About Susan Klaiber

Architectural historian

A Panorama of Turin

Torino, Panorama generale

Torino, Panorama generale, ca. 1914
Source: ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv / Fotograf: Unbekannt / Fel_031762-RE / Public domain mark
CLICK TO ENLARGE

The rich online image collections of the ETH Zürich hold countless treasures, including aerial photographs, historic bookplates, the collection of the Fotostiftung Schweiz, historic scientific instruments, field research photography in geology and botany, and historic photographs of buildings in Zurich. Many images are available with some type of Creative Commons license, or are in the public domain. A great deal of the collection consists of postcards, with some unusual examples such as this five-part accordion-folded panorama of Turin dating to around 1914.

The photographs used in the panorama were apparently taken from the Monte dei Cappuccini, on the east side of the Po River just outside the historic center of the city. The leftmost image looks south-southwest, upstream along the Po, toward the Castello del Valentino. Moving from left to right and facing westward, the images successively pan from southwest to north-northwest, while the final, rightmost image looks northeast toward the basilica of Superga. Near the right edge of the central image, the spire of the Mole Antonelliana punctuates the skyline. Together, the five photographs pan well over 180°. The Po runs along the foreground of the entire panorama, while the Alps form a continuous backdrop, a vivid illustration of Turin as the “città subalpina.”

The ETH image archive also holds similar panoramas of numerous other cities and landscapes. Besides many variations on Alpine panoramas, these include Berlin, Bologna, Budapest, Lugano, Lyon, Palermo, Valletta, and Oahu!

Carnival in Rome

Bartolomeo Pinelli, Il Carnevale in Roma, 1815. From: Nuova Raccolta di cinquanta costumi pittoreschi […], Plate 49.
Source: e-rara / ETH-Bibliothek

Carriages, Enormous Eye-Glasses, Strange Animals

Charles Dickens lived in Italy for eleven months in 1844-45. He wrote about his stay in the travelogue Pictures from Italy, published the year after his return to England. His vivid description of Carnival in Rome in the Pictures from Italy rivals Goethe’s famous account from nearly sixty years earlier. The amusing prints of the festivities by Bartolomeo Pinelli, dating midway between the two texts, perfectly capture details noted by both authors.

In the following excerpt, Dickens gives an impression of the range of costumes and customs seen in the streets during Carnevale:

“… the spectators at some upper balcony or window, joining in the fray, and attacking both parties, would empty down great bags of confetti, that descended like a cloud, and in an instant made them white as millers. Still, carriages on carriages, dresses on dresses, colours on colours, crowds upon crowds, without end. Men and boys clinging to the wheels of coaches, and holding on behind, and following in their wake, and diving in among the horses’ feet to pick up scattered flowers to sell again; maskers on foot (the drollest generally) in fantastic exaggerations of court-dresses, surveying the throng through enormous eye-glasses, and always transported with an ecstasy of love, on the discovery of any particularly old lady at a window; long strings of Policinelli, laying about them with blown bladders at the ends of sticks; a waggon-full of madmen, screaming and tearing to the life; a coach-full of grave mamelukes, with their horse-tail standard set up in the midst; a party of gipsy-women engaged in terrific conflict with a shipful of sailors; a man-monkey on a pole, surrounded by strange animals with pigs’ faces, and lions’ tails, carried under their arms, or worn gracefully over their shoulders; carriages on carriages, dresses on dresses, colours on colours, crowds upon crowds, without end. Not many actual characters sustained, or represented, perhaps, considering the number dressed, but the main pleasure of the scene consisting in its perfect good temper; in its bright, and infinite, and flashing variety; and in its entire abandonment to the mad humour of the time…”

– Charles Dickens, Pictures from Italy (London: Bradbury & Evans, 1846), pp. 178-179.

Whether you celebrate Carnival, Carnevale, Shrovetide, Fasnacht, Mardi Gras, or Fasching … enjoy it while it lasts!

