Archaeology and imagination: Impossible staircases and startling ruins from Italy's master engraver The most famous 18th-century copper engraver, Giovanni Battista Piranesi (1720-1778) made his name with etchings of ancient Rome. His startling, chiaroscuro images imbued the city's archaeological ruins with drama and romance and became favorite souvenirs for the Grand Tourists who travelled Italy in pursuit of classical culture and education. Today, Piranesi is renowned not just for shaping the European imagination of Rome but also for his elaborate series of fanciful prisons Carceri d'Invenzione, which have influen