Altered States: An Early Version of Guarini’s Lisbon Section Plate

BNP Lisbon sectionGuarino Guarini, “S. Maria della Divina Providenza di Lisbona,” engraved by Giovanni Abbiati (loose sheet), here dated c. 1680.
Source: Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, E. 1235 V.

Guarino Guarini’s intention to publish an architectural treatise dates back at least to 1666, during his time in Paris. In that year, Giuseppe Silos listed an Architetturae arte Commentaria among the Theatine’s projected publications in a bio-bibliography. The enterprise seems to have gotten underway only in the late 1670s as Guarini began to prepare the plates for the treatise together with a team of engravers based in Turin and Modena. At Guarini’s death in 1683 the manuscript for the text remained unfinished and in disarray, as explained in the introduction to the 1686 publication of a selection of the plates without any text, the Dissegni d’architettura civile, et ecclesiastica. The entire treatise was published only a half-century later as Guarini’s Architettura civile (Turin: Mairesse, 1737) after the young Bernardo Antonio Vittone edited the MS and – perhaps – commissioned some additional plates.

Understanding the genesis of the treatise, as well as dating its text and plates to particular periods during Guarini’s lifetime or after his death, therefore rely on a variety of internal and external evidence that establishes dates ante quem or post quem: mentions or representations of buildings known to date to certain years, a handful of preparatory drawings for the plates, other related drawings (or drawing copies), and a few dates engraved directly on the plates.

Plates in both the 1686 and 1737 editions fall into two groups – text illustrations, or project presentation plates reproducing Guarini’s building designs, whether executed or unexecuted. The project plates differed slightly in the two editions, with some of the dedicatory inscriptions and engravers’ names obliterated for the 1737 publication. This yielded two states of each project plate, as illustrated below on the example of the section for Guarini’s unexecuted Lisbon church, plate number 18 among the projects in both editions (click for larger images).

1686 Edition

Lisbon section DissegniGuarino Guarini, “S. Maria della Divina Providenza di Lisbona,” Dissegni d’architettura civile, et ecclesiastica (Turin: Per gl’Eredi Gianelli,1686), plate 18, engraved by Giovanni Abbiati.
Source: Getty Research Library / Internet Archive

1737 Edition

Lisbon section AC croppedGuarino Guarini, “S. Maria della Divina Providenza di Lisbona,” Architettura civile (Turin: Gianfrancesco Mairesse, 1737), plate 18, [engraved by Giovanni Abbiati].
Source: gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France

The redacted portions of the plates are clearly evident in this comparison. The dedication to Padre Antonio Ardizzone, the founder of the Theatines’ Lisbon establishment, followed by Guarini’s own name in his capacity as ducal mathematician, appeared along the upper right edge of the sheet in 1686, and has been removed in the 1737 sheet. Furthermore, the name of the engraver Giovanni Abbiati, present at lower left on the earlier sheet, has also been removed for the later edition. Scholars generally agree that these changes were made after the names of the engravers and original dedicatees became irrelevant fifty years after Guarini’s death.

New Preliminary State

Now, an additional state of this Lisbon section plate has emerged in the digitized collections of the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, Lisbon (at the top of this post). This version of the plate is virtually identical to the 1686 edition, with the sole difference that the numeral 18 is missing at the upper right corner. In this case, though, the number has not been obliterated, but rather has yet to be inserted as part of the process of ordering the plates for publication. It thus predates the 1686 plate, and illuminates a stage of the production process apparently before a fixed order for publication of the project plates had been determined. Indeed, perhaps the plates remained unordered at Guarini’s death.

Further evidence suggests the sheet was sent to Lisbon to function as would a presentation drawing, to provide the patrons with a grand and appealing representation of the planned construction. The handwritten inscription at the bottom (not by Guarini) clarifies some details of the design: it labels the voids in the nave piers as confessionals, and explains that the spaces above these are tribune that will be accessible through a passageway from behind. Finally, it enumerates the cupole (domes and lanterns) in the building, three on the longitudinal axis (nave and choir), two over the transept chapels, a larger one at the crossing, and four over the nave chapels for a total of ten.

Dating Guarini’s Lisbon Design

The Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal’s record on the sheet dates it to c. 1650, based on a 1977 publication by A. Aires de Carvalho [Catálogo da colecção de desenhos (Lisboa: BN, 1977) no. 532]. This date corresponds with the foundation of the Theatines’ Lisbon establishment by Ardizzone and Alberto Maria Ambiveri, but not with Guarini’s plans for the church. The engraving must date to Guarini’s years in Turin (beginning in late 1666), since the engraver Giovanni Abbiati is known as active in Turin and Milan, c. 1678-1700.

But the design itself also dates to Guarini’s years in Turin. As I have demonstrated (Klaiber 1993, followed by Morrogh 1998, Varela Gomes 2001-3, and Varela Gomes 2006), Guarini’s project for the Theatine church of Santa Maria della Divina Provvidenza, Lisbon, almost certainly dates to the years around 1680, when the young Duke of Savoy, Vittorio Amedeo II, entered a marriage contract with his first cousin, the Portuguese Infanta Elisabetta Luisa Giuseppa. The plan was to establish him as king or regent in Portugal, thus gaining for the Savoy the power and resources associated with the vast Portuguese overseas territories. In anticipation of the marriage the two courts exchanged diplomats, artists, and other representatives, as well as gifts and cultural projects. The contract, however, was dissolved in 1682 before any marriage occurred, and the entire enterprise evaporated. Guarini never went to Lisbon, his church was not built (though, according to Varela Gomes 2001-3, possibly begun), and therefore not destroyed in the 1755 earthquake.

The Lisbon sheet provides an invaluable snapshot of a previously undocumented stage in the production of Guarini’s project engravings for his treatise. And it captures a moment when Guarini was simultaneously preparing designs for publication while using prints of the same designs to communicate with patrons and woo them to support his projects.

Lisbon plan DissegniLisbon plan AC CROPPEDThe plan for Guarini’s Lisbon church, in the 1686 (above) and 1737 (below) versions: Guarino Guarini, “Pianta di S. Maria della Divina Providenza di Lisbona,” Dissegni d’architettura civile… (Turin: Gianelli,1686), plate 17, engraved by Giovanni Abbiati.
Source: Getty Research Library / Internet Archive

Guarino Guarini, “Pianta di S. Maria della Divina Providenza di Lisbona,” Architettura civile (Turin: Gianfrancesco Mairesse, 1737), plate 17, [engraved by Giovanni Abbiati].
Source: gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France


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Thanks to Helena Simões Patrício of the BNP for clarifying the permission to include an image of the BNP sheet in this post.

Sources and further reading:

Susan Klaiber, Guarino Guarini’s Theatine Architecture, Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University 1993: 305-359.

Susan Klaiber, “Guarino Guarini, Dissegni d’architettura civile, et ecclesiastica, Turin, 1686,” in A. Placzek and A. Giral, eds., Avery’s Choice: Five Centuries of Great Architectural Books (New York: G. K. Hall, 1997): 45.

Andrew Morrogh, “Guarini and the Pursuit of Originality: The Church for Lisbon and Related Projects,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 57:1 (1998): 6-29.

Paulo Varela Gomes, “Les projets de Francesco Borromini et Guarino Guarini pour le Portugal,” Revue de l’Art 133 (2001-2003): 81-92.

Paulo Varela Gomes, “Guarini e il Portogallo,” in G. Dardanello, S. Klaiber, H. A. Millon, eds., Guarino Guarini (Turin: Allemandi, 2006): 514-523.