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Two Italian Master Etchers:
BlakerGianbattista Piranesi &
Bruno Gorlato

Both born in the Veneto, though two centuries apart, Piranesi and Gorlato both trained as architects, in Venice. Each subsequently discovered a passion for etching and an inspiration in Italy’s past.

In Italian cities, perhaps more than anywhere else in Europe, the past is palpably present and both artists’ imaginations were highly susceptible to this cognizance. Their etchings also share a theatrical chiaroscuro and unexpected combinations of motifs.

Part I:
GIOVANNI BATTISTA PIRANESI

Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome

Although formally trained as an architect (he signed numerous plates as Piranesi, Venetian architect) Piranesi devoted most of his career to etching, producing over 1000 plates, many of considerable size and complexity. He also made archaeological investigations, and collected, creatively restored and dealt in Roman antiquities. And though this exhibition comprises only twenty-eight examples from Piranesi’s enormous output, they include examples from most of his main series and interests.

Felice Francesco Polanzani (1700–1783) - Gio. Bat. Piranesi, Venetian Architect.
Felice Francesco Polanzani (1700–1783):
Gio. Bat. Piranesi, Venetian Architect
Original engraving, 1750. The engraving was used as frontispiece of the first edition, 2nd issue, of Piranesi’s Opera Varie, 1750 and for the later Antichità Romane. Polanzani has appropriately depicted his friend as a living antique bust.

Piranesi trained with his uncle, an architect, designer and engineer responsible for the water management in the Venetian lagoon. He learnt perspective drawing from the architect and theatrical designer Carlo Zucchi; theatre design of the day was the province of architects. Piranesi would exploit the illusionistic characteristics of stage design to great effect in the composition of his etchings.

Piranesi portraitVenice was also the city where Canaletto and Tiepolo were working at the time and it is said that in the mid-1740’s, on a prolonged visit back to Venice, Piranesi also spent time in Tiepolo’s studio. The Venetian love of capriccio also informed Piranesi’s etchings.

Most of Piranesi’s working life was spent in Rome, where he settled permanently in 1747. He first visited the city in 1740, as a draughtsman in the train of Marco Foscarini, the Venetian ambassador to the newly elected pope, Benedict XIV. Sometime during the years of this initial visit he studied etching with Giorgio Vasi, who declared Piranesi to be too much of a painter to be an engraver. And Piranesi’s etchings did prove painterly. He made quick preparatory sketches from which he improvised on the plate. In later years, in addition to biting by immersion, he would brush acid directly onto the plate to enrich tonality.

GIOVANNI BATTISTA PIRANESI, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Ara Antica sopra la quale si facevano anticamente i sagrifizi, con altri ruine all’intorno. Original etching, c1747.

Ara Antica sopra la quale si facevano anticamente i sagrifizi, con altri ruine all’intorno (Ancient altar on which sacrifices were performed in antiquity, surrounded by other ruins )

Robison 18 i/iv; Wilton Ely 19. 242 x 348 mm. Original etching, c1747.
A fine early impression, in the 1st state, printed 1747-48, on laid paper with an ornamental letter Z watermark, typical of the Venetian paper. Piranesi returned briefly to Venice in 1744 and brought back to Rome a stock of Venetian paper.

Piranesi’s first independent etchings, imaginary reconstructions of Roman buildings and capricci of decaying ruins, issued in Rome from 1743, and in the following years collectively published under the title Prima Parte di Architetture e Prospettive were already on a grander scale (folio) than traditional Roman vedute, and the subsequent ‘Carceri’ plates increased to double folio; the size he would use for his large series Vedute di Roma.

Rome captivated Piranesi. He found a powerful poetry in its contemporary architectural splendour and the magnificence of the ancient ruins, already in evidence and being newly discovered. His brother, a Carthusian monk, may already have fired his imagination to classical antiquity even before Piranesi left Venice.

The early fantasy architectural plates of the Prima Parte… were soon followed by the large topographical Vedute di Roma, a series he added to throughout his life, alongside his other major series –of archaeological records, theoretical and polemical works and ultimately prints relating to ornamental design, antiquity collecting and dealing. (Details of these series are given where relevant throughout the exhibition)

For all these series Piranesi engraved elaborate title pages and frontispieces, a series in their own right (of which quite a few are included in the exhibition). They were carried out with lettering, inspired by ancient Roman examples, incorporated into rich, chiaroscuro’ romantic’ designs, full of his characteristic traits – an unorthodox combination of classical motifs; superhuman scale; diagonal axes; and skilful lighting.

