Emil Kaufmann

"Giambattista Piranesi" in Architecture in the Age of Reason

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la capitale de l'individualisme italien au dix-huitième siècle
the capital of Italian individualism in the eighteenth century

250. Focillon, Piranesi, p. 13.

We already know from many instances that excitement could be expressed within the hierarchic order of the Baroque. Piranesi, in the impetuosity of his youth, renounced the traditional order and arrived at chaos. He was not able to replace the old system by a new one in that moment of utter confusion. Thus, like other revolutionary spirits of the eighteenth century, poets of the German pre-Romanticism (Sturm und Drang), say, and some daring architects of the French revolution, he discarded order and strove for the extraordinary. The chaotic assemblage in the "Prisons" is beyond any order; extraordinary is the size of everything and the make-up of the whole. But to speak of the artist himself, exceptional also was his inventiveness and his fertility in devising these many prisons. Not only the quality, but also the quantity of his work reveals the overwhelming power of the force which inspired him. At the very moment when the rigorists gave up the old order in theory, he gave it up in fact. With this statement we must content ourselves, without searching for the reasons why all this happened at this particular time, and why it became manifest through men from Venice, which city Focillon, with the intuition of the great scholar, terms la capitale de l'individualisme italien au dix-huitième siècle.250




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