‟Das Piranesi-Prinzip” (The Piranesi Principle): A Virtual Exhibition Commemorating the 300th Anniversary of the Great Italian Master’s Birth Now Online in a 360° Panorama


Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720‒1778) established an international career as an archaeologist, artist, architect, collector, designer, publisher and author. His formula for success consisted of depicting reality in all its varied facets by transforming it into something new. Three centuries after the artist’s birth, the anniversary show in 2020, jointly conceived with students in the Department for Art and Visual History (IKB) at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, can now be viewed via a high-resolution, 360  virtual tour: The online exhibition is divided into five thematic sections. It includes more than 140 works in high-quality images, augmented with detailed information and references to online collections. A selection of works is also featured in video clips. The information is available in German.

At the heart of the exhibition is the worldwide one-of-a-kind collection of drawings that Piranesi drew by hand, now housed at the Kunstbibliothek (Art Library). Before this show, they had never been shown in their entirety. Moreover, the presentation included print masterpieces from the Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings), which are of central importance for Piranesi’s oeuvre and the impact of his legacy. A 360° recording of the exhibition space, made shortly before it was dismantled, has made it possible to continue to experience the exhibition virtually and to link the show with many additional information media associated with it.

Digital 360° Panorama in Five Sections

The online presentation offers an interactive tour through sections of the exhibition: ‟Piranesi’s Rome”, ‟Piranesi’s Stage”, ‟Piranesi’s Laboratory”, and ‟Piranesi’s Palazzo”. These divisions represent the broad spectrum of Piranesi’s sphere of impact and influence. It also includes a fifth section called ‟Arena”, which takes the form of specific theme islands integrated throughout the exhibition. Each of these islands is dedicated to a person who played an important role in Piranesi’s scholarly and artistic networks. The exhibition’s main sections and subdivisions are arranged in keeping with the information published in the accompanying booklet that was provided in place of on-site wall and vitrine texts.

An Exhibition Guide (PDF, 6 MB) and Provenance Information (PDF, 600 KB) (German only) are also available.

High-Resolution Images, Online Collection and Catalogue

High-resolution illustrations of all 147 works can be accessed. Links lead to Online Collections, to the online portal of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin collections, where additional and updated information about the works can be found. Corresponding pages in the accompanying book publication can be opened for objects that have a catalogue entry.

Video Contributions and Computer Models

An initiative of Berlin’s Istituto Italiano di Cultura has produced videos about several of the works, in which members of the exhibition team discuss them individually. Originally shared on social media during the exhibition, the videos on these specific works can now be accessed on demand.

Two groups of students in the architecture department at the Technische Universität Darmstadt have created various computer models that reconstruct one of Piranesi’s early architectural visions. These models can also be viewed on video.