Bartolomeo Pinelli, costumes of Roman Carnival, 1812. From: Lettre de M. Millin,… à M. Langlès, sur le carnaval de Rome (Paris: J.-B. Sajou, 1812).
Source: Gallica / Bibliothèque nationale de France

Guarino Guarini Letterato

A Neglected Article by Martino Capucci

“Quel che si sa di Guarino Guarini architetto non è molto: ci sono le sue opere, non la sua figura intera. Manca ancora una monografia che dica non solo dell’artista, ma anche del trattatista d’architettura, del letterato, del matematico e filosofo farraginoso e dottissimo. … riteniamo opportuno ordinare quel che si sa su Guarini scrittore, delinearne gli essenziali aspetti; offrendo così qualche materiale che potra non essere inutile per lo storico dell’arte che voglia tenerne conto.”

From: Martino Capucci, “Guarino Guarini Letterato,” Lettere Italiane 8:1 (Gennaio-Marzo 1956): 75-82 [75].

The article cited above, by the late scholar of Italian literature Martino Capucci (1926-2013), recently surfaced in JSTOR – apparently the journal Lettere Italiane is a new addition to the repository’s invaluable resources. In the 1956 essay, Capucci called for an integrated approach to Guarino Guarini’s life and work, considering all of his activity – in mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, and indeed literature – as inseparable from his architectural work. Capucci, who taught at the University of Bologna, surveyed all the writings of the Theatine architect, but then focused his attention on Guarini’s first publication, the play La pietà trionfante (Messina, 1660). Capucci situates the tragicomedy within the tradition of seventeenth-century Italian theater, succinctly and honestly assessing it from the point of view of italianistica. While Capucci finds the play of low literary quality, he nonetheless recognizes its value in reflecting the culture in which Guarini took part:

“In questo ‘maestro del barocco’ il fascino della cultura è straordinario e spesso soffocante, ma a noi non importano tanto i risultati quanto il desiderio di esperienza che sta alla radice di questa cultura; ed è qui, non in un rapporto esterno o magari deterministico, quel punto di contatto fra i due aspetti della personalità guariniana, che giustifica l’esame della sua attività di erudito, trattatista e scrittore da cui possiamo trarre maggior sicurezza nella valutazione dell’opera per la quale egli vive ancora.” [81-82]

To my knowledge, Capucci’s article has remained entirely unknown within the literature on Guarino Guarini. It is not included in any of the usual authoritative bibliographies on the Modenese Theatine. Yet Capucci’s essay coincided with the flowering of studies on Guarini and Piedmontese baroque architecture in the late 1950s through the 1960s, such as Paolo Portoghesi’s short monograph published the same year. Its omission can only be due to the disciplinary blinders that still plague Guarini research today. Few studies on Guarini make more than passing reference to La pietà trionfante, although a play based on it was produced in Modena in 2005, Le regole del cielo. Capucci’s article thus fills a notable gap in Guarini scholarship, providing important literary expertise to assist in our understanding of a figure who is fully comprehensible only through interdisciplinary efforts.

Consult “Guarino Guarini Letterato” by Martino Capucci at this JSTOR permalink. It deserves to be better known and to take its place within the standard literature on the architect.

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Further reading:

● Martino Capucci’s colleagues at the University of Bologna prepared this booklet as a memorial tribute following his death in 2013. The biographical essay includes an account of the genesis of Capucci’s early essay on Guarini.

● Download Guarini’s La pietà trionfante from the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense.

