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ROME: Piranesi’s vision – a major exhibition of Italy’s master printmaker opens at State Library

Media release

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Tuesday 18 February 2014

ROME: Piranesi’s vision, the largest Australian exhibition of work from one of Europe’s best known and respected printmakers, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, opens at the State Library of Victoria on 22 February 2014.

This major exhibition showcases Piranesi’s unforgettable images of classical and baroque Rome, revealing his deep passion for Roman classical architecture and his unsurpassed printmaking skills.

Drawing on the rich collections of the State Library and the University of Melbourne, together with loans from the National Gallery of Victoria and private lenders, ROME shows how Piranesi’s work captures the essence of Rome and the era of the Grand Tour with his elaborate images revealing a city of extreme contrasts: grand churches, imposing palaces and monumental ruins peopled by aristocrats, tourists, priests and beggars.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720 – 78) is widely regarded as the most important engraver and printmaker of the 18th century and the greatest architectural artist of all time. His extraordinary prints are treasured by artists, galleries, libraries and collectors throughout the world, in particular his Vedute di Roma (Views of Rome) series of 135 oversized prints which have become iconic images. Many of these significant works will be on display in the exhibition. It will also feature his rare early works and his dramatic, surreal prisons.

Sue Roberts, CEO and State Librarian said this is a landmark exhibition revealing globally significant collections held in Melbourne.

'This is the largest exhibition of Piranesi’s work ever seen in Australia and many will be surprised to learn it is built from our own collections. The numerous bound volumes of his work held by the State Library of Victoria and the Baillieu Library of the University of Melbourne constitute one of the most important combined collections of eighteenth-century works in Australia.

Our partnership with the Library of University of Melbourne has allowed us to create an exhibition of global importance and one that will fire the imaginations of all who see it.'

ROME: Piranesi’s vision is curated by Dr Colin Holden, whose research as the 2010 Redmond Barry Fellow at the State Library of Victoria and the University Library led to the creation of this exhibition. Dr Holden is a Fellow of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne.

ROME: Piranesi’s vision will open to the public during White Night Melbourne 2014, Melbourne’s hugely popular night-time cultural festival. 

Sue Roberts said White Night is a great time to unveil the exhibition.

'Piranesi’s influence in the art world is as strong today as it ever has been – his legacy is enormous.  I’m very excited that people coming to White Night will have the chance to view this wonderful exhibition. It will be a highlight for art lovers.'

ROME: Piranesi’s vision will be complemented by a full events program, sumptuous publication and satellite exhibitions.

ROME: Piranesi’s vision is presented by the State Library of Victoria in partnership with the Library of University of Melbourne. The exhibition is sponsored by CO.AS.IT, the Italian Institute of Culture and ASA Cultural Tours.

Interviews are available with curator, Dr Colin Holden.

Exhibition images and book samples are available upon request.

ROME: Piranesi's vision
Saturday 22 February 2014 - Sunday 22 June 2014

Keith Murdoch Gallery, State Library of Victoria
328 Swanston St. Melbourne