Giovanni Battista Piranesi

Carceri d'Invenzione

Complete set

Carceri d'Invenzione

Initially published anonymously in 1750, Piranesi reissued his collection of prison prints; Carceri d’Invenzione under his own name in 1761.

Dante’s epic poem Divina Commedia is often mentioned as a source of inspiration for Piranesi when he was imagining his dark and tortuous prison scenes.

As with his city landscapes, Piranesi’s obsession with architecture and light and shade can be seen here. But the fictional settings allowed him to experiment further; bending perspective and spatial illusion to create images that are fascinating yet often bewildering to look upon.

With 16 black and white prints in the collection, evocative yet often chilling titles include The Man on the Rack and The Pier with Chains.

The Pier with Chains. Plate 16. Giovanni Battista Piranesi – Carceri d’Invenzione – Imaginary Prison. Heritage Prints. Museum quality giclee print. - Giovanni Piranesi - Carceri d'Invenzione – Museum quality giclee prints
Gothic Arch. Plate 14. Giovanni Battista Piranesi – Carceri d’Invenzione – Imaginary Prison. Heritage Prints. Museum quality giclee print.

Own your own collection

Our collection gives you the opportunity to own prints created directly from the original editions of Elliot’s acclaimed masterpieces.

A complete set includes: 

  • 1 title page
  • 1 content page
  • 16 prints after the engraved originals
  • 1 handcrafted art folder embossed with gold lettering. 
  • A certificate of authenticity

Publication: Carceri d’Invenzione

Author: Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778)

Print artist: Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778)

Published: 1750-1778

A complete set includes: 
1 title page
1 content page with all titles of the prints
16 prints after the engraved originals
Certificate of authenticity
1 handcrafted art folder

Casing: The complete set will be cased in an elegant handcrafted Solander Box covered in special linen embossed with golden lettering.

You may choose your own color of the boxes and your own lettering.

Size of the prints: 24 x 20 inches (61 x 51 cm).

Durability: To ensure the durability, the giclée’s are printed on acid-free white etching paper (270 g/m2) with archival ink.

Quality: These prints were  photographed using the latest technology and reproduced at the original plate size. Printed in the highest possible resolution, these prints are virtually indistinguishable from the originals when glazed and framed.

Limited Edition: The edition will be limited to 50 sets, numbered 1/50 to 50/50, signed and stamped with a blind embossing.

Shipping and delivery: Read more about shipping and delivery in our FAQ .

From his detailed etchings of Rome to the dark imaginings of his fictitious prisons; Piranesi is one of Italy’s most extraordinary artists.

Born in Mogliano Veneto near Treviso (then part of the Republic of Venice), Piranesi was the son of a Venetian stonemason. But it was his uncle, Matteo Lucchesi – a leading architect, who taught Piranesi to draw, and to design architectural structures.


In 1740, the young Piranesi travelled to Rome where he lived and worked for almost all his life. His early career began working as a draughtsman for the Venetian ambassador Marco Foscarini.

While living in the Palazzo Venezia (the papal palace), Piranesi was tutored by the Italian engraver Giuseppe Vasi who introduced him to the art of etching and engraving of Rome and its monuments.

Inspired by his studies, Piranesi began creating the vedute (views) of Rome, for which he would become famous.

Engraver and print publisher

Piranesi briefly returned to Venice in 1744, planning to launch a career as an architect. When this plan failed, he returned to Rome in 1747, opening a workshop in Via del Corso where he established himself as an engraver and print publisher.

It was at this time that Rome had become one of the main destinations for visitors on the Grand Tour of Europe. The tourists wanted souvenirs and Piranesi was happy to oblige, offering prints of Renaissance Rome and its ruins.

Atmospheric depictions of the Eternal City

Piranesi’s popularity grew quickly. And while he found fame from his detailed and atmospheric depictions of the Eternal City; he is equally well-known for his haunting imaginings of prison interiors, invented from his own mind.

Piranesi died in Rome in 1778 after a long illness. He was buried in the Santa Maria del Priorato, the church he had helped restore, in a tomb designed by the Italian sculptor Giuseppe Angelini.

In 1803, Joseph Bonaparte, Napoleon’s brother and King of Naples (from 1806-1808) and later the King of Spain (from 1808-1813), donated Piranesi’s original etchings to the Ghent library.

Piranesi’s etchings of imaginary prisons held a hypnotic fascination for later Romantic writers, such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Edgar Allen Poe.

The immensity of the architecture seems to embody the workings of a great supernatural power. Below, diminutive figures appear doomed to climb endless staircases without hope of release. The sinister machinery of cables, pulleys, and levers suggest awful horrors.

Piranesi etched his first set of 14 plates in Rome during the late 1740s. They belong to a Venetian tradition of capricci, or imaginary subjects, which also feature in the etchings of Tiepolo and Canaletto. The ambitious size and theatrical perspective of the Carceri mark them out as something new.

Ten years later Piranesi radically reworked the same plates and added two new ones. He greatly increased the dramatic contrasts between the lit spaces and the deep shadows, as is apparent in this example. He made the architectural forms even more elaborate, as in the complex shapes of the arch that swings over our heads from the left.

Beyond the arches and bridge in the middle ground, Piranesi has introduced a new sequence of vaults, arches, and stairs that recede indefinitely. Their precise detailing and silvery tones are in sharp contrast to his loose drawing style in the first edition.

It is for these later plates of the Carceri that Piranesi is best known today, and those are included in this edition.

Own your own Piranesi giclée prints

Our Piranesi collection give you the opportunity to own prints created directly from the original editions of this renowned artist’s masterpieces.

Recreated in the original size, each one is printed using fine art digital printing processes, using the highest possible resolution, to create images that are identical to the originals.

With age-resistant white etching paper and archival ink; the prints are designed to resist fading for 100 years, giving you a lifetime of enjoyment from these extraordinary collections

Limited Editions

We know how special it is to own a piece from your favorite artist; a piece that will be a real talking point in your home.

That is why each edition is limited to just 50 prints. These are numbered from 1/50 to 50/50 and are signed and stamped with a blind embossing.

So when you choose prints from Heritage Prints, you know your artwork has been printed with great care and in limited numbers, making it a print only a select few will own

Art Folder

When investing in a complete set, our handmade art folder is the perfect place to store your collection.

The art folder is sturdy so it will protect your prints, yet elegantly embossed with gold lettering.

This stylish, high-quality art folder is designed especially for keeping your prints safe and in perfect condition – yet you can still easily look at them whenever you wish.



When you invest in our prints or collections, you will receive a certificate of authenticity.

This provides a lasting record of your artwork and gives you valuable certification if you ever wish to sell or bestow your collection in the future.

Certificate of autenticity and certified Art Giclée Print Heritage Prints

Piranesi - Carceri d'Invenzione - View all prints below

Heritage Prints has a master copy of many images. But we do not have every certified facsimile giclee print in stock. 

If you cannot find a specific work on our website, please contact us directly and we will start the rigorous process of printing your individual facsimile.