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An Italian etcher, archaeologist, designer, theorist, and architect, Giovanni Battista Piranesi (b. 1720 - d. 1778) was born in Venice. His uncle, a designer and hydraulics engineer, taught him the art of drawing. During his early years, he studied stage design and intricate systems of perspective composition. Piranesi's prints and drawings reveal his talent for combining dramatic perspectives and architectural fantasies.
When Piranesi was twenty, he moved to Rome and began a careful study of the city's ancient monuments. He began etching inventive views of ancient ruins and modern Roman structures, images that brought him great popularity, and later began a series of etchings of fantastic prison interiors. During his fifties, Piranesi's interest in archaeology took him to southern Italy, where he produced drawings and etchings of Greek architecture. During an expedition, ill health forced him to return to Rome, where he died at the age of fifty-eight.
Piranesi's highly original designs and ideas influenced many artists and literary figures during and beyond his lifetime. Neo-classical designers and early Romantic writers were quick to recognize his eclectic vision. Piranesi's extensive artistic output was dispersed widely through prints sold to Grand Tourists, who often visited his flourishing workshop. His prints were reproduced in great numbers, even after his death.