Janus and Chronos at the New Year

Giulio Romano, Victory, Janus, Chronos and Gaea, preparatory drawing for the Sala dei Giganti in the Palazzo del Te, Mantua, ca. 1532-1534
Source: The J. Paul Getty Musuem / Getty Open Content Program

At the threshold between the years 2018 and 2019, Giulio Romano’s group of Janus and Chronos in a preparatory drawing for the Sala dei Giganti at the Palazzo del Te seems a particularly appropriate emblem. They belong to the gathering of gods who have just vanquished the giants, toppling everything in their path. Janus – who gives January its name – looks backward (as an old man) and forward (as a youth), viewing the past as well as the future. Chronos (“Father Time”) strides ahead purposefully, while Victory seems about to place the victor’s crown on his head, marking the ultimate triumph of the inexorable march of time. (The position of this crown is shifted in the executed fresco.) Finally, at the lower right, a wistful Gaea looks on in horror at the violent end of the giants.

After the upheavals of 2018, here’s hoping that Janus sees a bright future for us all in January and throughout the rest of 2019!

EAHN 2020: Call for Sessions and Roundtables

European Architectural History Network Sixth International Meeting
Edinburgh, Scotland, 10-13 June 2020

Although I have stepped back from active involvement in the European Architectural History Network (EAHN), I am happy to note and share information about the preparations for the organization’s next biennial conference in 2020. After earlier international conferences in Guimarães, Brussels, Turin, Dublin, and Tallinn, the sixth edition will take place in Edinburgh. If you have been considering organizing a panel or roundtable on any aspect of architectural history – from antiquity through medieval, early modern, or modern and contemporary – this offers an excellent opportunity!

From the conference website:

Call for Session and Roundtable Proposals

The European Architectural History Network is delighted to announce its next biannual meeting at the University of Edinburgh, UK, 10-13 June 2020. In accordance with EAHN’s mission, the meeting aims to increase the visibility of the discipline of architectural history, to foster transnational, interdisciplinary and multicultural approaches to the study of the built environment, and to facilitate the exchange of research in the field. EAHN is a European organisation, but its intellectual scope is global, and the meeting welcomes proposals on any architectural historical topic. As well as topics on any aspect of the built environment, proposals on landscape and urban history are also very welcome, along with proposals dealing with the theories, methodologies and historiographies of architectural history.

Proposals are sought in two basic formats: (1) a Session, and (2) a Roundtable debate. A Session should consist of 4-5 paper presentations, with a respondent, and time for dialogue and discussion at the end. A Roundtable debate should be an organised as a discussion between panel members, and the format would suit topics of particular urgency, or contemporary relevance. Roundtables should also aim to activate audience discussion as far as possible. Sessions and Roundtables may be chaired by more than one person.

Anyone wishing to chair a Session or a Roundtable debate at EAHN2020 are invited to submit proposals by 31 December 2018. Chairs should make clear whether their proposal is a Session, or a Roundtable.

Please note that EAHN is self-funding, and chairs are expected to provide all their conference expenses, including travel and accommodation.

Deadline: 31 December 2018
Please visit the conference website to submit a session proposal, or for further information.

The Baroque Holy Ark of Trino Vercellese

Holy Ark of the Synagogue of Trino Vercellese, Piedmont, 1770s. Today in the Eretz Israel Museum, Tel Aviv.
Source: Wikipedia [he.wikipedia.org] / User: Michaeli / © This image is copyrighted. The copyright holder allows everyone to use the image for any purpose provided that the copyright holder is properly credited.

This stunning ark, a fine example of Piedmontese baroque woodworking, was created for the synagogue in Trino Vercellese in the late eighteenth century. Portions of the synagogue were designed by the Turin court architect Benedetto Alfieri, although the name of the cabinetmaker responsible for the ark remains unknown. The ark features rich carving, faux marble, and gilded details, and the architectural scene on its doors alludes to the Temple of Jerusalem.

The synagogue in Trino was one of several built in Piedmont in the baroque era, including those in Casale Monferrato and Biella. Today, according to most sources, the synagogue in Trino has been secularized, and its contents dismantled in 1965.

In 1973, the holy ark was acquired by the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv. There it was installed in a pavilion designed by the architect Werner Joseph Wittkower, the younger brother of the famous architectural historian Rudolf Wittkower, who was the leading international scholar of Piedmontese baroque art and architecture between 1945 and his death in 1971.

