Roman amphitheatres disintegrated by time, obelisks swallowed by greenery, fantastic and grotesque masks, aristocratic palaces flooded with  light, hallucinatory visions of dark and terrible prisons, ruins of spas, bridges and banks of the Tiber, constitute the inexhaustible themes of its extraordinary production of etchings.  


The exhibition presents two series of works dedicated to the Eternal City: Roman Antiquities (1756) and Views of Rome (1748-1778) in which Piranesi, through the skillful use of lights and shadows, has been able to celebrate the sense of monumental and artistic magnificence of ancient and modern Rome.  The exhibition ends with the famous Prisons of Invention (1761), impossible and obscure architectures that will influence Romanticism and Surrealism and that in the centuries-old flourish of different interpretations keep their inexhaustibility intact.


When I realized that in Rome most of the ancient monuments lay abandoned in the fields or in the gardens, or were used as quarries for new constructions, I decided to preserve the memory with my engravings. I therefore tried to put the greatest possible accuracy on it.  
Giambattista Piranesi 



  • PUBLIC: The exhibition is open to all the spectators: school, cultural and social associations, family and individual. The variety of devices allows multiple levels of content reading.  ​  

  • LANGUAGE: The exhibition is available in french, english and dutch and can presented in a trilingual, bilingual or unilingual version.  ​  

  • CONTENT: 24 original artefacts (owned by the Museum of Europe) 160 facsimiles (owned by The Museum of Europe) +100 original artefacts from different european museums (loan request necessary), contemporary artworks (option available to get a selection of 20 artworks), 3 animated maps, 12 historical testimonies.    

  • EXHIBITION SPACE : from 900 to 1500 m2

    «Europe and its Muslim legacies» is a civilization exihibition offering a general approach from a european perspective. However, the exhibition can be fully adapted to specific characteristics:  


    • Profile of the hosting venue  

    • Venue Layout  

    • Languages  

    • Artworks and artefacts chosen to promote local or national collections  

    • Content adaptation and focus on specific topics

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