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Piranesi on Paper

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This online collection catalogue is the result of a two-year research project into all the prints by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) in the museum’s collection. The research was made possible by a grant from the Mondriaan Fund. The story of Piranesi as a maker of books of prints and his world on paper, including watermark research, was at the heart of the project. The Italian artist made a huge number of prints, chiefly during the last thirty years of his life. He created over a thousand etchings, which represents an average output of 2.3 prints a month.1 These etchings were published mostly in the form of series or books of prints. Piranesi lived in Rome, which in the eighteenth century was a hub of book and print publishers. It was the ideal place to learn how to compile print books. His production rate was prodigious. Altogether he created twelve different books of prints. At the end of his life there were three hundred unbound copies in his workshop.2 Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen holds 751 Piranesi prints, many of which are in series or bound into books. The collection is not complete, but it is the most comprehensive museum collection in the Netherlands. The Rotterdam Piranesi Collection has long been well known for its superior quality and the number of early impressions and copies. The scope and quality of the collection were the stimulus to develop an online collection catalogue. The collection is held in Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, where Piranesi’s work appears to have become reality. As you enter, your eyes are drawn to the maze of staircases zig-zagging all the way to the top of the building. The publication of this collection catalogue was timed to coincide with an exhibition being staged in Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen from 14 November 2022 to 5 March 2023. An interactive map of Rome has been developed for this exhibition, showing points referring to places (churches and monuments) that Piranesi recorded in his Vedute di Roma series.

A catalogue raisonné appeared fourteen years after Piranesi died. Since then, the artist has been the subject of much research.3 Many catalogues of his work have been compiled, a few of which have served as guides for further investigation. These authors include Focillon (1918), Hind (1922), Robison (1986) and Wilton-Ely (1994).4 The substantial catalogue of the Graphische Sammlung in the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, the only museum collection catalogue of Piranesi prints so far (1999), is worthy of mention.5 Despite the many investigations, discoveries such as new states, are still being made and dates are being changed. This is due to Piranesi's tremendous versatility, huge output and the large number of reprints made since his death, even into the twentieth century. For example, his son Francesco (1758-1810), with whom he had worked during his lifetime, republished some series with his own additions. It is often tricky to distinguish these reprints from the prints made by the artist himself, not least because there is still considerable uncertainty about the paper that Piranesi used. This is why there was a special focus on watermarks during the research for the online collection catalogue. Watermark research can be used to provide insight into Piranesi’s working practices, and it is important for dating the prints as well as for distinguishing them from reprints. The American art historian Andrew Robison is a pioneer in the field of watermark research. He compiled the first overview of frequently occurring watermarks in the paper that Piranesi used.6 The current collection catalogue builds on this investigation and provides context information about the watermarks in the prints in the museum’s collection. The catalogue provides an image, data about the object, information about the watermark (if present) and the origin of the paper (if known) for each Piranesi print in the collection. Through this digital publication, the museum is giving researchers all over the world access to this information, supporting the dating of Piranesi prints in other collections, and aiding further research (see watermarks).

The collection catalogue contains an introduction to Piranesi’s life and work and an overview of the collecting and exhibition history of the prints in the museum’s collection. This is followed by a review of the different books and series of prints in the museum’s collection, starting with the theoretical architecture treatises, in which Piranesi presents himself as an author and describes why he prefers Roman to Greek architecture. The principal focus here is on the composition of the books. The works are discussed in chronological order, based on the publication dates of the copies in the museum’s collection.7 This section ends with Piranesi’s most famous print series – the Carceri (Prisons) and the Vedute di Roma (Views of Rome). The artist achieved fame during his lifetime through these works, which even then were sought after by collectors. The catalogue ends with a description of the watermark investigation and all the Piranesi prints in the museum’s collection.

1720: Giovanni Battista Piranesi is born in Venice
Before 1740: training in Venice under the guidance of his uncle Matteo Lucchesi, the architect Giovanni Scalfarotto and the printmaker Carlo Zucchi
1740: first period in Rome
1742-1743: apprentice to Giuseppe Vasi
1743: publication of his first book of prints, the Prima parte (First Part)
1744-1747: working in Venice
1747: settles permanently in Rome and begins his series of cityscapes, the Vedute di Roma (Views of Rome)
1749-1750: first edition of the Carceri (Prisons) printed
1750: publication of the Opere varie (Various Works)
1752: marries Angela Pasquini
1756: publication of the four volumes of the Antichità Romane (Roman Antiquities)
1761: moves to his new workshop in Palazzo Tomati, starts advertising his work that he has for sale through his Catalogo delle Opere (Catalogue of Works), and publishes his Della Magnificenza (The Magnificence) and the second edition of the Carceri himself.
1764-1767: renovation of the Santa Maria del Priorato
1765: response to the criticism of the French art dealer and collector Pierre-Jean Mariette in his Osservazioni (Remarks)
1766: knighted by Pope Clement XIII, and as a result from now on he is permitted to call himself Cavalier Piranesi
1769: he publishes his designs for furniture and interiors in his Diverse Maniere (Various Ways)
1778: last publication before his death, the Vasi, candelabri (Vases, Candelabra). He dies in in Rome before he can finish his last series, Paestum

Giovanni Battista Piranesi trained to be an architect under his uncle Matteo Lucchesi (1705-1776) and the architect Giovanni Scalfarotto (1697-1764) and always referred to himself as such – Architetto Veneziano (an architect of Venice) – even though he devoted the lion’s share of his life to portraying the city of Rome in large prints (fig. 1).8 Although he has the renovation of one building to his name (the Santa Maria del Priorato) and his prints reflect his understanding of architecture, he was, given his oeuvre, primarily a printmaker, designer, author, book compiler, publisher and dealer.9 The artist from Venice learned about architecture and structures at an early age, and he also received instruction in scenography and perspective. He learned the rudiments of etching from Carlo Zucchi (1682-1767). He first visited Rome in 1740 at the invitation of the Venetian ambassador to the Vatican on the occasion of the coronation of Pope Benedict XIV (1675-1758). Piranesi was in the ambassador’s retinue as a draughtsman.10 In Rome he was apprenticed to Giuseppe Vasi (1710-1782), one of the city’s most famous and sought-after etchers, who instructed him in the finer points of etching and engraving. In 1747 he settled permanently in Rome in order to record on paper the ruins of antiquity.11 He immortalized the Rome of his day in prints, through which he expressed his admiration for the city’s buildings. His fascination with architecture also emerges from his depictions of capitals, pillars, friezes and tombs. Piranesi's cityscapes, the Vedute di Roma. became popular with wealthy Europeans visiting Rome on their Grand Tours as souvenirs to take home with them. The large size of the sheets of paper he used for the Vedute set them apart from Roman cityscapes produced by his predecessors and contemporaries, which were made primarily as illustrations for compact travel guides.12 The series developed into one of his best-known works.

Fig. 1 Francesco Polanzani, 'Portrait of Giovanni Battista Piranesi', 1750, engraving, 495 × 340 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH 20745 (PK)

Piranesi had his workshop in Via del Corso from 1748. He published some of his earliest prints himself and some were put out by publishers like the bookseller Giovanni Bouchard (c. 1716-1795), whose shop was in the same street as his workshop. Bouchard developed into one of the most important publishers and vendors of Piranesi's work.13 According to the traditional division of roles, publishers commissioned designers and engravers and they were also the ones who invested in paper and copper plates, thus taking all the financial risks. Although Piranesi worked for a number of publishers, he frequently acted on his own initiative. He was always searching for ways to finance his work, including the making of dedication etchings. Within book and print circles, dedicating works to prosperous or influential people was a tried and tested method for ensuring the financing of the publication. Piranesi used dedication etchings to butter up potential patrons in his circle of acquaintances, which included aristocrats, intellectuals, fellow architects and artists, in the hope that they would fund his works. Within Roman intellectual circles, he emerged as an originator of text and images for architecture books, such as his Antichità Romane and Della Magnificenza.14 In 1761 his success enabled him to relocate to Palazzo Tomati in Strada Felice. From then on, he was responsible for the entire production process, including publishing his own work, and so had no further need for publishers like Bouchard.15 He also arranged for the republication of works previously issued by other publishers, such as the imaginary prisons (Carceri). He published a fund catalogue in print form – his Catalogo delle Opere – to inform fellow print vendors and collectors of everything he had for sale.16 That same year he was able to acquire the appreciation and financial support of the new pope, Clement XIII (1693-1769), who came from Venice and who knighted him in 1766 to become Cavaliere del Sperone d’Ore (a Knight of the Golden Spur).17 After that he regularly signed his work Cavalier Piranesi.

The period after his move to Palazzo Tomati was one of experimentation. Piranesi started to use different types and quantities of ink. He also reworked plates that had already been used to produce prints by using the unconventional technique of putting acid directly on the plate. The most significant transformation in his graphic work emerges when comparing the two editions of the Carceri series. He developed the exploratory and sketchy technique employed in the first edition (1749-1750) into an approach in the second edition (1761) based on deeply etched lines that created a sort of darkness around them. He also experimented with the restoration of ancient sculptures, an activity Piranesi developed when trading in Roman antiquities. He collected ancient ornaments during quests in and around Rome and then ‘restored’ them by having them assembled. He sold these contemporary assemblages incorporating ancient elements in his workshop, where he had fitted out a salesroom, his ‘museo’. The well-known Piranesi Vase in the British Museum in London is an example. He also made prints of these antiquities and published them in his series Vasi, candelabri.18

Piranesi's work was republished during his lifetime and until long after his death. After he died in 1778 the workshop continued to operate under the supervision of his son Francesco, who had worked with his father before his death. In 1799 Francesco and his brother Pietro (1773-?) moved to Paris. The copper plates they took with them were used for decades to produce reprints, and this activity continued after the plates were sold to the printer Firmin Didot (1764-1836) in 1835. In 1839 the plates were sold to the Camera Apostolica – a department in the papal administrative system responsible for finance – and returned to Rome, where they have been kept to this day in the Calcografia (L’Istituto centrale per la grafica).19



Private patrons played a key role in the creation of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection. The core collection resulted from combining different collections that were donated, bequeathed or purchased. The museum’s name refers to the collector whose estate was the basis for the collection, namely F.J.O. Boijmans (1767-1847), and a very passionate collector, D.G. van Beuningen (1877-1955), whose collection was purchased in 1958. Since the museum opened its doors in 1849, the collection has been supplemented by all sorts of donations, from entire collections to a single work, purchases and bequests.20 A number of collectors have been of great importance to the prints and drawings collection. There was, however, one man the museum has to thank for making it the holder of the biggest museum collection of Piranesi prints in the Netherlands. He was J.C.J. Bierens de Haan (1867-1951) (fig. 2).21 In 1936 he founded the Stichting Lucas van Leyden (Lucas van Leyden Foundation), which was aimed at promoting the financing of acquisitions and the donation of prints. Afterwards he regularly gave prints and books to the museum, including works by Piranesi, through this foundation. He also left a bequest to Rotterdam City Council upon his death in 1951. This bequest comprised the remainder of his print collection and half of his assets for the purposes of acquiring prints. To this day the museum can use this fund, which was transferred to the Lucas van Leyden Foundation, to buy prints.22 In his own collection Bierens de Haan focused on prints that were not yet in the museum’s collection, which was relatively small at that time. He acquired prints in sales and from art dealers and added them to the museum’s collection by means of a donation or bequest.23

Fig. 2 Betsy Westendorp-Osieck, 'Portrait of Dr J.C.J. Bierens de Haan', 1945, charcoal and black chalk, with white chalk highlights, 346 x 263 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. MB 1954/T 2 (PK)

The Piranesi print collection began in 1936 with Bierens de Haan’s donation of 97 etchings in the Vedute di Roma series. He had recently acquired these capital prints – most of which measure 515 mm × 760 mm – at an auction in Amsterdam. They formerly belonged to the Six van Vromade family. The donation was one of the factors that prompted an exhibition about the work of Piranesi and Antonio Canaletto (1697-1768) in 1937.24 This was also the year in which Bierens de Haan donated large parts of his print collection to the museum, including the two-volume Vasi, candelabri by Piranesi. This gift, which comprised 124 prints, doubled the number of Piranesi prints in the print room.25 There was a further donation to the collection from Bierens de Haan the following year – a book of prints titled Della Magnificenza.26 More than a decade later, Bierens de Haan acquired the four volumes of Le Antichità Romane in nineteenth-century bindings at a sale at the booksellers Burgersdijk en Niermans in Leiden.27 This lengthy interval is understandable given that the international trade in prints largely collapsed during the war years. In the years that followed, the elderly Bierens de Haan became less active as a collector.28 The four volumes he gave the museum in 1949 was the last donation of works by Piranesi he made during his lifetime.

Dozens more Piranesi prints arrived at the print room thanks to the 1951 bequest, including the Paestum series, produced in collaboration with his son Francesco. The money that was provided through the Lucas van Leyden Foundation was used immediately in 1952 to purchase a famous series, the Carceri prints. It was possible to acquire both the early and late editions of this series of imaginary prisons. This enabled the museum to make good progress with collecting a substantial part of the artist’s oeuvre. Since then, the collection has been supplemented on a fairly regular basis through purchases in 1953-1956, 1963, 1977 and 1997 which included both individual prints, such as Blackfriars Bridge and the title print of Lapides Capitolini (Stones of the Capitol), and combined works, for example Opere varie. Additions to the Vedute di Roma series, which comprises 137 prints in all, were also made with the result that the museum’s collection is almost complete.29 To this day a close eye is kept on the market in order to obtain the last missing prints in this series. The most recent success was the purchase of the title print in 2021 (fig. 3).30 Although some series in the museum’s collection are almost complete. some parts of Piranesi’s oeuvre are missing. The museum has only a few sheets from Diverse maniere d’adornare i cammini (Diverse Ways of Ornamenting Chimneypieces) (1769) in the collection and several series of prints and smaller books of prints are not represented at all. The museum also has ten drawings by Piranesi.