Around fifteen years ago, the museum undertook an extensive restoration of the ark. It was then reinstalled in the Ethnography and Folklore galleries of the museum in 2006-7, along with additional elements from the synagogue in Trino. As the Eretz Israel Museum website explains:

A Holy Ark, or Torah Shrine, as it was called by Italian Jews, complete with its original Torah lectern, worshipers’ benches, and the latticed railing from the women’s balcony, is situated in a separate hall built according to the original synagogue plans. The Baroque and Rococo style of the Ark is typical of the Piedmont district of northwestern Italy and represents an excellent example of the influence of local style on historical Jewish themes. The set of doors carved with architectural images symbolizing the Temple still to be built in Jerusalem is the highlight of the Ark, expressing the centrality of Jerusalem in Jewish tradition.

The Holy Ark of Trino Vercellese stands as an impressive witness to the malleability of the baroque style, demonstrating how it could transcend the Catholic propaganda so often ascribed to it.

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In solidarity with the Tree of Life Congregation, Pittsburgh. Stop the hate.

Cappella della Sindone Reopened

Guarino Guarini’s Chapel of the Holy Shroud, Turin, Restored


The Chapel of the Holy Shroud reopened this weekend after a decades-long restoration campaign. The chapel had first closed in May 1990 when a small piece of marble detached from a cornice and crashed to the floor. Repairs proceeded sporadically over the next several years. In April 1997, the restoration was nearly complete when a devastating fire hit the chapel. The wooden boards on some of the scaffolding caught fire, for reasons never fully determined. The great height of the chapel acted as a chimney to pull the flames upward and fan the fire. Although the marble could not burn, it cracked and changed color because of the intense heat. Splintered fragments of the originally black Frabosa marble fell to the pavement. As later emerged, the structure of the chapel and its dome were largely intact, but the subsequent restoration was fraught with conflicts, setbacks, and a lack of transparency. After multiple missed deadlines, the restoration is complete and the chapel accessible to visitors.

Position of the Cappella della Sindone between the Cathedral of San Giovanni and the Palazzo Reale, Turin

Located between the Cathedral of San Giovanni and the Royal Palace in Turin, access to the chapel was originally provided from both buildings. That meant that members of the Savoy dynasty could enter the chapel directly from the palace, but also that the faithful could enter from the cathedral, as well as view the chapel directly above and behind the high altar of the cathedral. During much of the twentieth century, though, visitors entered from the church side, via the stairways from the two doors flanking the high altar of the cathedral, while the palace doorway was rarely used. With the reopening, the chapel now forms part of the Musei Reali in the Royal Palace, and will be accessed from the palace side, with the cathedral doors closed. The shroud itself is now stored elsewhere.

The portals in the cathedral giving access to the stairways leading to the Shroud Chapel will now remain locked. Source: TripAdvisor

While the successfully completed restoration must be seen as a triumph – reinstating one of the most stupendous spaces in early modern European architecture – the incorporation of the chapel in a museum circuit is symptomatic for our age. Divorced from its relation to the church, devoid of the relic that originally prompted its construction, Guarini’s chapel has become yet another event for cultural tourism.

Beginning Tuesday, 2 October, the chapel may be visited as part of the a general admission ticket to the Musei Reali Torino.

 

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Further reading:

● The Art Newspaper provides a convenient English summary of the restoration campaign.

● John Beldon Scott’s 2003 book Architecture for the Shroud: Relic and Ritual in Turin (Chicago: University of Chicago Press) remains essential reading for the historic background of the Shroud Chapel and the earlier repositories of the relic. See also my review of Scott in Annali di architettura 16 (2004).

● My other posts on the Shroud of Turin.

