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up to and including 01 September 2019

The Dizzying Imagination of Piranesi

‘The Dizzying Imagination of Piranesi’ is the second exhibition in a series of three that the Kunsthal is hosting as part of ‘Boijmans Next Door’. During the large-scale renovation and modernisation of the museum’s buildings, Boijmans’ collection will remain on view at eight neighbouring institutions, including the Kunsthal: a magnificent partnership between Rotterdam’s cultural venues.

The Kunsthal is showing more than seventy works by the Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) from the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. Piranesi was the greatest printmaker of his generation. His contemporaries knew him primarily for his ‘Vedute’, a series of views of Rome. He originally trained as an architect and in his series ‘Carceri’ (Prisons) he gave form to his dazzling architectural imagination, creating an underworld of ominous caverns filled with stairs, fences, bridges and chains.

Claustrophobic scenes of imaginary dungeons

The works in this exhibition come from the collection of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, which owns several hundred prints by Piranesi. During his lifetime he was celebrated for his ‘Vedute di Roma’: a series of etchings of impressive views of Rome’s monuments and ruins. But it is for another series that he has achieved eternal fame, his ‘Carceri d’Invenzione’, prints with claustrophobic depictions of imaginary dungeons. 

'There are few old-master prints as oppressive as the “Carceri” by Piranesi: terrifying dungeons with staircases, chains and instruments of torture. All of this is depicted with fierce jet-black lines, with a freedom that seems impossible for etchings that are three centuries old. No printmaker had attempted anything so ambitious since the days of Rembrandt. And then you also have Piranesi’s other masterpiece: the “Vedute” with views of famous monuments in Rome. These are a source of great joy, especially if you see the exquisite prints that we have in our collection. You will never tire of them.'

Peter van der Coelen, curator of prints and drawings at Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, View of Saint Peter's Square in Rome, ca 1771-1773, collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen.
Giovanni Battista Piranesi, View of Saint Peter's Square in Rome, ca 1771-1773, collection Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. More information

Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) was the greatest printmaker of his time. His father was a stonemason, his uncle taught him architecture, and his brother schooled him in the history of classical antiquity. In 1740 Piranesi moved from Venice, where he studied architecture, to Rome, where he fell under the spell of the city’s architecture and history. He developed into a brilliant etcher with an output of more than a thousand prints. He also wrote about the architecture of ancient Rome, earning an international reputation as an expert archaeologist. His work has inspired countless generations of architects and designers ever since.

Boijmans Next Door

Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen’s international collection is being dispersed across Rotterdam. Some 500 masterpieces will be displayed in eleven special exhibitions at eight of the museum’s neighbours under the title ‘Boijmans Next Door’. The exhibitions in these guest venues will create encounters between Boijmans’ collection and that of its neighbours. For example, the Maritime Museum will exhibit a selection of seascapes, while masterpieces by Kandinsky and others will be displayed in the Chabot Museum, opposite Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen. In this way, you need not miss the museum’s collection while the building is being renovated. 'Boijmans Next Door' is made possible by stichting droom en daad.

More about Boijmans Next Door

Boijmans in Transit

Later this year, the museum will close for essential renovations. In this transitional period, the museum is making its world-class collection available elsewhere in Rotterdam and further afield. In addition to the ‘Boijmans Next Door’ projects, the museum has also created travelling exhibitions for museums all around the world. And schoolchildren in Rotterdam are being introduced to real artworks from the collection in the project ‘Boijmans in the Classroom’. Meanwhile, the construction of Depot Boijmans Van Beuningen continues apace. The world’s first publicly accessible art-storage facility will open at the beginning of 2021 and will safely house and display 151,000 artworks.

More about Boijmans in Transit

This exhibition is supported by