Fig. 3 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Title print of the print series Vedute di Roma (Views of Rome)', 1746-1748, etching, 515 × 760 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. L 2021/1 (PK)



Frequent exhibitions featuring these works staged over the last ninety years and the publication of this online collection catalogue demonstrate that the museum was – and still is – proud of the Piranesi print collection and believes that making it accessible is important. The museum has devoted a number of exhibitions to the Italian printmaker since the first donation in 1936. His prints could be viewed in the exhibition Antonio Canaletto 1697-1768 en Giov. Batt. Piranesi 1720-1778: Rome en Venetië in de 18e eeuw (Antonio Canaletto 1697-1768 and Giov. Batt. Piranesi 1720-1778: Rome and Venice in the 18th century) during the first two months of 1937. Forty etchings from the Vedute di Roma series and two drawings were on display alongside etchings and drawings by Antonio Canaletto.31 In 1953 the then director J.C. Ebbinge Wubben (1915-2014) decided, after the museum’s collection had grown significantly thanks to donations from Bierens de Haan and purchases made possible by the Lucas van Leyden Foundation, to devote an exhibition completely to Piranesi under the title Etsen van Piranesi 1720-1778 (Etchings by Piranesi 1720-1778) (fig. 4).32 Over 160 etchings were exhibited in the print room. It is still the biggest Piranesi exhibition in terms of the number of works ever staged by the museum. All the individual prints and books of prints in the collection were displayed, including the complete Carceri and Vedute series. Since his appointment as curator of prints in 1941, Ebbinge Wubben had maintained close contacts with Bierens de Haan, whom he much admired, and later, as director, he was responsible for the expansion of this part of the museum’s collection. In 2006, more than half a century later, this same director, who by then had retired, was given the opportunity, on the occasion of his ninetieth birthday, to again make a selection for an exhibition about Piranesi. He placed the Carceri and Vedute series in the context of the work of his Italian contemporaries Canaletto and Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770).33

Fig. 4 Exhibition poster 'Etsen van Piranesi (Etchings by Piranesi), 1720-1778', designed by Benno Wissing, 1953, 50.5 x 39.5 cm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BVB/Af.B.5

In 2019 the museum closed for a thorough renovation. At the same time the ‘Boijmans at the Neighbours’ project was initiated to provide a podium at other institutes in Rotterdam during the years the museum was closed. The Kunsthal, located in Museumpark, exhibited an overview of Piranesi’s work entitled De duizelingwekkende verbeelding van Piranesi (The Dizzying Imagination of Piranesi) in which the focus was on imaginary prisons, the Carceri, and cityscapes, the Vedute di Roma. This was not, incidentally, the first time that the Piranesi collection was shown elsewhere. A large part of it could be admired in 1998 in the Bonnefantenmuseum in Maastricht. After the works returned to Rotterdam, the same selection was exhibited in the print room as a pendant to the exhibition about Maurits Cornelis Escher in the Kunsthal.34 The following year a part of the Piranesi collection went to Sint-Niklaas in Belgium for a retrospective of Piranesi’s work.35 Over the years the museum has lent individual prints to other institutions, for example in 2008 to Teylers Museum in Haarlem.36

As has emerged from this brief overview, all the exhibitions have been devoted to Piranesi as an artist, with a focus on his artworks – in his own right or in relation to other printmakers – or the architecture and imaginary world he depicts. The exhibition in Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen accompanying the publication of this collection catalogue addresses for the first time Piranesi’s world of paper and the choices he made as a maker of books of prints.



Piranesi is currently best known for his loose-leaf series of prints, for example the Vedute di Roma, the Grotteschi (Grotesques) and the Carceri, but he also compiled prints in book form, such as Le Antichità Romane and Della Magnificenza. There were strict rules in eighteenth-century Rome about publishing books. This situation arose from the number of publishers in the city, which had been growing since the sixteenth century, and the desire of the church to have more influence over what appeared on the market.37 After completion, every book had to be submitted to the Maestro del Sacro Palazzo (Theologian of the Pontifical Household) for approval before it could be published. This senior official therefore did not assess a book until all the investments in producing it had already been made. Books of prints were not just expensive to make. It also remained unclear until the very last moment whether or not they could be sold. This made their production very risky financially. After approval, permission to print had to be recorded by means of an imprimatur on the title page: ‘con licenza de’superiori’ (licensed by the authorities). This is why the title page was the last one to be printed. In some cases, besides the imprimatur on the title page, there was also a separate text referring to the imprimatur (fig. 5).38 An additional advantage of making this permission obligatory was that it combatted plagiarism.

Fig. 5 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Page from the first volume of Le Antichità Romane (Roman Antiquities) with the imprimatur', 1756, letterpress, 515 × 390 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH Boek 2 a 1-84 (PK)

A book of prints was defined as a series of prints intended from the outset to be bound, preceded by a title page and possibly with passages of text in letterpress. Deluxe editions could also contain dedication etchings, ornamented initials, vignettes and plates marking the beginning and end of a text.39 The difference between an illustrated book and a book of prints is that the prints in the latter are not intended solely to illustrate the text. In their own right or in combination with the printed text, they are an integral part of the idea or the argumentation that is being put forward in the work.

Compiling a book of prints required a great deal of work involving a number of different distinct steps. Piranesi, possibly in collaboration with a publisher, was responsible for the text and images comprising the content of the publication, and produced some of it himself. A book printing press was needed for printing the text. Piranesi did not have one himself, and so the printing was farmed out to a printer. In his own workshop he took the printed pages of text and, using one of his two platen presses, added etched ornamented initials and vignettes in the blank spaces.40 Piranesi also worked on the design of his prints, which were on separate sheets without letterpress. He used the drypoint etching technique to create an outline layout of the composition in very thin lines using an etching needle directly on the copper plate. The etching ground, an acid resistant layer of varnish on which it was easy to draw using an etching needle, was then applied to the plate. The parts of the copper plate exposed by the etching needle were etched into the metal in the acid bath, thereby fixing the composition on the plate.41

Piranesi’s workshop was full of specialists and assistants, including his own children, each of whom had their own part to play in the printing process. The artist had proofs made of the etchings, made any changes he wanted, and then gave them to an assistant who calligraphed the titles on them. The final stage was carried out by a specialist who etched the text and numbers in the copper plate. The prints were probably produced in small batches because new impressions could be made whenever they were wanted, unlike the text, which could only be printed in one run, so a large number of copies were made. The final step was to assemble the pages of text and the prints. Piranesi or the publisher usually sold the work unbound so that the new owner could have the work bound himself. If large prints were part of the publication, they were printed in sections and the sheets were glued together seamlessly so that they could be folded correctly by the bookbinder and bound into the book.42

Large numbers of books of prints called for colossal amounts of paper. Piranesi must have been surrounded by it in his workshop. The paper was stored in bales, prepared for printing, hung up to dry after printing and kept in piles as unbound books of prints ready for sale.43 Paper was imported from different parts of Italy and elsewhere in Europe. At that time a sheet of paper cost 4 baiocchi. To place this in context, a family of four spent on average ten scudi a month on food in eighteenth-century Rome (this was the currency of the Papal States;1 scudo = 100 baiocchi). Import duty had to be paid on top of this. Piranesi applied for and received an exemption from the Pope from paying duty on imported paper. During his career he succeeded in avoiding paying import duty three times. The quantity of paper concerned was prodigious – 200, 100 and 80 bales of paper respectively. This would have saved him some 1,200 scudi.44

Le Antichità Romane Opera di Giambatista Piranesi Architetto Veneziano Divisa in Quattro Tomi (Tomo Primo-Quarto) IN ROMA MDCCLVI, Nella Stamperia di Angelo Rotilj nel Palazzo de; Massimi. Con licenza de’superiori si vedono in Roma dai Signori Bouchard, e Gravier Mercanti libraj al Corso presso san Marcello. Folio, 54 × 42 × 4.5 cm. Volume One: 20 quires consisting of a Piranesi portrait by Polanzani, title page in letterpress, frontispiece, 72 pages of text ([gusset]2 §3 [A]-T1 χ1 (pp. 1-40) A-F1 (pp. i-xi) a-b1 (pp. i-iii) a-b1 (pp. i-iv) *-2*1 χ1 (pp. i-iii)) and 44 numbered plates (I to XLIIII), collation formula: 12, 40, xi, iii, iv, iii. Volume Two: 63 numbered plates (I to LXIII). Volume Three: 54 numbered plates (I to LIV). Volume Four: 57 numbered plates (I to LVII).

The first book of prints Piranesi made with a text, in which he presented himself as an author, was his 1756 Le Antichità Romane (Roman Antiquities).45 The work comprises four volumes that feature Roman architecture and ruins in more than 200 prints and on 72 pages of text.46 The latter were printed by Angelo Rotili (c. 1704-before 1780) in his print shop in Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne in Rome. The work could be purchased from Bouchard. In the first volume Piranesi focuses primarily on the general urban structures of ancient Rome, of which he includes a map. He does not limit himself to the monuments. He also depicts the ancient city walls and aqueducts, such as the Aurelian Walls dating from the third century CE and the Aqua Virgo built in the first century BCE. Tombs are featured in volumes two and three. After the title page, both volumes open with a frontispiece showing ancient Roman roads along which tombs are placed, reflecting the tradition of burying the dead outside the city. Many of these graves contain members of well-known Roman families, for example that of Emperor Augustus (63 BCE-14 CE). There is also the last resting place of Gaius Cestius (?-12 BCE), who is buried in a mausoleum in the shape of a pyramid. In the fourth volume Piranesi concentrates on bridges and monuments, with emphasis on the feats of engineering, including cross-sections of the foundations. Bridges, Tiber Island and the Theatre of Marcellus are dealt with comprehensively. It emerges from the text that as well as immortalizing the monuments, Piranesi also sought to explain the structures of the buildings and therefore devoted considerable attention to construction techniques. He firmly believed in the genius of Roman architecture and urban planning. The four-volume publication was the result of many years of study of the monuments and writings about ancient Rome. He presented himself as an authority on antiquity through this book.47

The project had begun on a small scale with the Camere sepolcrali (Burial Chambers), a series of fifteen prints of ancient graves and tombs (later incorporated in the second and third volumes). Piranesi decided to expand the work by adding other ’Roman antiquities’, such as monuments, bridges and aqueducts. A project on such a scale was a costly venture, and he thought he had found a benefactor in the young Irishman James Caulfeild (1728-1799), Earl of Charlemont, but it turned out to be a disappointment.48 As a wealthy devotee of antiquities and a ‘Grand Tourist’ in Rome, Charlemont appeared to be a perfect candidate as a patron, which is why Piranesi designed a dedication etching for him. Although Charlemont gave him an advance after some pressure had been applied, he lived up to his reputation as a rather unreliable sponsor by suddenly leaving Rome in 1754 for no clear reason. Meanwhile Piranesi worked on the publication and he published a small edition, all the while continuing to make unsuccessful attempts to reach Charlemont.49

Piranesi ran out of patience after the first edition of forty copies had been sold and no response had been received from Charlemont. In 1757 he removed any reference to Charlemont as benefactor and replaced the dedication etching with a more general frontispiece. Rather than create a new design, he made drastic revisions to the original copper plate used previously to make impressions. From then on Charlemont’s smashed coat of arms was on the frontispiece of the first volume (fig. 6) – in accordance with the Roman custom of removing the names of condemned people from monuments.50 The revised edition also contained the public announcement of his illegally printed pamphlet Lettere di Giustificazione scritte a Milord Charlemont (Letters of Justification Written to Lord Charlemont, 1757), in which he disclosed their correspondence to show how badly he had been treated.51

Fig. 6 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Frontispiece: Urbis Aeternae Vestigia (The Footsteps of the Eternal City)', 1757, etching, 515 × 760 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH Boek 2 a 3 (PK)

The Antichità Romane sold well and was soon available in other European cities. Piranesi’s services as a researcher and printmaker led to his election as an honorary member of the Society of Antiquities in London and his admission to the Accademia di San Luca in Rome.52 After Piranesi’s death, his son Francesco republished the Antichità Romane in 1784, with three etchings by his father that had not been in the first edition, and again in 1787 with three etchings by Francesco, a new portrait of his father by Francesco, and an altered dedication etching to Gustav III of Sweden (1746-1792).

The four volumes of the copy in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen were bound in the nineteenth century with half morocco binding. It is a copy from the first revised edition with the revised 1757 frontispiece but without the announcement of the Lettere di Giustificazione. The watermarks indicate use of contemporary paper dating from the 1750s for pages of text and paper dating from the 1760s for the prints.53 The volumes came from the collection of Lambertus Vincentius Ledeboer (1795-1891) of Rotterdam, managing director of the Nederlandse Stoomboot Maatschappij and also a collector of books and paintings. His ex libris is glued into the first volume. They were donated to the museum by Bierens de Haan in 1949 after he had purchased them at an auction house in Leiden.54 In total there are 258 prints, including title prints, frontispieces, initials, engraved small-scale lists of contents, single prints and also double and large folding prints. These four volumes represent a third of the museum’s collection of Piranesi prints.

Della Magnificenza ed Architettura de’Romani Opera di Gio Battista Piranesi, Rome MDCCLXI, imprimatur 27 May 1760. 16 quires: frontispiece with portrait of Pope Clemens XIII, two title prints, 212 pages of text (a-ggg 2 (pp. i-ccxii)) and 38 numbered plates (I to XXXVIII). Bound together with Osservazioni Di Gio Battista Piranesi sopra la Lettre de M. Mariette aux Auteurs de la Gazette Littèraire de l'Europe, In Roma, MDCCLXV, Per Generoso Salomoni, Con licenza de’Superiori. 4 quires: title print, 23 pages of text (A-F (pp. 1-23)) and 9 numbered plates (I to IX). Folio, 53.6 × 42 × 5.5 cm.

The work that really demonstrated Piranesi’s competence as an all-round maker of books of prints was the 1761 Della Magnificenza ed Architettura de’Romani (On the Magnificence and the Architecture of the Romans). While it is true to say that he had already compiled the Antichità Romane, containing both prints and text in letterpress, the approach had still been primarily visual. Della Magnificenza, which is about the grandeur of Roman architecture, displays cohesion between texts and images such that the prints and the arguments in his treatise amplify one another.

The creation of this work was prompted by Piranesi's frustration about the conclusion in a number of contemporaneous publications that Greek art was always superior to Roman art.55 A debate arose in Europe during the second half of the eighteenth century about the relationship between Greek and Roman architecture, in which the latter was considered to be a poor imitation of the former. Piranesi wanted a dissenting opinion to be heard by depicting the magnificence of Roman art and demonstrating that it was not an inferior copy of the Greek. The primary target of his criticism was the work of the French archaeologist Julien David Le Roy (1724-1803), who had studied at the French Academy in Rome and had won the Prix de Rome. In his prints Piranesi referred a number of times to Le Roy’s 1758 Les ruines des plus beaux monuments de la Grèce (The Ruins of the Most Beautiful Monuments of Greece), and he placed Roman examples alongside Greek architecture to show that Le Roy was wrong. In his discourse, Piranesi disputes the contention that Roman civilization was derived from the Greek. He asserts that the Romans already had their own culture, which harked back to that of the Etruscans – a theory that had been drummed into him during his training under his uncle Matteo Lucchesi.56 Piranesi argued that the perfect logic employed in Etruscan and Roman structures was missing in Greek architecture and that the ornamentation applied was overdone. In his opinion ornaments were an essential element in architecture and he sought to achieve wide variation in them. Piranesi stated, however, that ornamentation was only functional if it was not applied to excess. He did not practise what he preached, incidentally, when it came to his prints. He primarily depicted examples of the Roman magnificence he saw in everything, for example in the walls, sewers and roads. Piranesi mainly selected structures that had no Greek influences in them, such as the Cloaca Maxima sewage system dating from the seventh century BCE, which in his view was evidence that the Romans were building on a large scale before they encountered the Greeks (fig. 7).57

Fig. 7 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Ostium, sive Emissarium Cloacae Maximae in Tiberim (The Outlet of the Cloaca Maxima into the Tiber)', 1761, etching, 527 × 395 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH Boek 1 10 (PK)

The publication appeared in the year Piranesi moved to Palazzo Tomati in Rome, the address from which he published his own works from then on. He had two presses in his own workshop for making prints, but he did not have a book printing press for the text. This called for a different sort of specialist skill and he therefore contracted it out to printers who worked on his instructions.58 The texts in Della Magnificenza are in two languages – Latin and Italian. The authorship was questioned during his lifetime and more frequently after it because Piranesi had had little schooling in Latin. Piranesi can be seen in any event as the intellectual author because the prints and the text together present his theoretical and visual defence of his reasoning. It is highly likely that he commissioned a writer to clearly express his ideas in Italian and then translate them into Latin. He probably used this approach for all his texts, for example in Antichità Romane, because as a Venetian, Piranesi would not have used the Tuscan linguistic style.59

Producing large series was expensive, particularly when both writing and printing the text was contracted out. Della Magnificenza was moreover a deluxe edition with ornamented initials and vignettes. The publication of an ambitious work like this meant Piranesi had to seek finance again. This quest heralded an era of patronage from Pope Clement XIII that lasted until his death in 1769. The book was dedicated to him, which meant that Piranesi received both financial security and political protection.60 Paper was the biggest cost item and generally speaking accounted for half of the funding. The exemption from import duty granted by the Pope saved Piranesi substantial expense.61

