View of the Temple of ‘Juno’ at Paestum
Piranesi is best known for his large prints of Rome and its surroundings, which were intended for sale to tourists. This drawing features a Greek temple in southern Italy. The composition was carefully thought out with a rhythmic succession of columns running diagonally across the picture plane. Emphasis was placed on light and dark effects and the irregular crumbling of the marble. Herders with cattle create a pastoral atmosphere.
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.
Printmaking in woodcut and engraving came to Northern Italy within a few decades of their invention north of the Alps. Engraving probably came first to Florence in the 1440s, the goldsmith Maso Finiguerra (1426–64) used the technique. Italian engraving caught the very early Renaissance, 1460–1490. Print copying was a widely accepted practice, as well as copying of paintings viewed as images in their own right.