Battista Piranesi was an Italian graphic artist
famous for his engravings and etchings. He created
more than 2000 prints of real and imaginary
buildings, statues, and ornaments.
He contributed to 18th-century neoclassicism
by his enthusiastic renderings of ancient Roman
monuments, which included both accurate portrayals
of existing ruins and imaginary reconstructions
of ancient buildings in which alterations of
scale and juxtaposition of elements enhance
the sense of grandeur.
One of Piranesi's earliest and most lastingly
renowned collections is his Carceri d'Invenzione
(Imaginary Prisons, 1745; 2nd edition, 1760),
in which he transformed Roman ruins into fantastic,
immeasurable dungeons dominated by immense,
gloomy arcades, staircases rising to incredible
heights, and bizarre galleries leading nowhere.
These engravings became an important influence
on 19th-century romanticism and also played
a role in the development of 20th-century surrealism.