Sims Reed Rare Books×

Opere Varie di Architettura, Prospettive, Grotteschi, Antichita

Piranesi, Giovanni Battista

Rome. Con Licenza dei Superiori / Si Vendono Presso l'Autore nel Palazzo del Signore Conte Tomati ... &c. 1750. c.1761
A very good copy of Piranesi's Opera Varie dateable to 1761 and including his famous series of Carceri.

The 'Opere Varie', is, as its title suggests, a composite album incorporating much of Piranesi's most extraordinary and finest work. The work opens with the 'Prima Parte' showing imaginary adaptations and reconstructions on classical Roman themes and ranging in scope from designs for a museum of sculpture to the interiors and exteriors of palaces, views of colonnades, architectural ruins and so on. The 'Prima Parte', when first published in Rome in 1743, was the first of Piranes's collected works and included 12 plates; when forming part of the 'Opere Varie', Piranesi added five plates while removing another. Following these plates are the 'Grotteschi', four fantastic scenes published for the first time in 1750 following Piranesi's return to Venice in the late 1740s and included with the 'Prima Parte' in copies of the 'Opere Varie'. In style and subject, the 'Grotteschi' are very much influenced by Tiepolo and his 'Capricci' series, however unlike the Venetian master, Piranesi's fantasies suggest an additional coherence of meaning.

The famous imaginary prison series, Piranesi's 'Carceri d'Invenzione', is also present here and these 16 plates, a remarkable product of the subconscious and an extraordinary demonstration of the engraver's skill, represent the height of Piranesi's imaginitive work. The plates were first published in 1750 when Giovanni Bouchard (Piranesi's publisher) included 14 'carceri', untitled at that time, in the earliest edition of the 'Opere Varie'. In 1761, Piranesi reissued the group as a coherent whole, entitled the 'Carceri d'Invenzione' and under his own name and with two additional plates. While Piranesi issued no further editions of the 'Carceri' after this time, the plates were always included with the 'Opere Varie' and the artist continued to experiment with their aesthetic character, adjusting the tonal qualities, reworking some of the detail and experimenting with the distribution of ink during printing.

Also present in this volume, and bound after the 'Prima Parte' plates is the first edition of the 'Trofei' series. The 'Trofei di Ottavio Augusto' was intended by Piranesi to be of use to artists, painters and architects but it is of more importance as it serves as the starting point for another major area of his oeuvre, antiquity and archaeology and the achievements of the previous occupants of his adopted city: the Romans. The trophies depicted are the 'Trophies of Marius', removed from the fountainhead of the Acqua Giulia and placed on the Capitol in the late sixteenth century, together with several architectural fragments; Piranesi considered that the trophies had been erected by Augustus Caesar to celebrate his victory at Actium.

The album contains very good impressions of Piranesi's etchings: this is an early Roman edition corresponding to Hind's edition B (1761 or after), and Robison's second edition (produced in 1761). This is an early issue of the second edition, second issue of the 'Opere Varie' without the addition of the plate 'Acqua Giulia' (According to Robison this plate was issued in 1761 and therefore attests to the volume being produced in early 1761). The 'Grotteschi' are in second state (3 plates) or third state (1 plate); the 'Carceri' are second edition, second issue with numbering in Roman numerals; the 2 plates of 'Ampio Magnifico' are unnumbered. The 'Trofei di Ottavio Augusto' are present in the first edition. The watermarks -where visible - conform to Robison 33, or, on occasion, Robison 35, dating to the early 1760s.

The volume seems to be a combination of Robison's earliest and slightly later 1761 versions. There is the earliest watermark (Robison 33), the plate 'Sala All'Uso' is in state 5 (Robison indicates that the second issue is denoted by state 7); however the 'Carceri' are numbered with Roman numerals (the second issue) and two of the 'Prima Parte' plates remain unnumbered.

This fine album of 53 etchings (including the two vignettes for the titles) contains the following:

PORTRAIT: Giovanni Battista Piranesi by F. Polanzani (1750).

TITLE: Printed in red and black with engraved vignette, the second version with Piranesi's address. [Robison 28].

PRIMA PARTE: 17 plates, the second edition, second issue, dating from 1761 (as noted by Robison, nos. 17 & 18 each appearing in their 2nd states). The 'Camera Sepolcrale' (R. 20) and 'Tempio Antico' plates (R.19) are bound directly after the frontispiece in reverse order and without numbers, denoting early states (see Hind pg. 80). [Robison 1-3; 5-12; 15-20].

TROFEI DI OTTAVIANO AUGUSTO: 10 plates including the 'Vedute dell'avanzo del Castello ... ' with Piranesi's address, the first edition. [W.-E. 269, 271 - 278 & 169].

TWO SINGLE PLATES: 'Pianta di ampio magnifico Collegio': A single plate, third state (of seven). [Robison 25] & 'Parte di ampio magnifico Porto': A single plate, fourth state (of eight). [Robison 26]. These 2 plates are here unnumbered, for later versions of the 1761 issue these plates have numbers added. (see Hind pg. 81)

FRONTISPIECE FOR VEDUTE DI ROMA: Printed on 2 single sheets. [W.-E. 135].

GROTTESCHI : 4 plates corresponding to Robison's second edition, second issue dated to 1761 (R. 21, 22 and 24 are second state, R. 23 is third state). [Robison 21 - 24].

CARCERI: 16 plates, the second edition, second issue. [Robison 29 - 44].

[see Robison - Piranesi: Early Architectural Fantasies, A Catalogue Raisonné of the Etchings; Wilton-Ely - Giovanni Battista Piranesi: The Complete Etchings; Hind - Giovanni Battista Piranesi: A Critical Study ... &c.].
Large folio. (544 x 415 mm). Frontispiece portrait of Piranesi after Polanzani, printed title in red and black with engraved vignette for the Opere Varie, double-page printed title in red and black with engraved vignette for the Trofei and 50 plates, 29 double-page, all printed in black ink on thick laid paper and mounted on tabs. Sheet sizes: Single sheet: 531 x 404 mm; double sheet: c.531 x 740 mm. Full contemporary red-stained polished calf, boards with triple-ruled borders and floral corner pieces in gilt, banded spines with gilt tooling and black leather label with gilt title in nine compartments, turn-ins tooled in gilt, marbled endpapers and edges.

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