An important part of the museum’s collection of prints is formed by the almost two hundred etchings done by the Italian artist and architect, Giovanni Battista Piranesi. He transferred his dreams and fantasies into a major series of etchings. Even during his lifetime these earned him great fame. Initially, he limited his work to making romantic impressions of vast ruins from Roman antiquity. Later he made his own architectural creations on paper, works with a stunning and terrifying impact – especially the series 'Carceri’ (dungeons). They conjure up immense buildings through which staircases wind endlessly and a human being is a miniscule detail becoming more and more insignificant. The hallucinatory nature of these works is strengthened by the fact that the perspective makes the scene increasingly complicated and impenetrable.
Piranesi’s famous print series the Carceri the museum owns both the first state (1749-50) and the second state (1761). Complete sets of the first state are especially rare. The series consists of fourteen prints, to which two more were added in the second series. For this second state Piranesi drastically revised the images and etched them much more deeply, enhancing the dramatic effect. These large prints of terrifying monumental dungeons show the brilliant technique and imagination of Piranesi.