Rediscovered rare book at McGill
Exceptionally rare book by 18th-century artist Piranesi to be the subject of a special lecture by McGill libraries' scholar-in-residence, Dr Myra Nan Rosenfeld.
Scholar-in-residence to shed light
A rediscovered rare book by artist, archaeologist and prolific etcher Giovanni Battista Piranesi will be the subject of a special lecture on April 11 in the Lande Reading Room of the Rare Books and Special Collections Division, McGill Libraries. Scholar-in-residence Dr Myra Nan Rosenfeld will discuss her research on the valuable book, entitled Opere Varie, and comment on other Piranesi works held by McGill and the Canadian Centre for Architecture during her talk.
Born in Venice in 1720, Piranesi was one of the founders of neoclassicism. He published many books on the architecture and civilization of ancient Rome as well as numerous suites of etchings depicting visionary images of Roman buildings, contained in the Opere Varie.
Dr Rosenfeld will elaborate in her April 11 lecture on the unique qualities of McGills copy, which was published in 1760-1761. "It is one of only three copies of the second edition," she says. "The other two are at Princeton University and the British Museum. And McGills edition of the Opere Varie is the only one to have the first version of the Carceri, one of Piranesis most famous works."
Adding to the exceptional quality of McGills version, translucent and atmospheric shadows were superimposed by hand by Piranesi on the copper plates used for the eleven etchings in it. Surprisingly, the significance of Opere Varie went unnoticed at the University for decades following the 1912 donation by Professor Ramsay Traquair. Traquair was later director of McGills School of Architecture between the two world wars. The book was rediscovered recently by art history professor Carol Kiefer, now working in the United States.
Dr Rosenfeld has focused much of her reseach and writings on Renaissance and 18th- century studies. Before coming to McGill, she was senior research curator at the Canadian Centre for Architecture from 1985 to 1998. She is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, obtained an MA from Columbia University and completed a PhD in art history at Harvard University.