Pietro Labruzzi (1739-1805): Portrait of Gianbattista Piranesi

Pietro Labruzzi (1739-1805): Portrait of Piranesi

Oil on canvas, 1779. A commemorative portrait, painted a year after Piranesi’s death, showing the etcher holding a preparatory drawing for the frontispiece of Piranesi’s last series (after he had modified his stand on classical Greek architecture) Different Views of Paestum, inscribed Opera ultima di Cav. Giov. Bat. Piranesi, 1778. The painting is based on the marble bust of Piranesi, ascribed to Joseph Nollekens, now in the sculpture gallery of the Accademia di San Luca, Rome, which was carved in the 1760’s. In the painting, to the right of Piranesi, is shown the base of the candelabrum destined for the artist’s tomb, from Piranesi’s collection of antiquities, etched by him and published in the Vasi.
(The painting is now in the Museo di Roma, Palazzo Braschi.)

Piranesi’s achievement was reflected not only in his commercial success but in honours. After publication of Le Antichità di Roma in 1756 he was elected an Honorary Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London. And a decade later, in 1766, during which Piranesi had published numerous other archaeological series with the patronage of the pope, Clement XIII knighted him Cavaliere dello Speron d'oro (Knight of the Golden Spur).

Piranesi died in Rome in 1778 after a long illness. He was buried in the church of Santa Maria del Priorato, also known as St. Mary on the Aventine, which he had helped to restore and decorate between 1764 and 1766.

References used:

Andrew Robison: Piranesi Early Architectural Fantasies, a catalogue raisonné of the etchings
Arthur M Hind: Giovanni Battista Piranesi A Critical Study, with list of his Published Works and detailed Catalogues of the Prisons and Views of Rome
John Wilton-Ely: Piranesi. Catalogue for the Arts Council 1978 Hayward exhibition.
John Wilton-Ely: Giovani Battista Piranesi the Complete Etchings


Part II:
BRUNO GORLATO
A.R.E.
Born Padua 1940. Died Padua April 2021

Bruno was born in Padua and lived and worked in the city as a painter and etcher. Sadly, just a couple of weeks after this exhibition began, Bruno died in Padua, aged 81

Bruno Gorlato - A portrait of the artist - photo by Mary Waite.
Bruno Gorlato - A portrait of the artist - photo by Mary Waite.

In the late 1950’s he trained at the University of Architecture in Venice. It was over a decade later, working in town planning, that he developed his interest in etching and since then has been increasingly active in the medium.

His etchings are dream-like narratives, often set in architectural spaces inspired by the squares, castellated towers and fortifications of historical Padua, and peopled by a cast of characters which includes medieval knights and ladies, jugglers, tightrope walkers and marionettes, in unexpected ‘metaphyical’ juxtapositions with flying kites, chessboards, round-a-bouts, ferris wheels, trains, bicycles, toys, amidst ladders and scaffolding; his own personal Commedia dell’Arte.

Bruno Gorlato - "Paesaggio Veneto" (oil on canvas)
Bruno Gorlato - "Paesaggio Veneto" (oil on canvas)

The titles of some of Bruno’s one-man exhibitions over forty years encapsulate his approach. Racconti del Tempo (Tales of Time); Luoghi della Memoria (Places in the Memory); Un Refolo di Memoria (A gust of remembering); Ultima Baluardi (Last bastions); I borghi dei sogni (Villages of dreams); Piazze (Squares); Scene per una Commedia (Scenes for a Comedy); La favola Metafisica (Metaphysical fairytale).

Bruno Gorlato - "Paesaggio Veneto" (oil on canvas)
Bruno Gorlato - various details from prints in the Exhibition
Click the image to view an enlargement

Elected an Associate of the Royal Society of Painter Printmakers in 2019, in the Society’s annual exhibition Bruno’s etching Feast for a Prodigal was awarded the Printmaking Today prize. The editor of the journal asked him to write a short article about the etching for Printmaking Today, and under the title Lyrical Musings he commented …

Something of the ancient sense of wonder has been lost … buildings look on and offer secrets, the small world of toys is ready to invent kingdoms. …The world of the circus, of jugglers and acrobats, invades the square and fills it with merriment. … I believe that by keeping the spirit of childhood throughout our lives we can preserve … the ability to experience amazement at forgotten aspects of our marvellous world.

Bruno Gorlato - Blindstamp (Photo Marcus Potts)
Bruno Gorlato - The blindstamp that appears on nearly all Bruno's prints
Bruno Gorlato - "Paesaggio Veneto" (oil on canvas)
Bruno Gorlato, photographed recently in his studio by Edward Twohig
Bruno Gorlato - "Paesaggio Veneto" (oil on canvas)
Bruno's studio worktop
Bruno Gorlato - "Paesaggio Veneto" (oil on canvas)
The press in Bruno's studio

 


 

The Italian
Master Etchers Exhibition

To view the entire Exhibition, print-by-print, click this link and then follow the prints through the Gallery by using the "next print >" and "< previous print" navigation buttons.