A book that went against the prevailing opinion about Greek superiority could reckon on a response. In 1764 the French art dealer and collector Pierre-Jean Mariette (1694-1774) reacted to Della Magnificenza with an article in the scholarly magazine Gazette Litéraire de l’Europe. In it he asserted that Piranesi’s vision about the origin of Roman culture was not correct.62 Piranesi reacted to this criticism almost at once with his Osservazioni sopra la lettre de M. Mariette (Observations on the Letter of M. Mariette) in which he defended his position with Mariette’s text alongside in order to demonstrate that Mariette had only read his text superficially.63 The texts in this book of prints can be divided into three parts: Osservazioni, Parere and Prefazione (Observations, Opinion and Preface) At the end, Piranesi stated that he intended to produce a further book about the development of all the different styles in the classical world in order to demonstrate that it was not just the Greeks who had good taste (in the Prefazione ad un nuovo Trattato Della Introduzione e del Progresso delle belle arti in Europa (Preface to a New Treatise on the Introduction and Progress of Fine Arts in Europe)).64 This declaration of intent led some twentieth-century researchers, Wilton-Ely for instance, to conclude that Piranesi began to change his stance and recommended a varied use of styles.65 Piranesi’s starting point was that nature never repeated itself and nothing had the same appearance twice. He was therefore always searching for variation in his work.66 According to Kantor-Kazovsky, Piranesi expressed his wish for this publication in order to expose the reasons underlying Mariette’s criticism, namely his efforts to reduce the importance of Italy in the training of young artists. Mariette had published several critical articles in the same journal in which he raised this issue. The Greek versus Roman debate exposed the eighteenth-century struggle between France and Italy for the leading position in the field of European culture. The feud between Mariette and Piranesi did not end with the Osservazioni. Mariette fiercely attacked Piranesi in letters to contemporaries in which he maintained that Piranesi had not understood his criticism because of his limited knowledge of the French language and accused him of not coming up with these ideas himself – one of the reasons why Piranesi’s authorship was doubted at the time and for a long time thereafter.67

It was this type of book that put Piranesi on the map as an antiquarian.68 He used his prints as visual instruments to support his arguments. He started using this approach in Antichità Romane, it reached its pinnacle with Della Magnificenza and he employed it to defend himself in Osservazioni. The contents of the Della Magnificenza and Osservazioni books of prints have a lot in common so they were often bound together in one book binding. This is also the case with the copy in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection. It is a large folio book and starts with Della Magnificenza, which had two title prints, a portrait of Pope Clement XIII, vignettes, ornamented initials, two hundred pages of Latin and Italian texts and 38 page-size etchings. This is immediately followed by the Osservazioni with 23 pages of text and sixteen prints, which include one title print and six vignettes. The work, which was bound by Jacques Mössly (1853-1912) in one volume in a brown morocco spine with gold lettering, entered the collection as part of a donation from Bierens de Haan in 1938. He had purchased it in Paris on 15 June 1937 from the art dealer Georges Rapilly (1863-1943). There are two marks on both title pages that trace the book to the court library of the Counts of Erbach, possibly around the end of the eighteenth or the beginning of the nineteenth century (fig. 8).69

Fig. 8 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Second title page with Italian text (detail of the mark of the court library of the Count of Erbach)', 1761, etching, 527 × 395 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH Boek 1 2 (PK)
Fig. 8 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Second title page with Italian text (detail of the mark of the court library of the Count of Erbach)', 1761, etching, 527 × 395 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH Boek 1 2 (PK)

Vasi Candelabri Cippi Sarcofagi Tripodi Lucerne ed Ornamenti Antichi Disegn ed Inc Dal Cav Gio Batta Piranesi [Tomo Primo-Secondo], Pubblicati l’anno MDCCLXXIIX. Folio, 55.3 × 43.5 × 5 cm. Volume One: title print, 55 numbered prints (1 to 55) and one unnumbered print. Volume Two: title print, 55 numbered prints (56 to 110) and 13 unnumbered prints.

Piranesi was well acquainted with the market for prints and books of prints and with the ways in which large-scale production could be financed. He benefitted from papal protection and moved in circles containing influential residents of Rome, such as the librarian of the Corsini family, Giovanni Gaetano Bottari (1689-1775). He also made use of collections, such as that of the wealthy patron and collector Nicola Giobbe (1705-1748), and he made friends like the British architect Robert Adam (1728-1792), who took his works back to England.70 As he became more widely known, he fitted out a space in his workshop in Palazzo Tomati to sell his works, his ‘museo’. As well as prints and books of prints, he also sold antiquities, particularly to tourists who visited Rome as part of their Grand Tour of Europe and who liked to take such objects back home with them. These were his own neo-ancient designs and ‘restored’ sculpture that can best be labelled as pastiches because they were contemporary assemblages incorporating different ancient elements. He found ancient ornaments during his expeditions through and around Rome and had them made into combinations that had never been seen before (fig. 9). He employed special restorers to do this, for example Bartolomeo Cavaceppi (1716-1799) and Giuseppe Angelini (1735-1811). Piranesi recorded these antiquities on copper plates and published them in 1778 as Vasi, candelabri, cippi, sarcofagi, tripodi, lucerne ed ornamenti antichi (Vases, Candelabra, Urns, Sarcophaguses, Tripods, Lamps and Ancient Ornaments). These two volumes were intended for devotees and served as inspiration for artists. He also depicted examples of what could be purchased from him.71

Fig. 9 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Candelabro Antico di Marmo di gran mole ritrovato negli Escavj della Villa Adriana (Large Ancient Marble Candelabrum Found at the Excavations at Hadrian's Villa)', 1778, etching, 750 × 540 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH Boek 3 a 26 (PK)

Unlike the books of prints he had published previously, in which there was a written line of reasoning, the objective of this work called primarily for the presentation of images rather than text in letterpress. The relevant information was etched on the plate for each individual composition, for example where the ornaments were found. This created the freedom to also sell the prints as separate sheets without depriving the purchaser of any information.72 When put together, the prints formed a catalogue of Piranesi’s antiquities, which consisted primarily of vases. The contents could easily be changed in the event that he had a new antiquity for sale or had made a new print. Piranesi listed the names of the buyers, who included English and Scottish nobles, on the prints of sold objects with the aim of encouraging the sale of his other antiquities. This is how he developed into one of the most important Roman antiquities dealers with an international circle of clients.73

Some of Piranesi’s antiquities are currently well known, for example the Warwick Vase in the Burrell Collection in Glasgow, named after the owner George Grenville (1712-1770), the Earl of Warwick. The use of modern research techniques has revealed that the vase is a pastiche with mainly eighteenth-century parts. Piranesi noted under the print that it was an example that reflected the perfection of that time and that the work had been restored. The vase gives insight into the difference between the eighteenth-century and the contemporary interpretations of the concept of restoration.74 In the eighteenth century it was common practice to replace missing parts of a sculpture or antiquity because collectors preferred to buy an intact work. It was a working practice that was completely at odds with current restoration ethics, under which the original is determining and there is great restraint when it comes to additions. Seen in this context, it is not correct to designate the text under the print as misleading and no more than a means to promote the work, as has sometimes happened in the past.

Most of the prints feature vases. Over half of the 64 vases that are depicted came from Piranesi’s own collection (still for sale or already sold) and 17 came from other prestigious collections. Piranesi noted on the print which these were (fig. 10). Vasi, candelabri was popular with buyers and potential buyers of his antiquities and print collectors, and also with silversmiths. There was a long tradition of ornament prints of vases serving as models for other makers. Piranesi’s prints inspired a number of silversmiths to replicate the vases, for instance England’s most famous silversmith of the first half of the nineteenth century, Paul Storr (1770-1844).75 A book of prints by Piranesi, Diverse maniere (1769), had been published previously with the same goal in mind, namely as a model for applied art.76

Fig. 10 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Veduta di fianco in prospettiva del Vaso del Sig. Cav. Giorgio Grenville (Side view of Sir George Grenville’s Vase)', 1778, etching, 750 × 540 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH Boek 3 a 17 (PK)

The two volumes with a dated title print (1778) include 110 numbered prints between them. According to Hind, Piranesi made the prints between 1768 and 1778. The same author contends that Piranesi’s son Francesco supplemented the existing series between 1779 and 1786 with eight prints (numbers 13, 14, 20, 72, 74, 77, 87 and 109).77 It emerges from the copy in the print room of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart that Francesco continued adding supplements until 1791.78 The two volumes in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection include 124 sheets, including title prints, of which 110 are numbered. This numbering was added later in pencil and pen and ink; if two impressions were made on one sheet of paper, they were given one number between them. Six of these 124 prints were made by Francesco – this number is therefore different from those in the copy described by Hind (numbers 13, 14, 20, 72 and 87 [a] and [b] correspond, but the other numbers are currently attributed to the oeuvre of Giovanni Battista). The last dated print was made in 1786, while the copy in Stuttgart has editions dating from 1790 and 1791. This copy can therefore be dated at between 1786 and 1790. This dating is confirmed by the watermarks. Francesco’s works are all printed on paper with a Bracciano watermark, which was dated by Robison at around 1790 (fig. 11).79 It is striking that some sheets have two impressions on them, be they etchings by Giovanni Battista or Francesco, but are counted as one work in the numbering. The previous owner, Bierens de Haan, thought that he had acquired the 1778 edition, as he described at the front of the first volume in pencil (‘J.B. Piranesi Vasi Candelabri etc. 2 vol 1778 1re édition avec les numéros de ma coll. no. 20848-957' (coll. compl. de 110 pl.).’). The numbering of the prints might explain why he refers to 110 prints rather than 124. He does not mention the later additions made after Piranesi’s death. On the inside of the book binding there is an ex libris of Sir Edward Henry Scott, fifth Baronet of Lytchett Minster (1842-1883). Both volumes were donated to the museum by Bierens de Haan after he had purchased them at a sale in Paris on 30 December 1936.

Fig. 11 Francesco Piranesi, 'Volta, e Parete d’una delle Cammere appartenenti alla fabrica di delizia contigua al Circo di Caracalla (Vault and Wall of One of the Rooms in the Building next to the Circus of Caracalla) (detail of the watermark)', 1785, etching, 540 × 750 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH Boek 3 a 21 (PK)
Fig. 11 Francesco Piranesi, 'Volta, e Parete d’una delle Cammere appartenenti alla fabrica di delizia contigua al Circo di Caracalla (Vault and Wall of One of the Rooms in the Building next to the Circus of Caracalla) (detail of the watermark)', 1785, etching, 540 × 750 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH Boek 3 a 21 (PK)

Catalogo delle Opere (1761)

Catalogo delle Opere date finora alla luce da Gio. Battista Piranesi Ar[chitetto Veneziano] so[cio delle reale societa] di [Londra e accademico] el[etto di San Luca]. Si vendono presso il medesimo Autore nel palazzo del Conte Tomati a Strada Felice, vicino alla Trinità de’Monti.

After he relocated to Palazzo Tomati, Piranesi started to promote himself more explicitly as a publisher. He published a fund catalogue of the works he had produced until then, with the prices for which they were available from him: Catalogo delle Opere (Catalogue of Works, 1761) (fig. 12). The print, which served at the same time as an example of his capabilities, was repeatedly supplemented by Piranesi with the titles of new works as time passed. When the list became too long, Piranesi added a second copper plate, which was printed on one sheet together with the first one. Thirty states of the Catalogo are known to have been made during his lifetime, some of them with a printed reference to a specific person. This was because he sent the print to people in his social circle, which included fellow print publishers and potential buyers, who in some cases had their copy bound into one of his books of prints. He also had the print included in the sales catalogues of writers and publishers.80 This was an effective sales strategy and his sons continued to make impressions of his Catalogo after his death until 1792, when they switched to a fund catalogue with printed text.81 The museum’s example lists most of the works in his oeuvre, such as the four volumes of Antichità Romane, Della Magnificenza, the second edition of Carceri, Vasi, candelabri and 120 of the Vedute di Roma. These last two are separated by a vertical line, which dates the copy to 1773 at the earliest according to a recent article in which Robison describes all the different states. Based on his description, the museum’s impression is state XXV, of which there are currently only four known examples. Robison dates this state at January 1775. Although Vasi, candelabri was not published until 1778, prints had been made by way of preparation and had been listed in the Catalogo as a preannouncement since state XIX (1772-73).82 The museum copy contains on the verso the title print of Antichità Romane de’Tempi della Repubblica e de’Prima Imperatori (Roman Antiquities in the Times of the Republic and of the First Emperors). It was the predecessor of Alcune Vedute di Archi Trionfali (Some Views of Triumphal Arches). The name was changed after 1761.83 The title print does not yet have an ornamented border and may be a proof with the text alone. The fact that Piranesi used this again in 1775 for an impression of his Catalogo is not unusual because the paper used to make proofs was regularly reused.84

Fig. 12 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Catalogo delle opere date finora alla luce da Gio. Battista Piranesi (Catalogue of the Works of Giovanni Battista Piranesi Published So Far)', 1775, etching, 480 × 302 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. L 1953/8 recto (PK)

Opere varie di architettura prospettive grotteschi antichità sul Gusto degli Antichi Romani Inventate, ed Incise Da Gio. Batista Piranesi Architetto Veneziano, in Roma MDCCL, con licenza de’Superiori, si vendono presso l’Autore nel palazzo del Signor Conte Tomati su la strada Felice alla Trinità de’Monti. Folio, 55.5 × 43 × 4 cm. Composition: Six series of prints combined under the title Opere varie: Title page, frontispiece with portrait of Piranesi by Polanzani, Prima Parte di Architetture e Prospettive, Lettere di Giustificazione scritte a milord Charlemont, Grotteschi, Trofei di Ottaviano Augusto, Carceri, Alcune Vedute di Archi Trionfali.

