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Piranesi’s Erasures

Piranesi’s Erasures

Stoppani, Teresa (2010) Piranesi’s Erasures. In: Art History and Visual Studies Research Seminar, 08 Dec 2010, School of Arts, Histories & Cultures. The University of Manchester. (Unpublished)

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The ancients did not have printing and so the knowledge of these ancient things was lost and by means of these etchings it will be possible to see what will be destroyed. The moderns have found things that are more important …" (Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Modena Sketchbooks, 1747-49)

For Giovanni Battista Piranesi one of the ‘more important’ things that the moderns invented is printing – and with it the reproducibility of drawings and architectural images. Etching offers a medium to record and divulge the knowledge of ancient and modern architecture, and will last, Piranesi argues, longer than the subjects of its representations. Etching opens also a new space for the architectural project, a space that, while it remains (apparently) untouched by use, change and life, continues to communicate the project through its multiple reproductions.

In Piranesi’s work, the power of the medium goes beyond documentation, invention, and reproduction, producing also the manifesto of a critical position in architecture. His etchings of ancient monuments and contemporary views of Rome challenge the young relationship between architecture and archaeology, take a critical position in the topical debate on architectural styles, and produce also a polemical visual commentary on the relationship between the architect and his clients and patrons.

Piranesi’s lines – meticulously drawn, precisely incised, lightly traced, nervously moving, smudged or erased – transform the copper plate of his etchings into a critical space. In this process the practice of erasure plays an important role in altering the image and repeatedly modifying its message, and combines removal with addition, scraping with deposit, to suggest (and indeed construct, in ink) a mutable and ideologically invested materiality in which the architectural project is redefined as a process of making and undoing.

Item Type: Conference or Conference Paper (Lecture)
Additional Information: [1] The Art History and Visual Studies Research Seminars were convened by Prof. Mark Crinson, professor of art history at the University of Manchester
Uncontrolled Keywords: architectural representation, etchings, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, architectural manifesto, antiquities of Rome
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
Pre-2014 Departments: School of Architecture, Design & Construction
School of Architecture, Design & Construction > Design Research Group
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Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:10

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