The Tiber at the Mouth of the Cloaca Maxima

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Veduta dell antiche Sostruzioni fatte da Tarquinio Superbo dette from Vedute di Roma (Views of Rome)

Giovanni Battista (also Giambattista) Piranesi was an Italian artist famous, among other things, for his etchings of Ancient Rome.

Piranesi was born in Mogliano Veneto, near Treviso, then part of the Republic of Venice. His brother Andrea introduced him to Latin and the ancient civilization, and later he studied as an architect under his uncle, Matteo Lucchesi, who was Magistrato delle Acque, a Venetian engineer who specialized in excavation.

Venice in the 18th century was home to a trio of great vedutisti, or landscape artists, the most famous being Canaletto (1697-1768) whose scenes of La Serenissima helped promote that city as a major destination for the Grand Tour. Francesco Guardi (1712-1793) and the itinerant Bernardo Bellotto (1720-1780), Canaletto’s nephew, continued the brilliance of his cityscapes. Piranesi picked up this painterly tradition of light and space and carried it with him to Rome. After working briefly in the engraver and architect Guiseppe Vasi’s studio, he set out on his own, combining the knowledge of Roman monuments he most likely gained from Vasi with the chiaroscuro techniques of the Venetian school to create some of the most hauntingly vivid scenes of Rome ever produced.



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