Diverse Maniere: Piranesi, Fantasy and Excess


Diverse Maniere: Piranesi, Fantasy and Excess

Sir John Soane’s Museum, 7 March – 31 May 2014

This spring, Sir John Soane’s Museum is staging the second of two exhibitions looking at the relationship between Sir John Soane and the great Italian printmaker, antiquarian and architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-78).

Taking two of Piranesi’s influential publications as starting points – his 1769 Diverse Maniere d’Adornare i Cammini… and Vasi, Candelabri, Cippi, Sarcofagi… of 1778 – the exhibition will display large-scale 3D prints, directly producing some of the extraordinary designs that Piranesi visualised in these publications, but never actually realised.

Working with the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice, and the renowned design studio Factum Arte, Madrid, the exhibition will showcase a collection of ‘sculptures’, realised using state-of-the-art 3D modelling and printing technologies to turn Piranesi’s work into physical forms.

The bronze tripods, ‘porphyry’ altars, gilt chairs, shell-shaped silver coffee pots and extravagant candelabra are all stunning examples of Piranesi’s interpretation of classical antiquity. These will be installed within the historic interiors of Sir John Soane’s Museum, where the display will resonate with Soane’s own ‘Piranesian’ arrangements of objects. In addition, the Soane Gallery will display seldom seen drawings from the Soane Office, which illustrate how Soane looked to Piranesi for inspiration, along with volumes of Piranesi prints from Soane’s Library (and from other collections), which illustrate the designs upon which Factum Arte have based their creations.

The Gallery will also contain an evocation of the arrangements which were once seen in Piranesi’s atelier in the Palazzo Tomati, his residence in Rome. Instead of the antiquities, which decorated Piranesi’s ‘museum’ housed in the Palazzo, Factum Arte will install fragments of 3-D prints that explore form and material in an imaginative manner.

The Soane holds a significant number of drawings by Piranesi, a comprehensive set of his prints and a number of antiquities that were restored in Piranesi’s workshop in Rome. It is arguably one of the UK’s most important holdings of works either by, or associated with, his name. More importantly, Piranesi was a great influence on Soane as an architect. Having met Piranesi in 1778, when he was a young scholar undertaking an educational Grand Tour of Italy, Soane utilised Piranesi’s boundless architectural and archaeological imagination in his own work. Importantly, Piranesi also influenced the architecture of No. 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields and how Soane arranged of objects within his house/ museum. It is this concept of ‘Piranesian’ fantasy and excess that forms the inspiration behind the exhibition.

Curator of the exhibition – Jerzy J. Kierkuc-Bielinski comments:

“Not only is this exhibition an exciting exploration of Soane’s world, it also addresses broader issues: Sir John Soane’s collections were used, in part, to teach his pupils at the Royal Academy about architecture and antiquity. Utilising the technologies that were available to him – plaster casts, drawings, prints and models – Soane taught his pupils about buildings and works of art they were unlikely ever to experience in actuality. The three-dimensional printing technology, developed by Factum Arte, opens up greater possibilities. Not only can fragile works of art be replicated down to surface colour and texture, but entire monuments can also be recorded and reproduced in this manner. Sir John Soane, with his love of new building technologies and use of casts and models in his teaching and architectural practice, would undoubtedly have embraced the potential of the three-dimensional print.”


Exhibition: Diverse Maniere: Piranesi, Fantasy and Excess

Dates: 7 March – 31 May 2013

Address: Sir John Soane’s Museum: 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP

Opening hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm.  Last entry 4:30pm

Admission: Free

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