There's no sane reason for them to be built in such a manner. It's Gargantuan Aesthetic Dysfunctionalism (GAD) run amok. Just who was being housed in these dark, spacious pits is a mystery. King Kong? Balrogs? You can see the influence of Piranesi on the underground halls of Moria in the Lord of the Rings films.
|Roman ruins by Piranesi.
|Scale to crush the soul.
|Great Hall, Berlin; planned but never built.
|Palace of the Soviets, Moscow; planned but never built. Those are crowds at the bottom, not ants.
|Ramses II: the statue that inspired Percy Shelley.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
|Carceri Plate XI - The Arch
Piranesi's designs will remain in the realm of imagination until some mad dictator decides to base his dungeons on them. But you can fly through them. The etchings have been mapped onto 3D geometry, allowing viewers meander through these incredible scenes for the first time, thanks to the Caixa Forum in Madrid.
|Flying through Piranesi's Prisons
Emily Allchurch and Nigel Warburton have updated the prisons with modern trappings in a striking series of paintings.
|The original Piranesi...
|...and Emily Allchurch and Nigel Warburton's contemporary version.
"Beyond the real, historical prisons of too much tidiness and those where anarchy engenders the hell of physical and moral chaos there lie yet other prisons, no less terrible for being fantastic and unembodied---the metaphysical prisons, whose seat is within the mind, whose walls are made of nightmare and incomprehension, whose chains are anxiety and their racks a sense of personal and even generic guilt."
|Balthazar falls into the prisons of Thermidor