Press Room Search

Current Press Releases
Archived Press Releases

News Home Current Press Releases


The Magnificent Piranesi
The J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, December 6, 2007-March 10, 2008

October 22, 2007

LOS ANGELES—Drawn exclusively from the special collections of the Getty Research Institute (GRI), The Magnificent Piranesi, at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa from
December 6, 2007-March 10, 2008, focuses on the prolific and expansive printmaking career of Giovanni Battista Piranesi (Italian, 1720–1778), providing an introduction into the mind and studio practices of the artist, and demonstrating the broad variety of his talents.

“Our objective is to introduce the full range of Piranesi’s activities as an artist, antiquarian, designer of decorative arts and books, and publisher, and to illustrate the development of Piranesi’s aesthetics and printmaking techniques,” says Marcia Reed, co-curator of the exhibition, and head of collections development at the Getty Research Institute.

“We are thrilled to showcase these exquisite prints from the Research Institute’s special collections at the Getty Villa,” says Michael Brand, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “Visitors will have the opportunity to make an important connection between the fantastic and meticulously executed etchings of Rome by Piranesi and the classical setting of the Villa.”

Although born in Venice, Piranesi made a name for himself as a young printmaker in Rome. Fascinated with the juxtaposition of ancient and modern Rome, Piranesi treated his etchings as visual arguments in an attempt to advocate for a spirited new appreciation of Rome’s ruins and its ancient past. In an era before tourists could take snapshots, Piranesi sold many of his prints as souvenirs to English aristocrats on the Grand Tour in Italy. This innovative practice also afforded the average tourist, scholar, or artist the opportunity to bring a lasting reminder of the grandeur of Rome home with them.

While Piranesi’s sophisticated and highly detailed prints demonstrate supreme artistic ability and historical scholarship, several artistic liberties were taken within his etchings in order to convey a sense of fantasy and intrigue. Piranesi often placed great emphasis on the distortion of light and space within his compositions in order to make them appear monumental.

Prints from the 1740s and 50s show early examples of Piranesi’s style and its relation to his expanding interests and evolving concepts of design. The centerpiece of the exhibition is an awe-inspiring fold-out plate of Trajan’s column in Rome, which shows scenes from the Dacian Wars in an ascending spiral around the column, with a statue of Trajan at the top.

The exhibition underscores not only the meticulous and obsessive nature of his prints, but also examines the high volume of book and print production from his workshop, both during and after his lifetime.

The Magnificent Piranesi is curated by Louis Marchesano, collections curator of prints and drawings at the Getty Research Institute, and Marcia Reed, head of collections development at the Getty Research Institute.

# # #

Taras Matla
Getty Communications

Tracy Gilbert
Getty Communications

About the Getty:

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that features the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Museum, and the Getty Research Institute. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.

Sign up for e-Getty at to receive free monthly highlights of events at the Getty Center and the Getty Villa via e-mail, or visit our event calendar for a complete calendar of public programs.

Visiting the Getty Villa: The Getty Villa is open Wednesday through Monday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed Tuesday and major holidays. Admission to the Getty Villa is always free. A ticket is required for admission. Tickets can be ordered in advance, or on the day of your visit, at or at 310-440-7300. Parking is $15 per car, but free after 5pm for evening events. Groups of 15 or more must make reservations by phone. For more information, call 310-440-7300 (English or Spanish); 310-440-7305 (TTY line for the deaf or hearing impaired). The Getty Villa is at 17985 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades, California.