Still Essential: Tommaso Sandonnini on Guarino Guarini

Fundamental Study Available Open Access

Sandonnini Guarini

Tommaso Sandonnini, Del Padre Guarino Guarini, Chierico Regolare (Modena: Vincenzi e nipoti, 1890).
Source: Internet Culturale

In 1890, the Modenese archivist Tommaso Sandonnini published a lengthy article on Guarino Guarini in the local history journal Atti e memorie delle RR. Deputazioni di storia patria per le provincie modenesi e parmensi. The text, entitled “Il padre Guarino Guarini modenese,” provided the first modern biography of the Theatine architect, an impartial account of his life based on archival sources. The same year, the study was issued as a stand-alone booklet (or offprint) of 54 pages, with a slightly altered title: Del Padre Guarino Guarini, Chierico Regolare (Modena: Vincenzi e nipoti, 1890). The contents of the two versions are identical.

On the basis of the Modena archives, Sandonnini’s investigation traces Guarini’s family origins and youth in Modena up to the point he left for Rome in 1639 for his novitiate in the Theatine order at San Silvestro al Quirinale. Sandonnini resumes his narrative with Guarini’s return to Modena for ordination in 1647, and follows Guarini’s early years as a priest at San Vincenzo, Modena, through the 1650s. Sandonnini notes Guarini’s visit to his dying mother in summer 1662, and presents information regarding his time in Paris via letters from the Vigarani preserved in the Modena archives. The archivist publishes correspondence between Guarini and figures of the d’Este court during the 1670s and 1680s. Other sections of the study give an overview of Guarini’s published books and major architectural projects. Sandonnini fails to recognize Guarini’s role in the design of the Theatine casa of San Vincenzo in Modena, but he posits the Theatine’s involvement in campaigns at the Palazzo Ducale, Modena (a theory since viewed with scepticism). In any case, he avoids a judgmental assessment of the baroque architect, in marked contrast to most 19th-century writing on Guarini’s architectural work.

Tommaso Sandonnini (1849-1926) studied law and worked as a notary before becoming director of the Archivio Storico Comunale in Modena in 1897. In this capacity, he was active in archaeological and preservation efforts in the city, and wrote numerous studies on a range of historical topics, particularly those involving Modena.

An extensive review of Sandonnini’s study by Natale Baldoria appeared the same year in Archivio storico dell’arte 3 (1890): 221-23. Baldoria opens his essay with some historiographic reflections on the study of Baroque art and architecture (“Soltanto da poco tempo incomincia ad essere studiata senza preconcetti, obiettivamente, la Storia dell’arte… Così gli artisti e le opere di quell’epoca [barocco], che tanto contribuirono colle loro invenzioni anche al progresso dell’ arte moderna, sono degni di studio e tali che sarebbe delitto se la storia non li ricordasse o li spregiasse.”) He thus acknowledged the radical break of Sandonnini’s article with previous discussions of Guarini. Nearly seventy years later, in 1958, Wittkower still deemed Sandonnini’s Guarini “An important study.”

Today, another sixty years down the road, Sandonnini’s article remains as fundamental as ever. Along with the works of Alessandro Baudi di Vesme and Augusta Lange who explored the archives in Turin, it furnishes the essentail documentary basis for Guarini’s life and career.

Thanks to Italy’s wonderful Internet Culturale and the Biblioteca civica Ubaldo Mazzini in La Spezia, the booklet version of Sandonnini’s study is now available open access online, and may be downloaded as a PDF for non-commercial use.

Download

Tommaso Sandonnini, Del Padre Guarino Guarini, Chierico Regolare (Modena: Vincenzi e nipoti, 1890). [90 MB]

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On Sandonnini’s life and writings, see Giulio Bertoni, “Tommaso Sandonnini, 1849-1926” and Giovanni Canevazzi, “Bibliografia di Tommaso Sandonnini,” Atti e memorie della R. Deputazione di storia patria per le provincie modenesi, Ser. 7, vol. 5 (1928): 7-28 and 29-42.