Prints could be sold in Rome as separate works, but it was not permitted to publish and sell a book or series of prints without official permission from the authorities. It was the publisher Bouchard who assembled different prints by Piranesi, for example the Grotteschi and the Carceri, and requested permission to publish them in combined form in 1750 under the name Opere varie di architettura, prospettive, grotteschi, antichità (Various Works of Architecture, Perspectives, Grotesques and Antiquities). By using this combined title, it was possible to obtain the necessary permission to get several series of prints by Piranesi printed and to sell them.85 The composition of Opere varie varies from one copy to another, but generally speaking there are a number of standard parts. The work usually begins with the portrait of Piranesi by Francesco Polanzani as frontispiece, followed by the Prima Parte di Architetture e Prospettive (First Part of Architecture and Perspectives). The other series in which Piranesi plays with reality and fantasy, Grotteschi and Carceri, come after that.86 The work was frequently republished. The composition changed and new series of prints were added, such as the 1753 Trofei di Ottaviano Augusto (Trophies of Octavian Augustus). Opere varie brings together Piranesi’s early work during a period when he was experimenting with the etching technique, for example polishing the copper plate, applying acid directly to the plate to etch it, using different kinds of ink and varying the quantity of ink on the plate. The way he used tools was also unconventional on occasion, for example he would scrape the plate using a stone.87

The 1743 Prima parte is the earliest book of prints by Piranesi and the first expression of his love of architecture and ancient Rome. The architecture depicted by Piranesi is a combination of reality and fantasy presented in complex compositions.88 The book of prints was published by the brothers Niccolò and Marco Pagliarini (active between 1742 and 1786?). Piranesi dedicated the work to Nicola Giobbe, a prosperous Roman with a large collection of books and prints about architecture that the artist was permitted to use.89 Prima parte obtained official approval to be published as a book of prints even though it had only four pages of text in letterpress, a title print and twelve etchings.90 Although the name suggests that more volumes were to follow, none did. Prima parte was added to the publication Opere varie, with a modified title print and without the letterpress texts, which remained the property of the Pagliarini brothers.91 The four pages of the Grotteschi are Piranesi’s sketchiest prints. He made them shortly after he settled permanently in Rome in 1747. They are often linked to the style of Tiepolo’s Capricci (Various Caprices) in which swift lines predominate. In these four prints, Piranesi plays with architectural and human decline.92 The Carceri, discussed in detail below, is another set of imaginative prints. These spatial inventions of prisons appear to explore the visual possibilities and limits of architecture. Because there are no exits in the design, the viewer could experience the feeling of imprisonment within the play of lines.93 The Trofei di Ottaviano Augusto was published in 1753 by Bouchard as a book of prints with a title page in letterpress. For the rest, the book contains an etched text with each print, for which separate copper plates were used. Piranesi describes, among other things, where the fragments were found. Bouchard added the prints and texts to the Opere varie.94

The museum’s copy was purchased in 1954 from an art dealer in London. It comprises 82 prints, of which 77 are bound and five are currently kept separately. In the first edition of Opere varie, Bouchard had the title page printed in letterpress. After Piranesi moved to his new workshop in 1761, he had a new title page that stated his own address printed in letterpress and added a new print, which is included in the museum’s copy (fig. 13).95 This is followed by the Prima parte, which on the title print notes Piranesi’s membership of the Accademia degli Arcadi, where he was assigned the pseudonym Salcindio Tiseio.96 This was an exclusive club to which one had to be introduced and Piranesi might have been proposed by the prominent member Giovanni Gaetano Bottari. It was the perfect place to develop a network of patrons and benefactors.97

The Prima parte is followed by ten small prints, of which five are new states of prints that originally belonged with the Lettere di Giustificazione (1757), and five are completely new. This series of ten was added to the Prima parte starting in the seventeen-sixties.98 After this series of small prints comes a large floorplan of an imaginary college (fig. 14). The five prints that originally came next (an imaginary port and four sheets from the Grotteschi) were removed from the volume by the museum at some point in the past and have been kept separately ever since.99 This is why the series Trofei di Ottaviano Augusto currently follows the aforementioned floorplan. Five of the sixteen prints were etched by Francesco Piranesi, who republished the Trofei in 1780, using the etched version of the title print.100 The museum’s copy has something else missing: the Carceri. The fourteen or sixteen sheets from this series – depending on whether it was the first or second edition – had already been removed from the volume before the museum acquired it. This happened frequently in the past because the works sold for more as a loose-leaf print series than when bound. The work ends with Alcune Vedute di Archi Trionfali, a series that was first published by Piranesi under the name Antichità Romane de’Tempi della Repubblica e de’Prima Imperatori (1748). Its name changed after 1761.101 This was a republication of the series made by Francesco that comprised 32 prints, including one addition by Francesco dating from 1778. The dedication print to Bottari and two prints with legends are states without an ornamented border.

Piranesi’s loose-leaf print series were often reprinted and the Opere varie as a whole was republished several times until long after his death. This makes dating the work difficult. The date on the title page is misleading because 1750 is the year in which Bouchard received permission to publish the work.102 Although this volume was put together around 1785-1790, the year on the title page was not changed. The posthumous dating is based on the datings of the separate series: Prima parte is an edition published between the mid-seventeen-eighties and 1799, the four Grotteschi prints are the third edition, first print run, and dated between 1778 and the end of 1780, and both the Trofei and the Alcune Vedute were republished by Francesco after his father’s death. The different watermarks in the paper confirm this late edition. When prints were bound into a volume, the first and last were protected by flyleaves. The flyleaves in this copy have watermarks that can be dated to the seventeen-eighties.103 It can be concluded from this that fairly soon after they had been printed, the prints were bound in the contemporary grey cardboard in which they have been bound to the present day.

Fig. 13 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Title Page of Opere Varie with Vignette', 1750, letterpress and etching, 550 × 415 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. L 1954/9 1 (PK)
Fig. 13 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Title Page of Opere Varie with Vignette', 1750, letterpress and etching, 550 × 415 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. L 1954/9 1 (PK)
Fig. 14 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Pianta di ampio magnifico Collegio (Floorplan of Large Magnificent College)', 1750, etching, 600 x 440 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. L 1954/9 29 (PK)
Fig. 14 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Pianta di ampio magnifico Collegio (Floorplan of Large Magnificent College)', 1750, etching, 600 x 440 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. L 1954/9 29 (PK)

Invenzioni capric di Carceri, 1749-1750, first edition, fourteen prints
Carceri d’invenzione, 1761, second edition, sixteen prints

To this day the Carceri remains a mysterious and striking series in Piranesi’s oeuvre. Many authors have pondered the question of what the author wanted to say with these images of imaginary prisons. They have been discussed in terms that range from an experiment to a quest for the sublime. Piranesi started in 1749-1750 with fourteen plates of these spatial inventions entitled Invenzioni capric di Carceri (Fanciful Images of Prisons). The prisons are reminiscent of Etruscan and Roman theatre decors, but also of prison systems and fortifications. The idea of being locked up in these spaces springs from the way Piranesi positions the viewpoint of viewers such that they have no sight of a possible exit. In 1761 he returned to the copper plates, altered the compositions and made them much darker by deepening the etched lines or using the etching needle to scratch the plate directly. He also added two new prints and changed the title of the series on the title page to Carceri d’invenzione (Imaginary Prisons). The architectural fantasies in the second edition with unending systems of corridors that are populated here and there have something sinister about them. They have often been interpreted as torture chambers and it has been suggested that they reflected depression being suffered by the maker. They have also been explained as a depiction of the limits of invention within which the viewer appears to be confined – referring to the title.104

Fig. 15 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'The Drawbridge', 1749-1750, etching, 558 × 412 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. L 1952/18 (PK)
Fig. 15 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'The Drawbridge', 1749-1750, etching, 558 × 412 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. L 1952/18 (PK)
Fig. 16 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'The Drawbridge', 1761, etching and engraving, 772 × 549 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. L 1952/34 (PK)
Fig. 16 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'The Drawbridge', 1761, etching and engraving, 772 × 549 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. L 1952/34 (PK)

There are major differences between the first and second editions (figs. 15, 16). As studies into Piranesi’s work continued, researchers discovered that Piranesi had repeatedly made changes to his copper plates and that there were several states with slight changes within the two editions. The second edition was republished posthumously four times, so altogether there were six different editions.105 There were furthermore three print runs of the first edition (1749-1760) in 1749-1750, 1750-c. 1758 and c. 1758-1760. The first print run comprises primarily first states, while the second and third print runs contain later states, and numerous prints in the third edition also had extra ink on the plates. There is a clear difference between the first and second states of the title print. In the first state the name Bouchard is spelt Buzard, and this was corrected in the second state. There were four different print runs in the second edition (1761-1778). They were in 1761, the early to mid-seventeen-sixties, the mid- to late seventeen-sixties to the early seventeen-seventies, and the mid- to late seventeen-seventies. Unlike the prints in the first edition, which as a rule are of only one state, several state differences can be made out in the second edition. The deep tonal state differences arise from Piranesi’s experiments with ink and acid.

The time the etching plate spends in the acid bath is a variable in the etching technique. It determines how deeply the lines are etched and how much ink they can hold. Piranesi experimented with the time he left the plates in the acid, as other printmakers had done before him, but he extended the process to such an extent that the structure of the lines became blurred, as only Rembrandt had done previously.106 Piranesi’s experiments also involved shielding parts of the plate by using an etching ground or special lacquer in order to prevent the acid reaching the copper. The quantity and colour of the ink also contributed to the tonal effect of the prints. Piranesi began with a light black ink, which could vary to silver grey, then, from the mid-seventeen-fifties, he tended towards sepia, and at the end of his career he returned to a deep black ink.107 The prints in the early set of the Carceri are sketchy in style with light, thin lines and were printed using black ink. The late set is the result of deeply etched lines that were filled with deep black ink. Details are lost in the impression but deep shadows are created. The addition of extra ink to the copper plate was another of his techniques. He spread it out by rubbing the palm of his hand over the plate, which created an extra tonal effect (plate tone).108 He was able to achieve this effect in ways other than adding extra ink. He emphasized areas by scraping copper away from the plate or making the surface smoother by polishing it.109 One of his most experimental ideas was to let the acid directly etch the plate by applying it with a brush.110 This could produce superb effects, although it was easy to go too far, interfere with the lovely tonal effect and make those areas look very rough.

Piranesi’s Carceri appeared as separate sheets, but starting in 1750 they were part of the Opere varie published by Bouchard. It is not always possible to establish the provenance of loose-leaf series that have been kept because they were often cut out of the publication and sold separately. It is not immediately obvious from which print run or edition they came. Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection includes two editions as loose-leaf sets. Both were purchased in 1952 with help from the Lucas van Leyden Foundation. The early edition with fourteen prints was bought in London from the P. & D. Colnaghi gallery and the late edition with sixteen prints in Paris from the art dealer Paul Prouté. The states were investigated in order to establish which print runs and editions the two sets belong to.

The set of fourteen prints has a title print with the incorrect spelling Buzard and is therefore easy to identify as the first state (of nine). Most of the prints in the series have only one state in the first edition, and in the ones that have several states it is fairly straightforward to identify which one it is. The print known as The Giant Wheel, for example, has three states in the first edition.111 The difference between the three is very clear: without signature (I), with signature (II) and without the large diagonal line in the middle of the composition (III). The impression in the museum’s collection is signed and the diagonal line is still present, so it is the second state. It is not so easy to determine the states of all the prints. Two states of The Sawhorse exist in the first edition. The first of these is very rare. Only three impressions are known. On the face of it, the example in the museum’s collection could, on the basis of Robison’s description, ‘Before scratching on walls around large doorway in lc. Before spikes on round-topped pillar in br corner’, be a first state.112 The difference from the second state is in tonal scratching in the central corner, where the passage and the arch meet.113 This light difference in shadow is very subtle, but further examination has revealed that it is visible on the museum’s print, and consequently it can be identified as a second state. Besides the title print with the incorrect spelling Buzard, the first print run contains only first states that were printed without extra ink on the plates (except for The Giant Wheel and The Sawhorse, of which there can also be second states). This means that the series in the museum’s collection is from the first print run of the first edition, which is dated 1749 to 1750.

Until now it has always been assumed that the other set in the museum’s collection with sixteen prints was an early edition printed by Piranesi himself. After Piranesi’s death the copper plates were used to print a further four editions. The third (1778-1799) and fourth edition (1800-1809) are the same states as the previous print runs and can only be distinguished on the basis of the watermarks. The fifth edition (1835-1839) was printed by Firmin Didot in Paris, who at a certain moment printed the next new states and added the numbering. All the prints in the museum’s series are from the last print run of the second edition, still without numbers. The watermarks reveal that they have to have come from the fourth or fifth edition, in other words the first Paris edition (1800-1809) or the Firmin Didot edition before the numbering (1835). According to Robison, the watermarks in these two editions are largely the same, but the fourth edition mostly has the watermark with the name Dupuy together with the text Auvergne 1742, as does the set in Rotterdam (fig. 17).114 This French laid paper came from the La Grand Rive paper mill of Thomas Dupuy (1746-1823) in the Auvergne, a region that was known for paper manufacturing and a family whose dynasty was prominent in it.115 One of the works by Francesco Piranesi in the museum’s collection was also printed on Dupuy paper and might therefore have been made during his Paris period (1799-1810) (fig. 18). It therefore seems plausible that the second Carceri set in the collection is the fourth edition, in other words the first Paris edition, published after Piranesi’s death by his sons. Although these are therefore posthumous impressions, there are no state differences since the previous time that Piranesi worked on the copper plates and the deep tonal effects that the artist had hoped to achieve are still visible. It is therefore not surprising that the impressions in the museum’s collection have been exhibited often because they appeal very strongly to the imagination and clearly demonstrate Piranesi’s skill. The popularity of the series has manifested itself, particularly over the last century, in studies by researchers who interpret the work very differently, for example in the context of the expression of Piranesi’s psyche, as a statement of the sublime, as a predecessor of the Romanticism that arrived in Europe at the end of the eighteenth century, and as a description of his architectural theories. The series has furthermore recently been translated as a very popular fantasy novel.116

Fig. 17 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'The Well (detail of the watermark)', 1761, etching and engraving, 549 x 769 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. L 1952/40 (PK)
Fig. 17 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'The Well (detail of the watermark)', 1761, etching and engraving, 549 x 769 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. L 1952/40 (PK)
Fig. 18 Francesco Piranesi, 'Map of Pompeii (detail of the watermark)', 1799-1810, etching, 450 x 825 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. L 1975/87 a (PK)
Fig. 18 Francesco Piranesi, 'Map of Pompeii (detail of the watermark)', 1799-1810, etching, 450 x 825 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. L 1975/87 a (PK)

Print series with title page, frontispiece and 135 cityscapes, two of which were added posthumously by his son Francesco.

Piranesi came to Rome in 1740 in the retinue of the Venetian ambassador to the Vatican on the occasion of the coronation of Pope Benedict XIV. This was the beginning of his love for the city, which he went on to record often during his lifetime.117 He settled permanently in Rome in 1747 and this signalled the start of the series Vedute di Roma (Views of Rome), on which he was to continue working for the rest of his life. The series of prints includes all the city’s well-known classical monuments, such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trajan’s Column and the Forum Romanum, as well as depictions of the modern metropolis as it was in Piranesi’s time, with the hustle and bustle in Piazza Navona, in St Peter's Square, around the Spanish Steps and elsewhere. Besides cityscapes there are also the interiors of buildings and locations in the environs of Rome. The series reveals which monuments fascinated Piranesi and where he spent a lot of time, such as Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli, which he recorded no fewer than five times. It was a popular place where artists and architects liked to go to sketch on the spot.118 He returned to some monuments, for instance the Basilica of Maxentius, which he also included in the Antichità Romane (1756) (fig. 19, 20). He believed that in this way he was contributing to the knowledge about these buildings and providing a snapshot for the future should these buildings become weathered or crumble.119

Piranesi recorded the city as he saw it, he did not give any indications of scale or references, and he confined himself to brief titles and designations of the buildings depicted. He soon started to play with scale and mass. The monuments are central and the figures who populate the streets and monuments are drawn on a comparatively very small scale, often as admirers. As a result, Piranesi underlines the grandeur of the buildings by making them look even bigger and more monumental (fig. 21).120 The artist deliberately selected a low viewpoint, which makes the monuments appear to tower over the viewer and gives extra emphasis to their size (fig. 22).121

