Giovanni Battista Piranesi, famous for his etchings of Rome and of fictitious and atmospheric "prisons" (Le Carceri d'Invenzione), was born in Veneto, the Republic of Venice in a family of stonemasons and architects. He was apprenticed of his uncle, who was a leading architect in Magistrato delle Acque, the state organization responsible for engineering and restoring historical buildings.
From 1740, he worked in Rome as a draughtsman for Marco Foscarini, the Venetian ambassador. He worked with pupils of the French Academy in Rome to produce a series of vedute (views) of the city. From 1743 to 1747 he was back in Venice where he often visited Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.
In 1748–1774, back in Rome, he created a series of vedute of the city which established his fame. In 1761 he became a member of the Accademia di San Luca and opened a printing facility of his own.
He died in Rome in 1778, and was buried in the church he had helped restore, Santa Maria del Priorato. His tomb was designed by Giuseppi Angelini.