Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) was a visionary Italian artist with a penchant for elaborate architectural fantasias and highly detailed renderings of ruined classical landscapes. Soane had the good fortune to meet Piranesi whilst on the Grand Tour in 1778, and four prints which the Italian presented to him were among the few works of art Soane brought back to England. These four prints would form the nucleus of an astounding collection of architectural drawings, some 30,000 of which the Museum now holds in its archives. Piranesi’s Romanticism was somewhat darker than that of Soane’s own visionary disciple, Joseph Michael Gandy, but his drawings, especially those of the Doric Temples at Paestum, had a profound impact on Soane.
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