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Print, Carceri Series, Plate XIV

This is a Print. It was created by Giovanni Battista Piranesi and printed by Francesco Piranesi. It is dated 1745 and we acquired it in 1959. Its medium is etching on white laid paper. It is a part of the Drawings, Prints, and Graphic Design department.

This etching is a second state from Plate 14 from Carceri d'Invenzioni, a series of imaginary prison interiors designed by the Roman architect, designer, and print maker, Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720- 1778). This print explores the limits of the medium of etching, the technique of printmaking, and the visual and spatial limits of architectural experience itself. The etching displays a nightmarish network of arches, vaults, bridges, ramps, balconies and catwalks. Minute figures climb the infinitely recessing stairs and the endless labyrinth of machinery reduces the architectural interior to pure masonry. The Carceri is linked to Piranesi’s formative training in stage designing, as prison scenes were common in early eighteenth-century stage sets. The Carceri was first issued around 1745 but Piranesi returned to the plates in 1760, repeating echint process 10-12 times on each plante to rework their tonal contrasts. They has been interpreted as a prime example of Edmund Burke’s ideal of the sublime and this paradigm of decay, concrete and massivenss is present in his other works. This is an influential work in its afterlife as artists and writers from ranging from Joseph Mallord William Turner, Edgar Allen Poe, Victor Hugo, Sergei Eisenstein and Peter Weiss both cited Piranesi’s Carceri series as points of inspiration.

This object was featured in our Object of the Week series in a post titled The Interior of Nightmares.

This object was donated by Mrs. Gertrude W. Lewis. It is credited Gift of Gertrude W. Lewis.

Its dimensions are

53.6 x 62.5 cm (21 1/8 x 24 5/8 in.)

It has the following markings

Upper right in palte: XIV

It is signed

Lower Left in plate: Piranesi, F.

Cite this object as

Print, Carceri Series, Plate XIV; Giovanni Battista Piranesi (Italian, 1720–1778); Italy; etching on white laid paper; 53.6 x 62.5 cm (21 1/8 x 24 5/8 in.); Gift of Gertrude W. Lewis; 1959-182-12

This object was previously on display as a part of the exhibition Piranesi as Designer.

This image is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian’s Terms of Use page.

If you would like to cite this object in a Wikipedia article please use the following template:

<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Print, Carceri Series, Plate XIV |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=1 July 2022 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>