Giovanni Battista (or Giambattista) Piranesi, also known as simply Piranesi, was an Italian artist famous for his etchings of Rome and of fictitious and atmospheric “prisons” – Le Carceri d’Invenzione.
His father was a stonemason. Giovanni was apprenticed under his uncle, Matteo Lucchesi, who was a leading architect in Magistrato delle Acque, the state organization responsible for engineering and restoring historical buildings.
In Rome he studied under Giuseppe Vasi, who introduced him to the art of etching and engraving of the city and its monuments. After his studies with Vasi, he collaborated with pupils of the French Academy in Rome to produce a series of vedute (views) of the city; his first work was Prima parte di Architettura e Prospettive (1743), followed in 1745 by Varie Vedute di Roma Antica e Moderna.
After a three-year period in Venice, he returned to Rome and opened a workshop in the Via del Corso. Between1748–1774 he created an important series of vedute (views) of the city which established his fame. He also produced Carceri d’invenzione (‘Imaginary Prisons’), a series of 16 prints that show enormous subterranean vaults with stairs and mighty machines.