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The Skeletons

A work made of etching on heavy ivory laid paper.
CC0 Public Domain Designation

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  • A work made of etching on heavy ivory laid paper.




Giovanni Battista Piranesi
Italian, 1720-1778

About this artwork

This print is one of four grotesques (decorative fantasies) included in Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s popular series of architectural views of Rome and its surroundings. This kind of composition was inspired by Roman wall decorations discovered during the Renaissance and was meant to incorporate dissimilar elements in a whimsical and ornamental manner. This particular etching includes, among other things, a back view of the often-copied Farnese Hercules, a large zodiac wheel partly visible at the upper right, and various fragmentary skeletons adorned with tufts of wavy hair.


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Prints and Drawings


Giovanni Battista Piranesi


The Skeletons


Italy (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Etching on heavy ivory laid paper


Image: 38.9 × 54.2 cm (15 3/8 × 21 3/8 in.); Plate: 39.3 × 54.7 cm (15 1/2 × 21 9/16 in.); Sheet: 59 × 80.7 cm (23 1/4 × 31 13/16 in.)

Credit Line

The Art Institute of Chicago

Reference Number


IIIF Manifest  The International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF) represents a set of open standards that enables rich access to digital media from libraries, archives, museums, and other cultural institutions around the world.

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Extended information about this artwork

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