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John Wilton-Ely

[Giambattista]

(b Mogliano, nr Mestre, Oct 4, 1720; d Rome, Nov 9, 1778).

Italian etcher, engraver, designer, architect, archaeologist and theorist. He is considered one of the supreme exponents of topographical engraving, but his lifelong preoccupation with architecture was fundamental to his art. Although few of his architectural designs were executed, he had a seminal influence on European Neo-classicism through personal contacts with architects, patrons and visiting artists in Rome over the course of nearly four decades. His prolific output of etched plates, which combined remarkable flights of imagination with a strongly practical understanding of ancient Roman technology, fostered a new and lasting perception of antiquity. He was also a designer of festival structures and stage sets, interior decoration and furniture, as well as a restorer of antiquities. The interaction of this rare combination of activities led him to highly original concepts of design, which were advocated in a body of influential theoretical writings. The ultimate legacy of his unique vision of Roman civilization was an imaginative interpretation and re-creation of the past, which inspired writers and poets as much as artists and designers....