Description de l'Egypte

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Created by command of Napoleon Bonaparte, Description de l'Egypte was published in Paris beginning nearly 9 years after Napoleon's great scientific and military expedition to Egypt in 1798. Eventually spanning 23 volumes, the work directed the attention of the world to ancient Egypt and led to the modern study of its ancient history. It was the result of a collaboration between the general editor and a number of prominent scholars and scientists, artists and technicians - all of whom accompanied Napoleon's army on the expedition. Presented here are hand engraved copper plate engravings from this great work.


Piranesi, Giovanni Battista

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Giovanni Battista Piranesi was born in Mestre/Venice in 1720 and died in Rome in 1778. He was the most influential etcher of the 18th century and produced more than 1,000 etchings. Piranesi was the major artist in this medium between the times of Rembrandt and Goya as well as a trained architect, archaeologist, master designer and engraver. Piranesi's prints and drawings reveal his talent for combining dramatic perspectives and architectural fantasies.

During his early years, he studied stage design and intricate systems of perspective composition. His uncle, a designer and hydraulics engineer, taught him the art of drawing. When Piranesi was twenty he moved to Rome. For almost a year he was an apprentice in the studio of Guiseppe Vasi, his later colleague and rival, where he learned the art of engraving copper plates. He also studied painting with Tiepolo and Pannini. He began a careful study of the city's ancient monuments and proceeded to etch inventive views of them as well as the modern Roman structures, images that brought him great popularity. His masterful art and good business sense proved fruitful, for during the 18th century traveling became popular among the educated classes of Europe. Travelers to city of Rome discovered ancient treasures as well as Piranesi's renderings of them in print. Their sheer size was impressive as they were at least twice the size of his competitors’. The tourists therefore liked to buy his prints as a reminder of their journey.
Later he began a series of etchings of fantastic prison interiors. These imaginary prisons held a hypnotic fascination for later Romantic writers, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Edgar Allen Poe. The Imaginary Prisons (Carceri) have always been highly prized images.

In his next period, he created more than 200 views of Rome, culminating in the magisterial Veduta di Roma, now a collector's desire and increasingly rare. He then turned his attention to archaeological works, including Le Antichità Romane with similar works on Lake Albano, Cora and Pesto. These were followed by his theoretical and polemical works, including Della Magnificenza ed Architettura de Romani. In his final prolific stage, he etched almost 200 decorative antiquities, including his celebrated works on Cammini (chimneypieces) and the Vasi, Candelabri.

He enjoyed tremendous success throughout his life, leaving a legacy as one of the greatest etchers and printmakers in history. After Piranesi's death at the age of 58, his son Francesco took the plates to Paris and continued publishing his father's work between the years 1800 and 1807.British Museum

“Giovanni Battista Piranesi: The Complete Etchings” by John Wilton-Ely

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