Fan design with a landscape filled with Italian ruins
Putting the Fan in Fantasy
From the eighteenth century, painted fans were one of the most popular souvenirs for any grand tourist visiting Italy. In this period, fans were part of the complex network of courtly behavior and aristocratic social codes, and they were also indispensable elements for coquetry. Such fans were made with a variety of materials such as...
Drawing of a fantasy landscape with flying boats
When Ships Fly
Ships, precariously tethered to mountain tops by garlands, hover over a landscape of pure fantasy in this graphite drawing by the French artist Jean-Baptiste Pillement (1728-1808).  Pillement was known for his imaginative prints featuring chinoiserie designs that were in essence European variants of Japanese and Chinese motifs. Pillement was a prolific artist who operated in...
Imaginary view of a prison interior
The Interior of Nightmares
Prison design has been a topic of debate and a site for innovation, even in the eighteenth century. This etching is Plate 14 from a series of imaginary prison interiors designed by the Roman architect, designer, and print maker, Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720- 1778). This print is both an exploration of the limits of the...
Print showing two elaborate tureens on either side of a rococo centerpiece
Surf & Turf: A Silver Tureen for a Duke
Eighteenth-century meal services were elaborate affairs, as exemplified in this print showing tureens and a table center piece designed by Juste-Aurèle Meissonnier for Evelyn Pierrepont, Duke of Kingston-upon-Hull in the 1730s. Meissonnier worked for Louis XV, becoming  orfèvre du roi (goldsmith to the king) in 1724. This engraving is plate 115 in folio 72 of...
Cartouche with a papal crown and emblems of death
A Papal Graveyard
This is a design for a cartouche by the French académician, ornemaniste, and painter Jacques de Lajoüe (1687- 1761). It was etched by Gabriel Huquier as plate 4 in his Second book of Cartouches (Deuxième livre de Cartouches), which was published in 1734 (as established by Roland Michel). The ascribed date locates this at a...
Sheer Invention
Piranesi’s originality lay in his eclecticism. Pulling together influences from Egyptian, Etruscan, Ancient Roman, and Greek designs, Piranesi presented a hybrid design system that was rooted in his commitment to the stature and importance of the Roman design heritage. From this starting point, the architectural elements move from historical recreations to articulated fantasy. While his...