To transfer down this page to the beginning of the section devoted to Bruno Gorlato, click this link.

Within the Exhibition, you may click the principal image to view an enlargement. Some prints are depicted within their mounts, and several are also framed. Where this is the case, a thumbnail showing the print within its frame is also included.

Alternatively, you can select an individual print from its thumbnail or title in the list below.

Part I Gianbattista Piranesi
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Ara Antica sopra la quale si facevano anticamente i sagrifizi, con altri ruine all’intorno. Original etching, c1747.

Ara Antica
Original etching, c1747

Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Tempio Antico. Original etching, c1743.

Tempio Antico
Original etching, 1743

Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Tempio Antico. Original etching, c1743.

Tempio Antico
Original etching, 1743

Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. The Monumental Tablet. Original etching, c1747.

The Monumental Tablet
Original etching, 1747

Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Title plate to Carceri d’Invenzione di G. Battista Piranesi Archit. Vene. Original etching, c1745-65.

Title Plate to Carceri d’Invenzione
Original etching, 1745-65

Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. The Grand Piazza. Original etching, c1745-65.

The Grand Piazza
Original etching, 1745-65

Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. The Saw Horse. Original etching, c1749-70.

The Saw Horse
Original etching, 1749-70

Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Veduta della Facciata della Basilica di S. Croce in Gerusalemme. Original etching, c1750.
The Basilica S. Croce
Original etching, c1750
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Altra Veduta del Tempio della Sibilla in Tivoli. Original etching, c1750.
The Temple of Sibyl
Original etching, c1761-65
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Ponte Lucano & the Tomb of the Plautii. Original etching, c1763.
The Ponte Lucano
Original etching, c1763
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. So-called Tempio della Tosse, near Tivoli – Interior Upright. Original etching, 1764.
The Tempio della Tosse
Original etching, 1764
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Veduta interna della Camera sepolcrale nella Vigna Casale a Porta S. Sebastiano. Original etching, 1755.
Interna della Camera Sepolcrale
Original etching, c1755
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Vedute degli Avanzi de’ Mausolei, e delle Fabbriche Sepolcrali, sparse per la Via Appia, cinque migla in circa, da Porta S. Sebastiano distante. Original etching, c1755.
Mausolei e Sepolcrali, Via Appia
Original etching, c1755
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Title page to Volume IV of Le Antichità Romane di Giambattista Piranesi Architetto Veneziano. Tomo Quarto, continente i Ponti antichi, gli Avanci de’ Teatri, de’ Portici e di altri Monumenti di Roma. Original etching, c1755.

Title Page to Vol.IV, Le Antichità Romane
Original etching, c1755-56

Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Title page to Ioannis Baptistae Piranesi, Aniquorum Regiau Societas Londinensis Socii, Campus Martius Antiquae Urbis. Original etching, 1757.
Title Page to Campus Martius
Original etching, 1757
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Frontispiece to Il Campo Marzio dell’antica Roma. Opera de G B Piranesi, soccio della Società degli Antiquari di Londra. Original etching, c1762.
Frontispiece to Il Campo Martzio
Original etching, 1762
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Title page to Volume IV of Le Antichità Romane di Giambattista Piranesi Architetto Veneziano. Tomo Quarto, continente i Ponti antichi, gli Avanci de’ Teatri, de’ Portici e di altri Monumenti di Roma. Original etching, c1755.
Pars Cellarium Capitolii
Original etching, 1762
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. First title page (with Latin text) to Ioannis Baptistae Piranesii, Antiquariorum Regiae Societatatis Londinensis Socii de Romanorum Magnificentia ed Architectura. Original etching, 1761.
Title Page to the Magnificentia
Original etching, 1761
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Three diagrams of Doric Temple construction. Original etching, 1761.
Doric Temple Construction
Original etching, 1761
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Title page to I.B. Piranesi. Lapides Capitolini sive fasti consulares triumphalesq. Romanorum ab Urbe condita usque ad Tiberian Caesarem. Original etching, 1762.
Title Page
to Lapides Capitolini

Original etching, 1761
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Frontispiece to Lapides Capitolini – The Dedication to Pope Clement XIII. Original etching, 1762.
Frontispiece
to Lapides Capitolini

Original etching, 1761
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Title page to Descrizione e disegno dell’ Emissario del Lago Albano di Gio Batista Piranesi. Original etching, 1762.
Title Page to
Emissario del Lago Albano