Fig. 19 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Veduta degli avanzi del Tablino della Casa aurea di Nerone detti volgarmente il Tempio della Pace (View of the Remains of the Dining Room of Nero’s Golden House, Commonly Called the Temple of Peace)', 1775, etching, 498 × 723 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH 20686 (PK)
Fig. 19 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Veduta degli avanzi del Tablino della Casa aurea di Nerone detti volgarmente il Tempio della Pace (View of the Remains of the Dining Room of Nero’s Golden House, Commonly Called the Temple of Peace)', 1775, etching, 498 × 723 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH 20686 (PK)
Fig. 20 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Veduta degli avanzi appartenenti alla Casa Aurea di Nerone (View of the remains of Nero’s Golden House)', 1756, etching, 515 × 390 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH Boek 2 a 65 (PK)
Fig. 20 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Veduta degli avanzi appartenenti alla Casa Aurea di Nerone (View of the remains of Nero’s Golden House)', 1756, etching, 515 × 390 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH Boek 2 a 65 (PK)
Fig. 21 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Veduta della Piazza della Rotonda (View of the Piazza della Rotonda)', 1746-1748, etching, 422 × 558 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH 20613 (PK)
Fig. 21 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Veduta della Piazza della Rotonda (View of the Piazza della Rotonda)', 1746-1748, etching, 422 × 558 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH 20613 (PK)
Fig. 22 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Veduta della Facciata di dietro della Basilica di S. Maria Maggiore (View of the Façade at the Back of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore)', 1756-1757, etching, 419 × 630 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH 20605 (PK)
Fig. 22 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Veduta della Facciata di dietro della Basilica di S. Maria Maggiore (View of the Façade at the Back of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore)', 1756-1757, etching, 419 × 630 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH 20605 (PK)

The 135 capital prints, mostly 515 × 760 mm, of views of ancient and modern Rome and its environs, were to become his most famous series. They were the best-selling works in his lifetime. Here, too, he responded cleverly to the demands of the purchasers. The tourists in Rome were primarily prosperous young Europeans on their Grand Tours as the completion of their education, aristocrats, scholars and artists. They wanted to take a souvenir home with them and Piranesi provided an alternative that was cheaper and easier to transport than the popular paintings of cityscapes.122 Piranesi became a successful vendor in the eighteenth-century tourist market and gave the series a prominent place in the middle of his fund catalogue.94 The idea of large cityscapes in the form of prints was innovative compared with the output of other printmakers, who published much smaller cityscapes, among other things for travel guides. The large size made it an expensive proposition which Piranesi, as the publisher of the series, had to finance himself. He was able to use the dowry of his wife, Angela Pasquini (c. 1730-?), whom he married in 1752.124 Piranesi did not produce all 135 prints in one go. He gradually built up the series, which meant he could spread the investment in 135 copper plates over several years. He usually sold his cityscapes as separate works, but in the beginning he also published some of them as a series, the Magnificenze di Roma antica e moderna (Magnificence of Ancient and Modern Rome) 1751.125

Piranesi worked on this series throughout his life, so the moments at which he made the separate impressions vary very widely. Piranesi did not date the sheets, with one exception. Because of this, many authors have focused on the dating of the Vedute.126 Although 1747 is generally considered to be the start date of the series, there are prints with a possible earlier date. There is, for example, a set of ten prints on Venetian paper, which suggests a start date of 1746.127 The dating of the series is impeded by the fact that Piranesi regularly reworked his copper plates in order to make changes and because the plates had become worn after being used to make very many impressions. This also continued after his death, initially by his son Francesco, who added two prints he made himself to the series, which took the total to 137.128 Because there were multiple reprints, there is considerable variation in the quality of the prints in circulation. There is therefore good reason for Hind to have described them as ‘mere wrecks of their former selves.’129 In 1922 Hind made a first attempt to date the separate sheets of the Vedute and a rough classification that led to the identification of eight different states: proofs without titles, impressions made during Piranesi’s lifetime comprising three states, and four posthumous editions. The differences between the states identified by Hind were based on whose name was mentioned on the print. For each state, he stated whether Piranesi had used thick or thin paper and what the watermark is.130 Although this was a revolutionary step in Piranesi research, Hind’s classification was refined later on, particularly with regard to the differences between states.

There are some data that help when dating the separate sheets from the series: the first 34 prints are to be found in the Magnificenze (1751), in the foreword to the Antichità Romane (1756) Piranesi himself states that 39 Vedute were available, the address of Piranesi’s workshop in Palazzo Tomati appeared on his works after his move in 1761, in that same year 59 Vedute were listed on the first edition of the Catalogo, and from 1766 he signed himself as Cavalier Piranesi.131 Piranesi amended the Catalogo every time he had new works ready, which means that the different states can be used to help date small groups within the Vedute. This only works for the later sheets because, as we have seen, the Catalogo was first published in 1761.132 In 1983 Robison gave the early works an approximate date and, on the basis of his recent research into the Catalogo, a production date can be assigned to all Vedute (fig. 23).133 This is the earliest possible date that the separate prints were made. It is always important to look at the paper to determine the date of the impression because the plates were used so often to make reprints.

Fig. 23 Illustration with dates and the Vedute di Roma (Views of Rome) series referred to using the numbering devised by Hind (1922)

The museum has the complete series except for three prints by Piranesi and the two additions by Francesco. Most of them – 97 etchings – were donated in 1936 by Bierens de Haan. Since then, this donation has been supplemented with other sheets from the series. In 2021, for instance, the title print was added to the collection. The example concerned was one of a bound set of the Magnificenze, which was taken apart by a previous owner.

As part of this investigation, the 132 prints were re-examined to establish whether they are contemporary or posthumous impressions, and to narrow down the dating of the prints. Robison’s datings referred to above provide a guideline for the production date. The states and watermarks of the prints were compared in order to determine the first possible date of the specific impressions. The sheets were divided into two groups for the purposes of this investigation – the prints that were made before and after Piranesi relocated in 1761. Generally speaking, it can be said of the prints dating from before the move in 1761 that the earliest impressions do not mention a publisher’s address, subsequent sheets show the address of the publisher Bouchard, and after the move they have Piranesi’s address and the price on the prints. After that, this price was removed from the copper plates, and numbers were added in the later posthumous impressions.134 It is striking that most of the prints in the museum’s collection dating from before 1761 bear Piranesi’s address, which indicates that they are reprints. If the price is still present, it is very probably an impression made during Piranesi’s lifetime. The impressions made after the price had been removed from the copper plate are most likely to have been printed in Rome after his death. This picture is confirmed by the watermarks.

This first group includes a remarkable example of the print Veduta della Basilica di S. Sebastiano fuori delle mura di Rome (View of the Basilica of St Sebastian Outside the Walls of Rome) (fig. 24), which appears to be between the first state (before the addition of numbers) and the second state (with the number 20 added in the cartouche). The impression in the museum’s collection has the number 2 in the cartouche at the bottom of the composition. The first state is contemporary and the second state indicates a posthumous publication printed in Rome or Paris.135 The watermark is the letter R, which could suggest a date in the mid-seventeen-eighties and therefore this example would be classified as a posthumous Roman impression.136 Veduta della gran Curia Innocenziana (View of the Palazzo di Montecitorio) is another print where the state and the watermark are remarkable. According to the description in Hind, this impression is a first state, but Robison discovered three states that precede it, so it is actually the fourth state.137 The suggestion of a first state prompts the idea that this is a contemporary early impression, whereas the watermark points to a posthumous date between the late seventeen-seventies and the early seventeen-nineties.138 This date is a better match for a fourth state and makes this sheet a posthumous Roman impression.

Fig. 24 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Veduta della Basilica di S. Sebastiano fuori delle mura di Roma, su la via Appia (View of the Basilica of St Sebastian Outside the Walls of Rome, on the Appian Way) (detail)', 1761, etching, 541 × 768 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH 20608 (PK)

With regard to the prints in the second group that have a production date after 1761, it is usually the case that the first state bears the address of Piranesi’s new workshop in Palazzo Tomati. In a subsequent state the price has been removed from the copper plates and in later states there is numbering. Piranesi stopped mentioning his address in 1766, which means that distinguishing these impressions from posthumous prints can often only be based on the numbers that were added. In later states Piranesi’s copper plates were often reworked with extra added lines and etched more deeply in the acid. Piranesi did this himself and his sons continued the practice after his death, so it is tricky to establish whether or not an impression is contemporary.139 The visible watermarks in the examples held by the museum enable a more precise determination of the moment of production, for example for Veduta del Tempio di Ercole nella Città di Cora (View of the Temple of Hercules in the City of Cora). This is the second state, in which the reworking was primarily in parts of the sky. This can indicate changes that were made during his lifetime or after his death by his sons in Rome or in Paris. The watermarks suggest a dating of between 1770 and 1790, corresponding to a posthumous Roman impression, which means that the changes were made by Piranesi’s sons after they took over the workshop in Rome.140 Veduta dell'insigne Basilica Vaticana coll'ampio Portico, e Piazza adjacenta (View of the Famous Vatican Basilica with its Spacious Portico, and Adjacent Piazza) is another example where research into the states is not enough to date an impression. The first state was made before the addition of numbers and the impressions range from contemporary to early Paris prints at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Thankfully, watermarks are a means of making a more accurate dating as a Roman print made after Piranesi’s death at some point between the late seventeen-seventies and the early seventeen-nineties.138

The only print in this second group that comes in between the description of the states is Avanzi degl'Aquedotti Neroniani (Remains of the Aqueduct of Nero) (fig. 25). The first state was produced before the addition of numbers and the second state has the number 48 in the cartouche. The print has the number 8 in the cartouche at the bottom of the composition. The first state is contemporary and the second state is indicative of a contemporary print or a later publication printed in Rome or Paris.142 It is clear from the watermark that the paper is not French and that the impression has to have been made in Rome by Piranesi himself or by his sons after his death. Further study of the watermarks in other collections could contribute to further demarcation of individual impressions.

Fig. 25 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Avanzi degl'Aquedotti Neroniani (Remains of the Aqueduct of Nero) (detail)', 1775, etching and engraving, 540 × 775 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. L 1956/60 (PK)

In the cases discussed above, the watermark is used to narrow down the dating of the impressions by comparing them with the states, but this procedure can be applied the other way round to modify the dating of a watermark. In the case of eight prints that all have the same watermark of an ornamental shield with the letter F above it and the letter M below it in the paper, the probable dating of the state is different from the dating of the watermark. The states of the prints suggest a contemporary dating whereas Robison dated the watermark to between the late seventeen-seventies and the seventeen-eighties.143 The conclusion could be that, despite the state, these prints were all made after Piranesi’s death. This situation arises with several prints with this watermark, and this prompts the question as to whether the dating of the watermark should be amended to cover a longer period in this case.

There are a couple of early prints among the 56 impressions in the museum’s collection in the category of prints designed by Piranesi before his relocation. Most of them, however, are contemporary reprints made after 1761 and a quarter were printed posthumously in Rome by his sons. Of the 76 prints that were produced after the relocation, 21 are contemporary, 7 are posthumous Roman, 34 are contemporary or posthumous Roman and 14 are not in any of these categories because of the absence of a visible watermark. The printed date for this last group cannot be determined more precisely until the states are defined more clearly.



As a printmaker and publisher of books of prints, Piranesi needed large quantities of paper. It was readily available from the many different paper mills in Italy. Each paper mill used a mark – a watermark – to identify its products. This mark is only visible when the paper is held up to the light because the paper is thinner there (fig. 26). It is produced in the manufacturing process. The papermaker takes paper pulp from the vat using a mould with a screen of copper wire and a deckle on top, thus creating a sheet of paper.144 The watermark is a figure or a motif made from copper wire that is attached to the screen, with the result that fewer paper fibres can collect there. When the sheet of paper is held up to the light, the watermark becomes visible, as does the pattern of screen wires, known as the chain lines and laid lines. As a result of wear during the manufacturing process, the marks could only be used for a limited time. When a new mould was made, the new watermark was similar but not completely identical to the old one because they were hand made, so there were always differences.145

Fig. 26 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Pianta d’un Sepolcro fuori di Porto S. Sebastiano (Floorplan of a Tomb outside Porta S. Sebastiano) (detail of the watermark)', 1756, etching, 515 × 760 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH Boek 2 c 9 (PK)
Fig. 26 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 'Pianta d’un Sepolcro fuori di Porto S. Sebastiano (Floorplan of a Tomb outside Porta S. Sebastiano) (detail of the watermark)', 1756, etching, 515 × 760 mm, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Rotterdam, inv. BdH Boek 2 c 9 (PK)

The oldest Italian paper mills are in Fabriano in the province of Ancona, the centre of paper manufacturing. The use of a watermark was invented here the thirteenth century. It was a means for the manufacturer to make the paper recognizable and acted as a guarantee of the quality, for which there were very strict rules.146 Papermakers selected a very wide range of figures and motifs, from Christian to astrological symbols. Many common marks are of crossbows, eagles and lilies (fleur-de-lis, as can be seen in the illustration above).147 During the manufacturing process, two moulds were used at the same time to increase output. Both had the same, essentially identical watermark.148 After couching (when the sheets were removed from the mould, stacked with pieces of felt in between them, pressed and dried) they were packaged 500 sheets at a time in a ream wrapper.149 This paper, with almost identical watermarks from the two moulds, was packaged together and therefore sold at the same time, so impressions on this paper can be given the same date.150 Watermarks are a useful aid in more accurate dating of works on paper. The countermark can be an additional means for facilitating watermark research. This is a second watermark attached to the same mould, often bearing the name or initials of the paper mill or the vatman.151

Watermarks can be used to learn about Piranesi’s paper consumption, about which little is currently known. Where and when did he buy his paper and how did he use it? This research is important in dating his prints more accurately, and the impressions too. It can, for example, be used to distinguish posthumous impressions, which were often made using similar paper.152 As we have seen, Piranesi’s business was continued by his sons and his etching plates were used until well into the twentieth century.

In Piranesi’s case, there are two complicating factors relating to the visibility of the watermarks. He used very thick paper to make impressions with his etching plates and applied large quantities of printing ink, as a result of which much less light shines through the paper. In the second half of the eighteenth century, moreover, another sort of paper, wove paper, was introduced. There was demand for a type of paper in which the structure of the mould was no longer visible. Papermakers responded by using a finely woven brass wire cloth as a screen in the mould, as a result of which the surface of the paper was much smoother.153 Piranesi worked with laid paper, in which the chain lines and water lines are visible, and wove paper, in which the watermarks are less visible.



Despite these complicating factors, an attempt was made to track down the watermarks in Piranesi’s prints in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection and, in so doing, provide insight into his paper selections. This was a continuation of Andrew Robison’s research. In 1986 he used watermarks for the first time in research into Piranesi’s work, particularly to date early impressions and a number of print series. Robison’s pioneering work was limited to determining how frequently certain watermarks are found within Piranesi’s oeuvre.154 He did not note any dimensions of the watermarks or their position in the paper, yet this type of information is important when comparing watermarks and variation differences. Nor did he look into the origin of the paper, in other words which region or which paper mill the paper came from. This is important because it can tell us something about Piranesi’s paper consumption and possibly reveal a pattern of purchase and use. The information from this investigation supplements existing research and provides a better understanding of Piranesi’s working practices.

The first step is to identify and analyze the watermarks: their numbers and the categories they come into. After manufacture, paper was often folded and cut, and this is a determining factor for the presence of a watermark in a print.155 The position of a watermark in a sheet of paper consequently indicates whether or not the page is still the original size. If a sheet of paper is uncut, it is referred to as plano, and if a sheet is divided into two, four or eight, it is referred to as folio, quarto or octavo respectively.156 This is not yet related to the size of the paper. There were standard paper sizes in early modern Europe. In the seventeenth-century, for example, the variants in the Netherlands were pot (280 x 350 mm), gemeen (320 x 420 mm), mediaan (420 x 540 mm), royaal (480 x 580 mm) and imperiaal (550 x 720 mm).157 In Italy it was traditional to have four paper sizes: Reçute (315 x 450 mm), Meçane (345 x 515 mm), Realle (445 x 615 mm) and Inperialle (500 x 740 mm).158 Piranesi worked primarily on large sheets of paper. Based on the museum’s collection, it can be established that the sizes are primarily Meçane or Inperialle. Meçane was used for smaller, often vertical prints or for two small prints on one sheet, and Inperialle was used for larger, often horizontal prints that were sometimes folded with a binding strip in the fold so that they could be bound. In view of this large paper size, many prints could be expected to contain a watermark.

