Giovanni Battista PIRANESI: The Sawhorse - 1749/1761



Etching, 415 x 560 mm. Hind 12; Robison 38, 4th state of 6. Carceri d’Invenzione [Imaginary Prisons],  plate XII.

Impression of the 4th state (of 6), with the roman numeral XII, top right corner, but without the C added in the 5th state before Piranesi f in bottom left margin.

Very fine impression printed on laid paper with watermark (Fleur de Lys in a double circle, with initials CB, Robison 36). Small margins (sheet: 445 x 600 mm).

Impressions of the 4th state bearing the watermark Robison 36 are from the 3rd issue of the 2nd edition and date from mid 1760’s – early 1770’s.

The first edition of the Imaginary Prisons, published in 1749-1750 by Giovanni Bouchard, was comprised of fourteen plates. The second edition, published by Piranesi himself from 1761, has two additional plates. In this second edition, Piranesi extensively reworked the fourteen plates from 1749, sometimes completely transforming the appearance of the places with the addition of numerous elements. Piranesi didn't make any extensive changes to The Sawhorse, but he added an important number of small details which increase the sense of foreboding emanating from the place: he added threatening spikes to the sawhorse and to the bollard (bottom right), and he added or redrew several architectural details – a window, a wooden beam, some cantilevers and iron bars.

Reference: Andrew Robison: Piranesi - Early architectural Fantasies - a Catalogue Raisonné of the Etchings, 1986.

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