Acquired directly from the above by the present owner
London, Boswall House, House of the Nobleman: The Return, 2011
The title of the present triptych refers to Giovanni Batista Piranesi (1720-1778), the eighteenth-century Italian print-maker famous for his vedute of Rome and depictions of the city’s classical ruins. His publication of Le Antichità Romane de' tempo della prima Repubblica e dei primi imperatori (Roman Antiquities of the Time of the First Republic and the First Emperors) garnered widespread acclaim and went on to deeply influence the contemporaneous work of Claude Lorraine and Salvatore Rosa, whose evocation of an Arcadian past fettered with crumbling ruins engendered the nascent beginnings of Neo-classicism and later Romanticism. Piranesi’s reminiscence of a golden age in decline is taken on and subverted in Shaw’s triptych. Instead of a melancholic rumination on past opulence, Shaw’s work hedonistically revels in the breakdown; a once ostentatious kingdom, now in ruins, is overrun with immoral pandemonium. The fall of the Roman Empire is re-imagined and satirised by Shaw as a fantastical tableau of exotic depravity.
Inspired by a wealth of tradition, Shaw’s work invokes the luxurious intricacy of Japanese Byobu screens; a treatment of nature and landscape evocative of Hokusai prints; a sprawling patternation synonymous with traditional Kashmiri shawls; and a bright colouration and flattened perspective characteristic of fifteenth and sixteenth-century Persian miniatures; all of which are grounded within a greater survey of western art history. In The Piranesi Triptych – The Gradual Decline of the Kingdom of Greed, Hieronymus Bosch and Claude Lorrain meet a history of oriental tradition to deliver a work of sparkling ingenuity and painterly magnificence.
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