All the visible watermarks in Piranesi’s prints could be investigated using transmitted light photographs, where a source of light is underneath the paper and a camera above the paper photographs the pattern in the paper. Of the 751 prints that have been investigated, 531 had one watermark. It should be pointed out that 54 prints shared the sheet of paper with another print and they therefore had the same watermark. Two watermarks were found in 54 prints, namely the watermark and the countermark. In 109 works the watermark was absent or not visible. There were also three prints that could not be investigated because they were completely fixed to the backing sheet.

The watermarks present were sorted, categorized and compared. Comparing watermarks has become relatively easy thanks to the development of a new computer tool. Overlay videos can be used to digitally superimpose one watermark on top of another and make a comparison at preselected points.159 This comparison technique yielded 16 different watermark prototypes that range from a fleur-de-lis in a circle with the letter F below to a watermark that depicts a shield with crossed keys and crown above, letters SUBIACO below.

The next step was to compare these prototypes with existing manuals and databases in order to trace the origin and narrow down the dating. The calibrated method is to search for corresponding watermarks that occur in dated historical documents. Various researchers, including Churchill, Heawood, Piccard and Zonghi, have studied watermarks and developed catalogues that can be used as a source of information about watermarks.160 Over the years databases, including online databases, have been created; the memory of paper is one of the most comprehensive.161 It should be pointed out that these sources specifically focus on watermarks from earlier centuries. The eighteenth century therefore requires more study.162 The general books and databases have consequently provided less help in this investigation than had been hoped, so a supplementary search technique had to be used. We therefore got in touch with the Fondazione Fedrigoni Fabriano, which manages the papermills’ archives in Fabriano.163 Given that this was the oldest centre of paper manufacturing in Italy, it was obvious that the paper used by Piranesi came from there. The Fondazione has developed a database of all the types of paper manufactured in Fabriano since the end of the thirteenth century, the Corpus Chartarum Fabriano (CCF).164 The watermarks database, the Corpus Chartarum Italicarum (CCI), which covers a larger part of Italy, was also consulted.165 The following overview shows what this quest produced and the tables indicate how often the different watermarks occur (figs. 27, 28).166

Fig. 27 Illustration of the 16 prototypes of the watermarks found in the Piranesi prints in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Collection
Fig. 27 Illustration of the 16 prototypes of the watermarks found in the Piranesi prints in the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Collection
Fig. 28 Illustration of the number of times the 16 prototype watermarks occur and whether it is in a page with letterpress text or an impression
Fig. 28 Illustration of the number of times the 16 prototype watermarks occur and whether it is in a page with letterpress text or an impression

A number of general conclusions about the origin of the paper can be drawn on the basis of this overview. Piranesi used paper from different papermills in Fabriano, for example Sordini and Serafini. Apart from the watermarks, the latter mill is also confirmed as a supplier by a document in the archive of the Fondazione Fedrigoni Fabriano in which it is stated that Piranesi used Serafini paper.167 There is a suspicion that paper was also obtained from the Mariotti papermill in Fabriano, but hopefully more research in the future into the watermarks in the paper used by Piranesi will confirm or disprove this.168 Two other centres where he acquired paper were Subiaco in the region of Lazio and Bracciano just north of Rome. The papermill in Subiaco was founded under Pope Sixtus V (1521-1590) in 1587, but this specific watermark points to the period in which Subiaco was controlled by Pope Pius VI (1717-1799). Above are the papal insignias of a tiara with crossed keys and below is the shield of Pope Pius VI with three stars and a small cherub’s head blowing the wind towards a lily (a zephyr).169 Bracciano had a papermill that was constructed in 1724 and was very active in the eighteenth century. Its closeness to Rome explains the distribution of Bracciano paper there. It enjoyed a good reputation.170 Piranesi visited the town himself to record the Palazzo del Duca di Bracciano Odeschalchi for his series the Varie Vedute (Various Views) in 1745. In addition to Italian watermarks, the investigation also found marks with a French origin. These indicate a descendant of the Dupuy family, papermakers from the Auvergne. This French paper is linked to the continuation of Piranesi’s business by his sons in Paris from the end of the eighteenth century.

The commonest watermark among the group of 751 Piranesi prints is the fleur-de-lis in a double circle with the monogram CB above, as can be seen in the table above (fig. 28).171 This image corresponds to the findings of Robison, who distinguished between ten variants of this type of watermark, which was used from about 1760 to about 1790.172 Five of these variants were found in the museum’s collection in, for example, the four volumes of the Antichità Romane, the two volumes of the Vasi, candelabri, the Opere varie, the Paestum series and the Vedute di Roma series. The corresponding examples in the manuals and databases have comparable dating.173 Although the motif of this watermark was used frequently in Italy in the second half of the eighteenth century, the origin unfortunately remains unclear. It is suspected that it originated in central Italy, in the regions of Lazio, Umbria or Marche. Papermakers used the watermark to distinguish between the quality of the different sorts of paper that they supplied. As a general rule, the good-quality paper had a watermark in a circle.174 The vast majority of the watermarks found have such a circle, which confirms that Piranesi preferred to use the best quality.

As well as an aid in dating individual prints, watermark research can also be a means of narrowing down the date when books of prints were compiled. This issue is more complex. The year on the printed title pages gives no guidance about the dates the impressions it contains were printed because Piranesi reused his copper plates later without amending the year on the title page, which refers to the year in which legal permission was given. He had the title page and pages of text in letterpress produced in one print run and printed impressions with his copper plates as and when needed. He put them together and sold them as one item.175

The book of prints Della Magnificenza is a good example. As we saw earlier, this was bound together with the Osservazioni and had more than two hundred pages of text and 62 etchings. During the watermark investigation, 28 prints with one watermark were found, one of which was on a sheet with two prints, and 23 prints were found to have two watermarks. In ten prints the watermarks were not present or not visible. Nine different watermarks were found. They are watermark numbers 14, 20, 38, 43, 57, 59, 64 and 75 in Robison. One watermark was absent because Robison never saw it. The first watermark is the fleur-de-lis in a circle with the letter B above and the letter V below. This is only found in the pages of text of the Della Magnificenza and indicates a date of 1761.176 The paper used for the rest of the book therefore has eight different watermarks originating from different papermills in Italy. Piranesi very probably used his copper plates a number of times to make the quantity of impressions he needed at that moment, both for books of prints and to sell as separate sheets. He was not concerned about which paper he used. It would be interesting to compare this copy of the book of prints with others. According to Robison the dates of the watermarks range from 1761 to the early seventeen-nineties. It can be stated on the basis of the watermarks that most of the impressions in this book of prints were printed on paper that was made between the mid-seventeen-seventies and the early seventeen-nineties. The presence of the watermark with a four-legged animal in a circle with an outlined letter P above (Robison no. 75, early seventeen-nineties) points to a posthumous date. The watermark that Robison does not mention, but does occur in prints by Piranesi, came from the Subiaco paper mill. It includes the shield of Pope Pius VI, who reigned from 1775 to 1799. This suggests that the paper was manufactured towards the end of Piranesi’s life or after his death. Given this composition, it follows that the pages of text are contemporary, but some or all the prints were produced after Piranesi’s death. The text pages and prints have to have been put together by his sons when they were running the workshop in Rome.

Thanks to this investigation, a great deal of information could be added to the existing knowledge about the watermarks in the paper of Piranesi’s prints, such as the location of the watermark in the paper, the origin and a few watermarks not previously discovered. The results have provided insight into Piranesi’s working practices and the existing dating of individual impressions and books of prints could be confirmed or disproved. The investigation into eighteenth-century watermarks is ongoing. If the databases are expanded and more research in done in Italian archives, this type of investigation can become an even more valuable aid. By sharing all the information and references online, the museum is hoping to encourage further research into the watermarks in Piranesi’s prints.

Amsterdam 1997
H. Mulisch, Zielespiegel, Amsterdam (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam) 1997

Annual Report 1937
Verslag omtrent den toestand en de aanwinsten van het Museum Boymans 1937

Annual Report 1938
Verslag omtrent den toestand en de aanwinsten van het Museum Boymans 1938

Annual Report 1949
Verslag omtrent den toestand en de aanwinsten van het Museum Boymans 1949

Annual Report 1951
Verslag omtrent de toestand en de aanwinsten van het Museum Boymans 1951

Balston 1998
J. Balston, The Whatmans and Wove Paper: Its Invention and Development in the West: Research into the Origins of Wove Paper and of Genuine Loom-Woven Wire-Cloth, West Farleigh 1998

Battaglia 2006
R. Battaglia, ‘A First Collection of the Vedute di Roma’, in M. Bevilacqua, H.H. Minor, F. Barry (red.), The Serpent and the Stylus: Essays on G. B. Piranesi (Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. Supplementary Volumes, vol. 4), Ann Arbor 2006, pp. 93-102

Bevilacqua 2006
M. Bevilacqua, ‘The Rome of Piranesi: Views of the Ancient and Modern City’, in M. Bevilacqua, M. Gori Sassoli (eds.), The Rome of Piranesi: The Eighteenth-Century City in the Great Vedute, transl. by Susan Aulton, Rome 2006, pp. 39-58

Bevilacqua/Minor/Barry 2006
M. Bevilacqua, H.H. Minor, F. Barry, ‘Introduction’, in M. Bevilacqua, M. Gori Sassoli (eds.), The Rome of Piranesi: The Eighteenth-Century City in the Great Vedute, transl. by Susan Aulton, Rome 2006, pp. 1-10

Bulletin Museum Boymans 1937
‘Etsen van G.B. Piranesi’, Bulletin Museum Boymans Rotterdam, 1 (1937), no. 1, pp. 13-14

Campbell 2000
M. Campbell, ‘Piranesi and Innovation in Eighteenth-Century Roman Printmaking’, in E. Peters Bowron, J.J. Rishel (eds.), Art in Rome in the Eighteenth Century, exh. cat. Philadelphia (Philadelphia Museum of Art) 2000, pp. 561-567

Churchill 1935
W.A. Churchill, Watermarks in Paper in Holland, England, France, etc. in the XVII and XVIII Centuries and their Interconnection, Amsterdam 1935

Van der Coelen 2021
P. van der Coelen, ‘Geschiedenis van de collectie: verwerving en verrijking’, in S. Kisters and E. Postma (eds.), Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam 2021, pp. 88-107

Copenhagen 2021
H. Kolind Poulsen, Piranesi: Vision and Veracity, exh. cat. Copenhagen (Statens Museum for Kunst) 2021

Connors 1999
J. Connors, ‘Reviewed Work(s): Giovanni Battista Piranesi: The Complete Etchings by John Wilton-Ely’, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 58 (1999), no. 2, pp. 223-24

Dabrowski 2007
J. Dabrowski, ‘The Genuinely European Technique of Making Paper by Hand Developed in Fabriano: An Interpretation through the Mirror of Paper Technology’, in G. Castagnari (ed.), L’impiego dell tecniche e dell’opera dei cartai fabrianesi in Italia e in Europa: arrti delle giornate europee di studio = The Use of Techniques and Work by Papermakers from Fabriano in Italy and Europe: Congress Book of European Paper Days, Fabriano 2007, pp. 415-43

Detersannes 2007
G. Detersannes, ‘Le filigrane temoin et chanter de notre histoire’, in G. Castagnari (red.), L’impiego dell tecniche e dell’opera dei cartai fabrianesi in Italia e in Europa: arrti delle giornate europee di studio = The Use of Techniques and Work by Papermakers from Fabriano in Italy and Europe: Congress Book of European Paper Days, Fabriano 2007, pp. 501-09

Dixon 2016
S. Dixon, ‘Vasi, Piranesi, and the Accademia Degli Arcadi: Toward a Definition of Arcadianism in the Visual Arts’, Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, 61 (2016), pp. 219-62

Filedt Kok/Hinterding/Van der Waals 1994
J.P. Filedt Kok, E. Hinterding, J. van der Waals, ‘Jan Harmensz. Muller as Printmaker – II’, Print Quarterly, 11 (1994), no. 4, pp. 351-78

Focillon 1918
H. Focillon, Giovanni-Battista Piranesi: essai de catalogue raisonné de son oeuvre, Paris 1918

Hind 1922
A.M. Hind, Giovanni Battista Piranesi: A Critical Study, London 1922

Hinterding 2006
E. Hinterding, Rembrandt as an Etcher, Ouderkerk aan den IJssel 2006

Hofer 1961
P. Hofer, ‘Piranesi as Book Illustrator’, in R.O. Parks (ed.), Piranesi, exh. cat. Northampton (Smith College Museum of Art) 1961, pp. 81-87

Holländer 1997
H. Holländer, ‘Piranesis Carceri. Capriccio und Kalkül’, in E. Mai, J. Rees, Kunstform Capriccio: von der Groteske zur Spieltheorie der Moderne, Cologne 1997, pp. 97-112

Höper 1999
C. Höper, Giovanni Battista Piranesi: die poetische Wahrheit, Stuttgart 1999

Johnson/Sethares/Holben Ellis 2021
C.R. Johnson Jr, W.A. Sethares, M. Holben Ellis, ‘Overlay Videos for Quick and Accurate Watermark Identification, Comparison, and Matching’, Journal of Historians of Netherlandish Art, 13 (2021), no. 2, pp. 1-37

Kantor-Kazovsky 2006a
L. Kantor-Kazovsky, ‘Pierre Jean Mariette and Piranesi: The Controversy Reconsidered’, in M. Bevilacqua, H.H. Minor, F. Barry (eds.), The Serpent and the Stylus: Essays on G. B. Piranesi (Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. Supplementary Volumes, vol. 4), Ann Arbor 2006, pp. 149-68

Kantor-Kazovsky 2006b
L. Kantor-Kazovsky, Piranesi as Interpreter of Roman Architecture and the Origins of his Intellectual World, Florence 2006

Klemm 2016
D. Klemm, Piranesi. Carceri: Der Bestand der Kupferstichkabinetts der Hamburger Kunsthalle, Petersberg 2016

Koshikawa 1992
M. Koshikawa, ‘An Unpublished Early Copy of the Catalogo delle Opere of Piranesi’, Venezia arti: bollettino del Dipartimento di storia e critica delle arti dell'Università di Venezia, 6 (1992), pp. 128-31

Landau/Parshall 1994
D. Landau, P. Parshall, The Renaissance Print 1470-1550, New Haven and London 1994

Laurentius et al. 1992
T. Laurentius, H. van Hugten, E. Hinterding et al., ‘Het Amsterdamse onderzoek naar Rembrandts papier: radiografie van de watermerken in de etsen van Rembrandt’, Bulletin van het Rijksmuseum, 40 (1992), no. 4, pp. 353-84

Laurentius 2016
T. Laurentius, F. Laurentius, Italian Watermarks 1750-1860, Leiden 2016

Lehmann 1961
K. Lehmann, ‘Piranesi as Interpreter of Roman Architecture’, in R.O. Parks (ed.), Piranesi, tent.cat. Northampton (Smith College Museum of Art) 1961, pp. 88-98

Loeber 1982
E. Loeber, Paper Mould and Mouldmaker, Amsterdam 1982

Maastricht 1998
R. Blok, M. de Haan, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Grafiek en Tekeningen, exh. cat. Maastricht (Bonnefantenmuseum) 1998

Minor 2006
H.H. Minor, ‘Engraved in Porphyry, Printed on Paper: Piranesi and Lord Charlemont’, in M. Bevilacqua, H.H. Minor, F. Barry (eds.), The Serpent and the Stylus: Essays on G. B. Piranesi (Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. Supplementary Volumes, vol. 4), Ann Arbor 2006, pp. 123-47