A Summer Evening at Racconigi

On hot summer days, one longs for the cooler hours from dusk to dawn. Guarino Guarini had this in mind when planning the country estate of Racconigi (1676ff.), south of Turin, for his patron Emanuele Filiberto, Prince of Carignano.

A few years before Guarini began work at the site, the prince had commissioned the French landscape architect André Le Nôtre to design the extensive gardens on the estate grounds.

Guarini’s main contribution to the complex was his project for remodeling the estate’s medieval castello into a baroque palace, of which only the tract along the garden facade was completed. But the architect also provided other designs for the estate and the adjacent town. One such project was a garden pavilion for the Racconigi grounds, which Guarini used to illustrate a passage about “oblique” architecture in his treatise Architettura civile (published posthumously in 1737). Guarini described the garden pavilion – reproduced above – as:

“…un Casino, o Pinacolo per un Giardino per ritirarli nella State, e massime sulla sera a cena fatto pel Serenissimo Principe di Carignano nel Giardino deliziosissimo, e vastissimo di Racconigi…”

that is:

“…a casino, or gazebo for a garden, to withdraw to in the summer, especially for dinner in the evenings, made for the most serene Prince of Carignano in the delightful and vast garden of Racconigi…”

The text passage refers to the upper image (elevation) on the plate reproduced above, and some of the partial plans on the right of the plate. The lower image (section) is for a different, unidentified design, discussed in the second “Osservazione” of the treatise chapter. The exact position of the Racconigi casino in the park of the castello remains unknown, as do the details of its construction, whether of stone, wood, or brick. Any traces of it must have vanished when the gardens were redesigned in the late eighteenth century and again in the nineteenth century.

The gazebo would have furnished a splendid setting for summer dinner parties in the cool of the evening, with provisions ferried from the kitchens in the main house, or perhaps prepared outdoors. But these delights were reserved for a select few: the prince and his invited guests.

The Racconigi gardens are open to the public today, but only until 7 pm. They feature a bird sanctuary with wetlands for storks and ducks – and some of the storks nest right on top of the castello! Even if you can’t dine in the gardens, it is a refreshing place to spend a summer day.

Links:

Castello di Racconigi (official website)

Castello di Racconigi (page for Racconigi on the Royal Residences of Piedmont website, in English)

Centro Cicogne e Anatidi, Racconigi (bird sanctuary)

● Click on the Google Map below and use Street View to enjoy a virtual stroll through the Racconigi grounds.

The Remains of Sainte-Anne-la-Royale, Paris, in 1900

A Cadastre Plan Now Online


Earlier this year, the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris (BHVP) made some image collections pertaining to various historic buildings in Paris available online. The holdings may be searched via the library’s own online catalogue, or through the Gallica portal of the Bibliothèque nationale de France.

The files (recueils iconographiques) consist of prints and drawings relating to each building grouped together and pasted on large sheets of cardboard – a kind of analogue forerunner of Pinterest boards.

The Theatine church of Sainte-Anne-la-Royale, designed by Guarino Guarini, is documented in six images pasted on three boards. Most of these are already known in one form or another, but a cadastre plan dating to 1900 is particularly interesting. It provides additional information about the position of the unfinished church in the block between Quai Voltaire and the Rue de Lille. The church plan, signified with pink-red cross hatching, is superimposed on the plans of the buildings that were built on the site after Sainte-Anne was securlarized and partially demolished in the early nineteenth century.

These nineteenth-century buildings incorporated portions of the church structure, and remain on the site today, with few alterations in respect to the plan of 1900.

To see other plans of the site for comparison – Blondel’s 1752 engraved plan, and a satellite view of the block on Google Maps today – visit Guarini Sites Outside of Turin.

To learn more about Sainte-Anne-la-Royale, see the posts on this website tagged with “Paris“.

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Image (above): Recueil iconographique. Couvent des Théatins (Paris), detail with cadastre plan of 1900
Source: Ville de Paris / BHVP / public domain