Piranesi and the Modern Age

Victor Plahte Tschudi

Project_Piranesi and the modern age_2The project Piranesi and the Modern Age explores the impact of Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-78) on literature, film, photography, art, architecture and urban planning in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It evolves around the idea that Piranesi’s etchings more than influenced the modern age, as the idea of the modern as such hinged on continuous re-interpretations of them.


Pioneers and movements of modernism and of modern culture at large, from cubism to deconstructivism, fell victim to the old master’s influence, challenging emerging technologies and expressions’ claim to novelty. In one field after the other Piranesi left an impact, but in slightly different ways, as if his oeuvre were a slowly turning kaleidoscope reflecting modernism’s own changing realities. Transcending the period they were made, print volumes such as Carceri (1750/61) and Campo Marzio (1762) appeared cutting-edge, even avant-garde, seemingly placing Piranesi more firmly in a twentieth-century development than in an eighteenth-century one. Tracing Piranesi’s many modern-age debuts, the historiography of our own times takes a slightly new and surprising path.


Led by Victor Plahte Tschudi, Piranesi and the Modern Age is a collaboration with several individuals and institutions, including the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design and Columbia University. In the fall 2017 the project employs Ola Granli as research assistant and runs the OCCAS elective course Piranesi and the Modern Age. The project output includes seminars, exhibitions and a monograph to be published in 2020, coinciding with Piranesi’s 300-year anniversary.


Originally posted Sep 5, 2017. Latest revision May 12, 2019.

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