Minor 2015
H.H. Minor, Piranesi’s Lost Words, Pennsylvania 2015

Ter Molen 1999
J.R. ter Molen (ed.), 150 jaar Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen: een reeks beeldbepalende verzamelaars, Rotterdam 1999

Pasquali/Smyth 2006
S. Pasquali, O. Smyth, ‘Piranesi Architect, Courtier, and Antiquarian: The Late Rezzonico Years (1762-1768)’, in M. Bevilacqua, H.H. Minor, F. Barry (eds.), The Serpent and the Stylus: Essays on G. B. Piranesi (Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. Supplementary Volumes, vol. 4), Ann Arbor 2006, pp. 171-94

Pinto 2012
J. Pinto, Speaking Ruins: Piranesi, Architects, and Antiquity in Eighteenth-Century Rome, Ann Arbor 2012

Reynard 1998
P.C. Reynard, ‘Manufacturing Strategies in the Eighteenth Century: Subcontracting for Growth among Papermakers in the Auvergne’, The Journal of Economic History, 58 (1998), no. 1, pp. 155-82

Robison 1970a
A. Robison, ‘Giovanni Battista Piranesi: Prolegomena to the Princeton Collections’, The Princeton University Library Chronicle, 31 (1970), no. 3, pp. 165-206

Robison 1970b
A. Robison, The ‘Vedute di Roma’ of Giovanni Battista Piranesi: Notes Towards a Revision of Hind’s Catalogue, Paris 1970

Robison 1983
A. Robison, ‘Dating Piranesi’s Early “Vedute di Roma”’, in A. Bettagno (ed.), Piranesi tra Venezia e l’Europa, Florence 1983, pp. 11-33

Robison 1994a
A. Robison, ‘Watermarks’, in Wilton-Ely 1994, pp. 1150-82

Robison 1994b
A. Robison, ‘Giovanni Battista Piranesi’, in J. Martineau (ed.), The Glory of Venice: Art in the Eighteenth Century, New Haven 1994, pp. 377-405

Robison 2022
A. Robison, ‘Piranesi’s “Catalogo delle Opere”’, The Burlington Magazine, 164 (2022), no. 1428, pp. 230-45

Rodgers Albro 2016
S. Rodgers Albro, Fabriano: City of Medieval and Renaissance Papermaking, New Castle 2016

Rosenfeld 2006
M.N. Rosenfeld, ‘Picturesque to Sublime: Piranesi's Stylistic and Technical Development from 1740 to 1761’, in M. Bevilacqua, H.H. Minor, F. Barry (eds.), The Serpent and the Stylus: Essays on G. B. Piranesi (Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome. Supplementary Volumes, vol. 4), Ann Arbor 2006, pp. 55-91

Rotterdam 1937
J.G. van Gelder, Antonio Canaletto, 1697-1768 en Giov. Batt. Piranesi, 1720-1778: Rome en Venetië in de 18e eeuw, Rotterdam (Museum Boymans) 1937

Rotterdam 1953
B.L.D. Ihle, J.C. Ebbinge Wubben, Etsen van Piranesi, 1720-1778, Rotterdam (Museum Boymans) 1953

Rotterdam 1962
B.L.D. Ihle, Vacantie in het buitenland, Rotterdam (Museum Boymans-van Beuningen) 1962

Rotterdam 1969-1970
B.L.D. Ihle, Portretten van kunstenaars, 1500-1800, Rotterdam (Museum Boymans-van Beuningen) 1969-1970

Rotterdam 2006
J.C. Ebbinge Wubben, A.J. Elen, D. van de Vrie, Piranesi - Canaletto - Tiepolo: prenten uit de collectie Bierens de Haan: een keuze van oud-directeur J.C. Ebbinge Wubben, Rotterdam (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen) 2006

Rotterdam 2015
S. Ex, E. Hoek, La La La Human Steps, Rotterdam (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen) 2015

Scaloni 2020
G. Scaloni, ‘Piranesis Radiertechnik: Zu den Druckplatten in der Calcoteca des Instituto centrale per la grafica in Rom’, in M. Wullen, G. Schelbert, E. Dalvai (eds.), Das Piranesi Prinzip, Leipzig 2020, pp. 30-35

Stevenson 1951-1952
A. Stevenson, ‘Watermarks Are Twins’, Studies in Bibliography, 4 (1951-1952), pp. 57-91

Udy 1978
D. Udy, ‘Piranesi’s “Vasi”, the English Silversmith and His Patrons’, The Burlington Magazine, 120 (1978), no. 909, pp. 820-37

Voorn 1960
H. Voorn, De geschiedenis der Nederlandse papierindustrie, 3 vols. (1960-1985), Haarlem

Washington 1986
A. Robison, Piranesi: Early Architectural Fantasies: A Catalogue Raisonné of the Etchings, exh. cat. (National Gallery of Art) Washington 1986

Wilton-Ely 1972
J. Wilton-Ely, Giovanni Battista Piranesi: The Polemical Works, London 1972

Wilton-Ely 1978
J. Wilton-Ely, The Mind and Art of Giovanni Battista Piranesi, London 1978

Wilton-Ely 1993
J. Wilton-Ely, Piranesi as Architect and Designer, New Haven 1993

Wilton-Ely 1994
J. Wilton-Ely, Giovanni Battista Piranesi: The Complete Etchings, San Francisco 1994

Wilton-Ely 2007
J. Wilton-Ely, ‘Design through fantasy: Piranesi as Designer’, in S.E. Lawrence (ed.), Piranesi as Designer, exh. cat. New York (Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum) 2007, pp. 11-92

Witcombe 2008
L.C.E. Witcombe, Print Publishing in Sixteenth-Century Rome: Growth and Expansion, Rivalry and Murder, London 2008

Wittkower 1961
R. Wittkower, ‘Piranesi as Architect’ in R.O. Parks (ed.), Piranesi, exh. cat. Northampton (Smith College Museum of Art) 1961, pp. 99-109

Yerkes/Minor 2020
C. Yerkes, H.H. Minor, Piranesi Unbound, Princeton 2020

Exhibitions without Catalogues

Haarlem 2008
De droom van Piranesi. Eeuwig modern design, Haarlem (Teylers Museum) 2008 [no cat.]

Rotterdam 1991
J. Burgers, Giovanni Battista Piranesi: Vedute di Roma, Rotterdam (Museum Boymans-van Beuningen) 1991 [brochure]

Rotterdam 1998
de Haan, R. Blok, De perfecte zinloosheid van de onmogelijke ruimte: Piranesi als het grote voorbeeld van M.C. Escher, Rotterdam (Museum Boymans-van Beuningen) [brochure]

Rotterdam 2009/2010
‘De Collectie Twee’, collection presentation, Rotterdam (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen) 2009/2010 [no cat.]

Rotterdam 2019
Boijmans bij de Buren – De duizelingwekkende verbeelding van Piranesi, Rotterdam (Kunsthal) 2019 [no cat]

Sint-Niklaas 1999
Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Sint-Niklaas (Stedelijk Museum Sint-Niklaas) 1999 [no cat]


  • Download the bibliography Piranesi on paper Download


Please refer to this online collection catalogue as follows in a source reference:

Mireille Linck, Piranesi on Paper, online collection cat. Rotterdam (Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen) 2022, consulted [date consulted], <https://www.boijmans.nl/en/collection/research/piranesi>



All 751 prints by Piranesi in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s collection are linked to this collection catalogue, and the data are generated from the Collection Online. All information about the object, including an image, appear if you click on a print. If you click on the arrow alongside the image, an image of the watermark (if present) appears. The titles on the prints, if present, were the starting point of the investigation. If there is no title, the name by which the work is known in the Piranesi literature is used. Abbreviations have been used in the literature and exhibition fields. The full entry is to be found in the bibliography. Even if no catalogue was published for an exhibition, the title is included in the bibliography. This is stated at the bottom under a separate subheading. The bibliography can be downloaded below.

Abbreviations have been used for the object information, for example in the ‘signature’ and ‘inscriptions’ fields. There are also references to where the text is, for instance upper left and below right. The known provenance data of all works are also included. The sign ; - ; indicates that the provenance is currently unclear.

The normal method for reference has been selected for the field containing the identification of the watermarks. Name of the watermark (dimensions, position relative to image, direction relative to image, the chain line or lines the watermark is on; direction of the laid lines, total number of chain lines, production size, reference to Robison 1994a). If the watermark is hard to see and/or could not be photographed, this is specified.

Example: ornamental shield with diagonal crossbar, top left fleur-de-lis and bottom right dagger, with the letter F above and the letter M below (122 x 112 mm, right center, up right, P5-7 from the right; vH, 21P, plano; similar to Robison 61)

The letters have the following meanings.

v = laid lines (v = vergeures, in French)

P = chain lines (P = pontuseaux, in French)

V = vertical (direction of the laid lines)

H = horizontal (direction of the laid lines)

Example: vH, 5P = horizontal laid line pattern, with five chain lines



Mireille Linck

Peter van der Coelen
Sandra Kisters
Esmee Postma
Sabine Terra

Lynne Richards

Julia van den Berg
Helmy Frank
Mieke Fransen
Fleur den Herder
Milou van der Stel
Sara Swart

With heartfelt thanks to the staff of the Fondazione Fedrigoni Fabriano.

Photograph Credits
Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen Collection, Rik Klein Gotink, Studio Tromp

© 2022 Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam
The author and the photographers

The museum has endeavoured to trace all copyright holders. Anyone who believes they may have rights is requested to contact Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

All rights reserved. No part of this collection catalogue may be reproduced or made public in any form, or in any way, without the prior written permission of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen
P.O. Box 2277
3000 CG Rotterdam
T +31 (0)10 4419400

The collection catalogue was made possible in part by:


1 Wilton-Ely 1994, p. 2; Connors 1999, p. 223; Bevilacqua/Minor/Barry 2006, p. 7.

2 Minor 2015, pp. 4, 9.

3 Oeuvres des Chevaliers Jean Baptiste et François Piranesi qu’on vend séparement dans la Calcographie des Auteurs. See for example https://www.nga.gov/collection/art-object-page.207599.html [consulted on 21 February 2022].

4 Focillon 1918; Hind 1922; Washington 1986; Wilton-Ely 1994.

5 Höper 1999.

6 Washington 1986, pp. 215-239; Robison 1994a, pp. 1150-1182.

7 This is not always the date on which the books and series were first published.

8 Robison 1994b, p. 377; Campbell 2000, p. 561; Minor 2015, p. 1; Copenhagen 2021, p. 19.

9 Bevilacqua/Minor/Barry 2006, pp. 1, 5. It is not known whether he embarked on a different career path because of a lack of orders or because he did not intend to be an architect so that he could give free rein to expressing his imagination on paper, see Wittkower 1961, p. 99.

10 Wilton-Ely 1978, p. 11; Minor 2015, p. 1; Copenhagen 2021, pp. 19-24.

11 Robison 1994b, p. 381; Campbell 2000, p. 563; Rosenfeld 2006, p. 55; Bevilacqua 2006, pp. 49-50; Copenhagen 2021, pp. 25-28.

12 Pinto 2012, p. 103.

13 Bevilacqua 2006, p. 55; Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 6.

14 Yerkes/Minor 2020, pp. 1-2, 4.

15 Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 23.

16 Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 4.

17 For his relationship with the Pope and the Rezzonico family see Pasquali/Smyth 2006, pp. 171-194.

18 Wilton-Ely 1994, p. 3; Maastricht 1998, p. 24; Pinto 2012, pp. 124-126.

19 Hind 1922, p. 5; Wilton-Ely 1994, p. 7; Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 72; Scaloni 2020, p. 31.

20 See Ter Molen 1999 and Van der Coelen 2021 for a good overview of different major donations in the history of the museum.

21 Ter Molen 1999, pp. 254-285.

22 The museum’s Bulletin in 1952 was devoted entirely to Bierens de Haan; 1951 Annual Report, pp. 1-2; Ter Molen 1999, pp. 255-256.

23 Ter Molen 1999, p. 267.

24 Museum Boymans Bulletin 1937, pp. 13-14; Rotterdam 1937; Ter Molen 1999, pp. 272-273.

25 1937 Annual Report, p. 8.

26 1938 Annual Report, p. 6.

27 Bierens de Haan inventory card, kept in Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

28 Ter Molen 1999, pp. 270, 275.

29 135 by Piranesi and two additions by his son Francesco.

30 See L 2021/1 (PK), purchased in 2021 at C.G. Boerner in New York.

31 Rotterdam 1937.

32 Rotterdam 1953.

33 Rotterdam 2006.

34 Maastricht 1998; R. Blok, M. de Haan, De perfecte zinloosheid van de onmogelijke ruimte: Piranesi als het grote voorbeeld van M.C. Escher, exh. cat. Rotterdam (Museum Boymans-van Beuningen) 1998.

35 Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Sint-Niklaas (Stedelijk Museum Sint-Niklaas) 1999 [no catalogue].

36 De droom van Piranesi. Eeuwig modern design, Haarlem (Teylers Museum) 2008 [no catalogue].

37 Witcombe 2008, pp. 6-9.

38 Yerkes/Minor 2020, pp. 8, 33-34.

39 Hofer 1961, p. 81.

40 Minor 2015, p. 4; Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 126.

41 Scaloni 2020, pp. 31, 33.

42 Yerkes/Minor 2020, pp. 10, 15, 40, 64-65, 147.

43 Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 15.

44 Landau/Parshall 1994, p. 15: on average a bale contained 5,000 sheets of paper; Bevilacqua 2006, p. 54; Minor 2015, pp. 45-46, note 10.

45 Minor 2015, p. 5; Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 80. For a digitized publication including text see https://arachne.uni-koeln.de/Tei-Viewer/cgi-bin/teiviewer.php?manifest=BOOK-ZID868771.

46 The copy in the museum’s collection has 68 pages of text because the dedication to Charlemont is missing. It is possible that Piranesi no longer included it after their disagreement.

47 Robison 1970a, p. 186; Robison 1994b, p. 395; Maastricht 1998, pp. 16-17; Wilton-Ely 2007, p. 23; Minor 2015, pp. 5, 46; Yerkes/Minor 2020, pp. 33-34, 88.

48 Wilton-Ely 2007, p. 23; Yerkes/Minor 2020, pp. 58, 88.

49 Wilton-Ely 1978, pp. 48, 63; Minor 2006, p. 124; Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 58.

50 Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 152.

51 Wilton-Ely 1972, p. v; Wilton-Ely 1978, p. 63; Minor 2006, pp. 125-126; Yerkes/Minor 2020, pp. 58, 126-128. It was extremely unusual to treat a benefactor in this way.

52 Wilton-Ely 1994, p. 2; Maastricht 1998, p. 17; Minor 2015, p. 46.

53 Robison 1994a, p. 1153, no. 5, p. 1161, no. 35, p. 1162, nos. 36-38.

54 Bierens de Haan inventory card, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen; 1949 Annual Report, p. 3; https://rkd.nl/nl/explore/artists/445321 [consulted on 16 May 2022].

55 For a comprehensive analysis of the Greek-Roman controversy at that moment see Kantor-Kazovsky 2006b.

56 Wilton-Ely 1972, p. vi; Wilton-Ely 1994, p. 3; Maastricht 1998, p. 18; Wilton-Ely 2007, p. 26; Pinto 2012, p. 72; Minor 2015, p. 10.

57 Lehmann 1961, p. 95; Robison 1994b, p. 396; Maastricht 1998, p. 18; Kantor-Kazovsky 2006b, p. 46; Pasquali/Smyth 2006, p. 185; Pinto 2012, p. 64.