Original etching, 1762
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Elevation, Sections and Details of Inlet Structure. Original etching, 1762.
Plate IV, Emissario del Lago Albano
Original etching, 1762
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Title page to Volume IV of Le Antichità Romane di Giambattista Piranesi Architetto Veneziano. Tomo Quarto, continente i Ponti antichi, gli Avanci de’ Teatri, de’ Portici e di altri Monumenti di Roma. Original etching, c1755.
Plate X, Emissario del Lago Albano
Original etching, 1762
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Title to Antichità d’Albano e di Castel Gandolfo Descritte ed Incise da Giovambatista (sic) Piranesi. Original etching, 1764.
Title Page to
Antichità d’Albano e di Castel Gandolfo

Original etching, 1764
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Title to Antichità d’Albano e di Castel Gandolfo Descritte ed Incise da Giovambatista (sic) Piranesi. Original etching, 1764.
Anfiteatro detto di Domiziano
Original etching, c1764
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Title to Antichità di Cora Descritte ed Incise da Giovambat Piranesi. Original etching, 1764.
Title Page to
Antichità di Cora

Original etching, 1764
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Cinerary Urns, a lamp and other objects. Original etching, c1779.
Cinerary Urns
Original etching, c1779
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Funerary Monument of a Boar’s headed Rhyton
Boar's Headed Rhyton
Original etching
Gianbattista Piranesi, Mozano di Mestre, Venice 1720 – 1778 Rome. Cinerary Urn ornamented with an Owl. Original etching.
Cinerary Urn ornamented with an Owl
Original etching
Part II Bruno Gorlato
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. Il Carlo Curioso. Original etching, 2006.
Il Carlo Curioso
Original etching, 2006
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. Il Carlo Curioso. Original etching, 2006.
Allegoria per un Burattino Distratto
Original etching, 2006
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. Assieme con Malinconia. Original etching, 2001.
Assieme con Malinconia
Original etching, 2013
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. Il Custode sul Colle. Original etching, 2007.
Il Custode sul Colle
Original etching, 2006
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. La Città sul Colle. Original etching, 2007.
La Città sul Colle
Original etching, 2007
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. L’Arca dei Colti. Original etching, 2013.
L’Arca dei Colti
Original etching, 2013
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. La Torlonga di Padova . Original etching, 2005.
La Torlonga di Padova
Original etching, 2005
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. I custodi del Tempo. Original etching, 1996.
I custodi del Tempo
Original etching, 1996
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. Monumento per un Cavaliere Errante. Original etching, 2014.
Monumento per un Cavaliere Errante
Original etching, 2014
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. Il ritorno del Reduce. Original etching, 2012.
Il Ritorno del Reduce
Original etching, 2012
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. Monumento. Original etching, 2012.
Monumento
Original etching, 2012
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. La Piazza Bianca. Original etching, 2005.
La Piazza Bianca
Original etching, 2005
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. In una sottile imprecise decisione. Original etching, 2010.
In una sottile imprecisa decisione
Original etching, 2010
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. I Giocolieri. Original etching, 2013.
I Giocolieri
Original etching, 2013
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. I Giocolieri. Original etching, 2014.
I Giocolieri
Original etching, 2014
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. Il luogo degli Angeli. Original etching, 2016.
Il luogo degli Angeli
Original etching, 2016
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. I Custodi del sole. Original etching, 2018.
I Custodi del Sole
Original etching, 2013
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. I luoghi dell’Antiquario. Original etching, 1999
I luoghi dell’Antiquario
Original etching, 1999
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. Il luogo degli Aquiloni. Original etching, 2018
Il luogo degli Aquiloni
Original etching, 2018
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. Giostra per un Idealista. Original etching, 2013
Giostra per un Idealista
Original etching, 2013
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. La Barca dei folli. Original etching, 2015
La Barca dei Folli
Original etching, 2015
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. Il Luogo dell’Illusione. Original etching, 2009
Il Luogo dell’Illusione
Original etching, 2009
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. Il Viaggio. Original etching, 2005
Il Viaggio
Original etching, 2005
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. I Giullari di Dio. Original etching, 2017
I giullari di Dio
Original etching, 2017
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. I Giocolieri. Original etching, 2014.
Il Cavallo
Original etching, 2007
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. Una vista inaspettata . Original etching, 2008
Una Visita Inaspettata
Original etching, 2008
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. Il Dolce Sogno della Libertà. Original etching, 2014
Il Dolce Sogno della Libertà
Original etching, 2014
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. Primo di Noi. Original etching, 2018
Prima di Noi
Original etching, 2018
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. Il Burattino famoso. Original etching, 2012
Il Burattino famoso
Original etching, 2012
BRUNO GORLATO A.R.E., Born Padua 1940. L’Isola dei Giullori. Original etching, 2010
L’Isola dei Giullari
Original etching, 2010

 

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