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Thursday 4 July 2019

Giovanni Battista Piranesi's etching, “Dark Prison with a Courtyard for the Torture of Criminals …”, c1750

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720–1778)

“Dark Prison with a Courtyard for the Torture of Criminals …” (Carcere oscura con Antenna pel suplizio dè malfatori …), c1750, from the series, Prima Parte di Architettura, e Prospettive” (Part One of Architecture and Perspectives), lifetime impression possibly from the first edition (based on the “Prima Parte” watermark and the crisp line showing no sign of wear to the plate).

Etching with drypoint and engraving printed from two plates (viz. image plate and text plate) on laid paper with the Venetian “Prima Parte” watermark (see Wilton-Ely, no. 49, p. 1165)—employed for the first edition (3rd to 5th issues)—trimmed along the plate-mark and backed with a support sheet
Size: (sheet) 39.3 x 24.1 cm; (upper image plate) 37 x 24.2 cm; (image borderline) 36.4 x 23.7 cm; (text plate) 2.2 x 23.9 cm.
Numbered on plate above and below the image borderline: (upper right and lower right) “2”.
Lettered on plate below the image borderline: (left) “Gio. Batta. Piranesi inven ed incise in Roma”; (centre) “Carcere oscura con Antenna pel suplizio dè malfatori. Sonvi da lungi le Scale, che / conducono al piano e vi si vedono pure all'intorno altre chiuse carceri.”
(Dark jail with Courtyard for torture of criminals. From a long distance you can see the Stairs, which lead to the floor and you can also see other closed prisons around it.)

Wilton-Ely 24.5 (John Wilton-Ely 1994, “Giovanni Battista Piranesi: The complete etchings” (2 vols), vol. 1, San Francisco, Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, p. 24, cat. no. 5); Focillon 4; Hind 79.2.

See also the description of this print at the Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Condition: faultless impression trimmed along the plate-mark and laid on a support of archival (millennium quality) washi paper. The upper left and lower right corners are clipped and restored otherwise the sheet is in very good condition for its considerable age (i.e. there are no tears, holes, folds, abrasions, significant stains or foxing).
There is little need to point out the historical significance of this famous etching that has led to a succession of artists’ interpretations—see for example the watercolours of Turner and Girtin of this print! … and even my own drawings and sculpture reproduced in “The Piranesi Effect” (2015). I am selling this major etching for the total cost of AU$769 (currently US$539.99/EUR478.43/GBP429.35 at the time of this listing) including postage and handling to anywhere in the world (but not, of course, any import duties/taxes imposed by some countries).
If you are interested in purchasing this important and exceptionally rare lifetime impression, please contact me ( and I will send you a PayPal invoice to make the payment easy. 

This print has been sold

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