58 Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 71.

59 Hind 1922, p. 2; Hofer 1961, p. 82; Yerkes/Minor 2020, pp. 4-6.

60 Wilton-Ely 2007, p. 27; Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 94.

61 Wilton-Ely 1993, p. 38.

62 Wilton-Ely 1972, p. vii; Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 114. For the complex relationship between Piranesi and Mariette see Kantor-Kazovsky 2006a, pp. 154-161.

63 Wilton-Ely 1972, p. vii; Maastricht 1998, p. 18; Kantor-Kazovsky 2006b, p. 55; Wilton-Ely 2007, p. 28; Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 114.

64 Kantor-Kazovsky 2006a, p. 167. A book that in the end he never published.

65 Wilton-Ely 1994, p. 3; Wilton-Ely 2007, p. 28.

66 Lehmann 1961, p. 96; Pinto 2012, p. 64.

67 Kantor-Kazovsky 2006a, p. 167; Kantor-Kazovsky 2006b, pp. 55-56; Copenhagen 2021, p. 36.

68 Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 10.

69 This is an interesting provenance that can be investigated further in the future. The marks are not yet referred to in Lugt’s Marques de Collections de Dessins & d’Estampes (http://www.marquesdecollections.fr/) and are currently being researched by Fondation Custodia staff.

70 Bevilacqua 2006, pp. 41, 49; Kantor-Kazovsky 2006b, pp. 20-21; Rosenfeld 2006, pp. 75, 88; Dixon 2016, p. 241; Copenhagen 2021, p. 35. For the relationship between Piranesi and Adam see A. Tait, ‘Reading the Ruins: Robert Adam and Piranesi in Rome’, in Architectural History 27 (1984), pp. 524-533.

71 Wilton-Ely 1972, p. xi; Wilton-Ely 1978, p. 111; Udy 1978, p. 823; Robison 1994b, p. 405; Wilton-Ely 1994, p. 3; Maastricht 1998, p. 24; Pinto 2012, pp. 124-126.

72 Yerkes/Minor 2020, pp. 122-124.

73 Robison 1994b, p. 405.

74 Robison 1994b, p. 405; Pinto 2012, pp. 126, 130; Copenhagen 2021, p. 126.

75 Udy 1978, pp. 823-824. This contains a detailed report of how Piranesi’s vases were received by silversmiths in the nineteenth century. Until 2011 the museum had a vase made by Paul Storr on long-term loan.

76 S.E. Lawrence (ed.), Piranesi as Designer, exh. cat. New York (Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum) 2007.

77 Hind 1922, p. 87.

78 Höper 1999, p. 364. The copy in Stuttgart has 127 prints, of which 30 are two prints on one sheet and 9 are by Francesco (catalogue numbers 14, 15, 21, 76, 98, 99, 125, 126, 127).

79 Robison 1994a, p. 1169, no. 59.

80 Koshikawa 1992, p. 128; Wilton-Ely 1994, p. 7; Maastricht 1998, pp. 13, 27; Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 178; Robison 2022, pp. 230-245: in his appendix he describes a total of 36 states, of which 30 during his lifetime.

81 Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 179.

82 Robison 2022, p. 244 (appendix). Robison makes no mention of the Rotterdam impression, which might therefore be a supplement. In that case there are now five known examples.

83 Wilton-Ely 1994, p. 144. The exact moment of the change is not known. Wilton-Ely suggests that it was probably towards the end of Piranesi’s life.

84 Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 31.

85 Maastricht 1998, p. 15; Yerkes/Minor 2020, pp. 6-8.

86 Hind 1922, pp. 78-81; Robison 1970a, pp. 168-171; Washington 1986, p. 23.

87 Robison 1970a, p. 171; Rosenfeld 2006, pp. 83-85.

88 Washington 1986, p. 12; Wilton-Ely 1994, p. 1; Maastricht 1998, p. 5.

89 Kantor-Kazovsky 2006b, p. 20; Rosenfeld 2006, pp. 75-76, 88; Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 73; Copenhagen 2021, p. 38.

90 Maastricht 1998, p. 5; Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 2.

91 Hind 1922, p. 79; Robison 1970a, p. 171; Washington 1986, p. 23; Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 7. The name Giobbe was mentioned on the title print of the Prima parte from 1743 until his death in 1748.

92 Washington 1986, p. 25; Maastricht 1998, p. 7; Copenhagen 2021, p. 55.

93 Maastricht 1998, p. 8; Copenhagen 2021, p. 64.

94 Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 75.

95 Robison 2022, p. 233.

96 This is the third edition, second print run of the Prima parte, see Washington 1986, p. 214.

97 Dixon 2016, p. 241; Copenhagen 2021, pp. 34-35.

98 See Washington 1986, p. 63; Maastricht 1998, p. 21.

99 These five works were removed at a time when the volume was already in the museum. Andrew Robison included the museum’s copy in his 1986 publication and it emerges from his description that these five works were still present because he includes them in the basic components and he does not mention that they had been removed, which he did do with regard to the Carceri. The works were removed from the volume after 1986 for an exhibition. The numbering of the works in pen and ink is striking. It corresponds with the numbers that prints received in later states, see Washington 1986, pp. 116-122, 129-131.

100 Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 75. The title page of the Trofei in letterpress was changed to an etched version by Piranesi or his son Francesco between 1767 and 1780.

101 Robison 1970a, pp. 179-180; Wilton-Ely 1994, p. 144.

102 Yerkes/Minor 2020, pp. 8, 74.

103 Robison 1994a, p. 1164, no. 45, p. 1173, no. 67.

104 Robison 1970a, p. 172; Robison 1994b, pp. 392, 396; Holländer 1997, p. 97-98; Rosenfeld 2006, p. 82; Klemm 2016, pp. 13-14, 33-36, 39-43; Copenhagen 2021, pp. 64-66.

105 Hind 1922, p. 11; Washington 1986, pp. 139-140.

106 Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 12; Scaloni 2020, p. 33.

107 Robison 1970a, pp. 173, 200.

108 Robison 1970a, pp. 173-174; Rosenfeld 2006, p. 56.

109 Scaloni 2020, p. 34.

110 Robison 1994b, p. 394; Rosenfeld 2006, p. 85.

111 Piranesi did not give the Carceri series any titles, and the prints are referred to using titles that were conceived later, see Washington 1986.

112 Washington 1986, p. 185.

113 Washington 1986, p. 44.

114 Robison 1994a, p. 1175, no. 78, p. 1176, no. 80.

115 Hind 1922, p. 34, no. 7; Churchill 1935, pp. 58, 61; Reynard 1998, pp. 166-168; Loeber 1982, p. 52: datings based on watermarks are not reliable in many cases, and certainly not when it comes to French paper. The Dupuy watermark has the date 1742, but that was the moment when it became obligatory under French law to put a date on watermarks and it is not the year in which the paper was actually manufactured. Papermakers did not change this date for the rest of the century.

116 Copenhagen 2021, p. 78; F. Ipek, ‘Piranesi’s arguments in the Carceri’, A|Z ITU Journal of Faculty of Architecture 15 (2018) 3, pp. 29-39; S. Clarke, Piranesi, London 2020

117 Campbell 2000, p. 561.

118 Pinto 2012, p. 157.

119 Minor 2015, p. 7.

120 Lehmann 1961, pp. 91-92; Robison 1970a, pp. 177-178; Robison 1983, p. 20; Bevilacqua 2006, p. 58.

121 Pinto 2012, p. 102, 104.

122 Wilton-Ely 1978, p. 9; Maastricht 1998, p. 11; Campbell 2000, pp. 561-562.

123 Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 75.

124 Wilton-Ely 1978, p. 38: Angela Pasquini was the daughter of the gardener of the influential Florentine Corsini family, the family of Pope Clement XII; Bevilacqua 2006, p. 54; Pinto 2012, p. 103.

125 Wilton-Ely 1994, p. 6; Maastricht 1998, p. 13; Bevilacqua 2006, p. 55; Yerkes/Minor 2020, p. 2.

126 Robison 1970a, pp. 181-184; Robison 1983, p. 11; Battaglia 2006, p. 93.

127 Battaglia 2006, pp. 94-97.

128 Campbell 2000, p. 565.

129 Hind 1922, p. 5.

130 Hind 1922, pp. 31-34.

131 Hind 1922, p. 7; Robison 1970a, pp. 181-182; Robison 1983, pp. 11-12, 14-15; Robison 1994b, p. 388; Battaglia 2006, pp. 93-94; The reference to the 39 Vedute dating from 1756 is in the museum’s copy of the first volume of the Antichità Romane: ‘Vedute di Roma in foglio atlantico, carta papale, date finora in luce sino al numero di trentanove: al Prezzo di due paoli, e mezzo l’una’.

132 Robison 1983, p. 12.

133 Robison 1983, pp. 18-33; Robison 2022, pp. 243-244 (appendix).

134 Hind 1922, pp. 38-56.

135 Hind 1922, p. 41, no. 13.

136 Robison 1994a, p. 1170, no. 63.

137 Hind 1922, p. 45, no. 23; Robison 1970b, p. 10, no. 23.

138 Robison 1994a, p. 1157, no. 20. This is number 3 in the table in the following chapter about the watermarks.

139 Hind 1922, pp. 56-73.

140 Cf. Hind 1922, pp. 32-33 and 63, no. 91; Robison 1994a, p. 1161, no. 59 and p. 1171, no. 64. This is number 10 in the table in the following chapter about the watermarks.

141 Robison 1994a, p. 1157, no. 20. This is number 3 in the table in the following chapter about the watermarks.

142 Hind 1922, p. 69, no. 118.

143 Robison 1994a, p. 1169, no. 61. This is number 8 in the table in the following chapter about the watermarks.

144 For a comprehensive explanation of paper manufacturing and watermarks, see Stevenson 1951-1952, pp. 60-64; Voorn 1960, pp. 47-55, 93-96; Laurentius et al. 1992, pp. 355-357; Hinterding 2006, p. 21; Laurentius 2016, pp. 1-3; https://www.museodellacarta.com/en/handmade_paper.html [consulted on 1 March 2022].

145 Voorn 1960, p. 95; Laurentius et al. 1992, pp. 356-357. A watermark lasted from one to twenty years, depending on the quantity of paper manufactured.

146 Dabrowski 2007, pp. 427; Detersannes 2007, p. 503; Laurentius 2016, p. 1; Rodgers Albro 2016, pp. 84-85; https://www.museodellacarta.com/en/paper_and_paper_mill.html [consulted on 1 March 2022].

147 Rodgers Albro 2016, p. 44.

148 Stevenson 1951-1952, pp. 64-68; Voorn 1960, pp. 48-49; Johnson/Sethares/Holben Ellis 2021, p. 8. Watermarks are twins, but it should be pointed out that they were all handmade and small differences are possible. Stevenson describes the possible differences in ten points; Dabrowski 2007, pp. 428-429: The paper mills in Fabriano produced 2,880 sheets a day using two moulds.

149 Voorn 1960, pp. 52-56; Johnson/Sethares/Holben Ellis 2021, p. 8.

150 Stevenson 1951-1952, pp. 64-65; Voorn 1960, p. 95; Johnson/Sethares/Holben Ellis 2021, p. 8.

151 Voorn 1960, p. 93; Laurentius et al. 1992, p. 356; Hinterding 2006, p. 27; Johnson/Sethares/Holben Ellis 2021, p. 5.

152 Washington 1986, p. 215; Robison 1994a, p. 1150.

153 Voorn 1960, p. 59; for a clear explanation of wove paper and the difference with laid paper, see Balston 1998, pp. xiii-xxxviii; Laurentius 2016, p. 4.

154 Robison 1994a, p. 1151.

155 Hinterding 2006, p. 27; Johnson/Sethares/Holben Ellis 2021, p. 17.

156 Filedt Kok/Hinterding/Van der Waals 1994, p. 364.

157 Filedt Kok/Hinterding/Van der Waals 1994, p. 370.

158 Landau/Parshall 1994, p. 16; http://ihl.enssib.fr/paper-and-watermarks-as-bibliographical-evidence/the-shape-of-paper [consulted on 20 April 2022].

159 Johnson/Sethares/Holben Ellis 2021, p. 7. Its development was supported by the Getty Foundation Digital Art History Initiative Grant.

160 W. Churchill, Watermarks in paper in Holland, England, France, etc. in the XVII and XVIII centuries and their interconnection, Amsterdam 1935; E. Heawood, Watermarks mainly of the 17th and 18th centuries, Hilversum 1950; G. Piccard, Die Wasserzeichenkartei Piccard im Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart, 17 Findbücher, Leipzig 1961-1997; A.F. Gasparinetti, E.J. Labarre et al., Zonghi’s Watermarks (Monumenta chartæ papyraceæ historiam illustrantia, 3), Hilversum 1953.

161 https://www.memoryofpaper.eu/BernsteinPortal/appl_start.disp [consulted on 10 February 2022].

162 A start was made on this by Theo Laurentius in his 2016 Italian watermarks 1750-1860.

163 http://www.fondazionefedrigoni.it/en/10/presentation [consulted on 25 October 2021].

164 https://ccf.fondazionefedrigoni.it/en/presentation [consulted on 25 October 2021]. Paper is currently still being manufactured in Fabriano.

165 http://www.informinds.com/demo/filigrane/at/it/corpus_chartarum_italicarum.html [consulted on 1 August 2022].

166 All the prototypes were checked in the relevant manuals and databases: Heawood, Churchill, Zonghi, Bernstein (memory of paper), CCF, CCI, WZIS (Wasserzeichen-Informationssystem, including Piccard online); Robison 1994a, pp. 1150-1182; The conclusions about the watermarks originating in Italy were drawn in collaboration with specialists from the Fondazione Fedrigoni Fabriano, to whom the author is extremely grateful.

167 Letter from Gioacchino Antognoni, commercial agent of the Miliani papermill in Rome, in which he wrote that Giovanni Battista Piranesi used paper from the Serafini papermill, archive of the Fondazione Fedrigoni Fabriano, register of outgoing letters, 4 July 1791, C41, p. 160: ‘...delle carte il Serafini, e servito sempre il piranesi...’.

168 It cannot be said with certainty that a watermark from this papermill has been unearthed. This identification was made in collaboration with specialists from the Fondazione Fedrigoni Fabriano.

169 http://www.roccadisubiaco.it/il-macs/il-museo/; http://www.roccadisubiaco.it/il-macs/la-carta-a-subiaco/; https://www.ilborgodeicartai.it/la-storia/ [consulted on 24 August 2022]. For the shield of Pope Pius VI see https://www.heraldry-wiki.com/heraldrywiki/wiki/Pius_VI. With most sincere thanks to the staff of the Museale Rocca di Subiaco for identification of this watermark.

170 A. Ciuffetti, ‘La rete manifatturiera della carta nello Stato Pontificio tra Settecento e Ottocento’, in G. Castagnari, L. Faggioni, Il patrimonio industriale della carta in Italia (ISTOCARTA), Fabriano 2017, p. 201; https://www.comune.bracciano.rm.it/c058013/zf/index.php/servizi-aggiuntivi/index/index/idtesto/20059 [consulted on 24 August 2022].

171 Not all watermarks were equally clearly visible to be put into a category and they have not been included in this table.

172 Robison 1994a, pp. 1161-1163.

173 Heawood no. 1598 (Rome, 1762); Corpus Chartarum Italicarum (informinds.com): icpl.cci.V.017.a; icpl.cci.XI.084.c. (1782).

174 Loeber 1982, p. 47.

175 Robison 1970a, pp. 187-188.

176 Robison 1994a, p. 1155.

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