Past Exhibitions

Piranesi’s Paestum: Master Drawings Uncovered

15 February - 18 May 2013

GB Piranesi, Paestum, Italy: Exterior of the Temple of Neptune from the North-East
47.5 x 69 cm, Pencil, brown and grey washes, pen and ink, Sir John Soane’s Museum, SM P72

Amongst the most  significant examples of European graphic art are the fifteen highly resolved preparatory drawings by Giovanni Battista Piranesi and held in Sir John Soane's Museum. Produced for Piranesi's last great graphic project his Différentes vues de Pesto…, published posthumously 1778, they show views of the three great Doric temples in the former Greek colony of Paestum, located dramatically on a plateau of  not far from the coast of the Gulf of Salerno. Piranesi visited the site in 1777 and produced the fifteen drawings that are in the Soane and two further drawings – one in the collection of the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and one in the Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris (it is likely that twenty-one drawings were originally produced to match the twenty-one plates in Différentes vues de Pesto…). The drawings are very close to the finished prints and are particularly accomplished examples of Piranesi’s topographical observation. For the first time these powerful drawings are to be shown together in a focused exhibition which will look at them as great works of art in their own right as well as examing how they revolutionised architects' and artists' understanding of early Greek Classical architecture.

Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Paestum, Italy: Interior of the Temple of Neptune from the North-East
47.5 x 69 cm, Pencil, brown and grey washes, pen and ink, Sir John Soane’s Museum, SM P140

Coinciding with the opening, the Museum is pleased to announce that the perfect accompaniment to the exhibition, a revised and updated version of John Wilton-Ely's classic 'Piranesi, Paestum & Soane', featuring sumptuous illustrations of the drawings included in the gallery, is now available through the Museum shop.

Press Release and further images


Following its opening at the Soane, the exhibition will tour to the Tchoban Foundation, Museum for Architectural Drawing, Berlin from 4 June to 31 August 2013 and then to the Morgan Library & Museum, New York from 23 January to 17 May 2015

Coverage and links for Piranesi's Paestum:

Courtauld Research Forum, Courtauld Institute of Art - Piranesi, Death and Paestum: The Revival of Greek Architecture

The Guardian - 'Piranesi works drawn together in London for first time since 18th century'

Building Design - 'Piranesi's Rebuilt Reality' (requires membership to view)