Sketching Santa Maria d’Araceli, Vicenza

Hans Bernoulli’s Study Drawing of Guarini’s Little-Known Church

Hans Bernoulli, Schematic sketch of Guarino Guarini's Santa Maria d'Araceli, Vicenza (1675-1680), c. 1919

Hans Bernoulli, Schematic sketch of Guarino Guarini’s Santa Maria d’Araceli, Vicenza (1675-1680), c. 1918
Source: Zentral- und Landesbibliothek Berlin / public domain

In 1918, Hans Bernoulli (1876-1959) published the article “Aufnahme und Skizze” in Wasmuths Monatshefte für Baukunst. The essay argued for the importance of making carefully observed sketches and measured drawings from buildings on site in teaching architectural design. Such studies would convey more about designs than the superficial sketches and watercolors usual in schools of architecture at the time. Bernoulli’s text did not refer explicitly to the twelve accompanying illustrations. Instead, these are interspersed throughout the article as silent visual examples, their subjects identified, but with no additional commentary.

A professor of architecture at the ETH Zurich, Bernoulli proposed productive study tours of monuments during which students would intensively engage with the buildings, rather than the typical lighthearted excursions that no one took seriously. Some of the destinations of Bernoulli’s study tours can be deduced from the three locations represented in the sketches for “Aufnahme und Skizze”: London, the Veneto, and Switzerland. The illustrations range widely in chronology, subject matter, and type of drawing, from a baroque door handle in Basel, to a contemporary shop in Sloane Square, from the portal of a palace in Verona to one on a London house, from a plan of garden parterres at Kensington Palace to a plan and interior view of Santa Maria in Organo, Verona.

Bernoulli’s drawing of the Araceli records the essential elements of the building’s plan and structure, all accurately scaled and with two key measurements noted. One clearly reads the central oval-plan space crowned by the circular dome supported with two transverse arches, as well as the surrounding ambulatory beyond the columns defining the central space. The entire structure is encased in a rectilinear box.

The church was generally not recognized as a design by Guarini between Milizia’s scathing mention of it in 1781 and Paolo Portoghesi’s rediscovery of it in 1957, so whether Bernoulli was aware of the identity of the Araceli’s architect is doubtful. Nonetheless, its inclusion in his 1918/19 text seems remarkable for an era that usually scorned the baroque. Bernoulli must be credited for looking beyond questions of taste and style and seeing the Araceli’s fundamental architectural appeal in its unusual spatial configuration and cage-like structure. In this, the sketch perfectly fulfills his stated aim of comprehending the essence of a building’s design through drawing.

Study Tour Sketches c. 1700 and c. 1900

A similar aim must have also inspired Gilles-Marie Oppenord to record Santa Maria d’Aracelli in a half-plan and half-longitudinal section in one of his sketchbooks during an Italian study tour in the late 1690s (center image below). While Oppenord’s sketch is more exuberant than accurate, both he and Bernoulli sought to capture the salient features of Guarini’s design on a single sheet as an aid to understanding the building and for later reference.

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Further Reading:

● Hans Bernoulli, “Aufnahme und Skizze,” Wasmuths Monatshefte für Baukunst 3, no. 2-3 (1918/19): 78-84.

● “Freigestellter Freigeist – Hans Bernoulli zum 140. Geburtstag” (post on ETH library blog on the circumstances surrounding Bernoulli’s termination from the ETH in late 1938)

● Hans Bernoulli research project at the ETH / gta

● Emilio Alberti, “Il restauro della chiesa di Santa Maria d’Araceli a Vicenza,” in G. Dardanello, S. Klaiber, and H. A. Millon, editors, Guarino Guarini (Turin: Umberto Allemandi & C., 2006): 398-403.

● Susan Klaiber, “Il progetto di Santa Maria d’Araceli a Vicenza,” in G. Dardanello, S. Klaiber, and H. A. Millon, editors, Guarino Guarini (Turin: Umberto Allemandi & C., 2006): 392-397 (with extensive bibliography).

Guarini Sites Outside Turin: page on this website with additional documentation on Santa Maria d’Araceli today, including a Google Map.