About Susan Klaiber

Architectural historian

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

Upcoming Conference: Spaces of Early Modern Architectural Production

Elizabeth Merrill has organized the upcoming conference Spaces of Early Modern Architectural Production at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin. The conference forms part of a working group on the topic that began with a video conference last fall, and will continue after the conference with a members-only workshop.

I am looking forward to participating with my talk “Network Structures: Exploring the Architectural Spaces of the Theatine Archipelago,” and hearing the other talks with interdisciplinary perspectives at the intersection of history of architecture and history of science.

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From the conference announcement:

The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG), Main Conference Hall,
Boltzmannstraße 22, 14195 Berlin, Germany

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Registration deadline: May 14, 2018

The Spaces of Early Modern Architectural Production

Concept

Space is essential to architecture. In contrast to painting and sculpture, architecture
is fundamentally defined as a spatial construct, taking form not in two dimensions
or three, but four. Architecture – as a direct product of its spatial dimension – is also
fundamentally experiential and social. The theoretical conception of space – the
understanding of space as a social product – provides a systematic, yet expandable
language for examining the production of architecture – the processes, materials,
structures, knowledge systems and people integral in the making of architecture.
To the extent that the concept of space facilitates such avenues of investigation,
this conference pursues these insights in regards to architecture of early modern
Europe.

Conference Program

9:00 – 9:30 Welcome & Registration

9:30 – 9:45 Introduction

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Renn (MPIWG)
Director’s Welcome

Elizabeth Merrill (MPIWG)
Introduction to the Conference

9:45 – 11:15 Panel I

Noam Andrews (New York University)
Towards an Architectonics of Outer Space

Ludovica Galeazzo (Duke University)
“Conquest” and Construction of an Urban Space: the Insula dei Gesuiti in Venice in the Early Modern Period

Susan Klaiber (Winterthur, Switzerland)
Network Structures: Exploring the Architectural Spaces of the Theatine Archipelago

11:15 – 11:30 Coffee

11:30 – 13:00 Panel II

Wolfgang Lefèvre (MPIWG)
Architecture on Paper: Development and Functions of Architectural Drawings in the Renaissance

Sebastian Fitzner and Paul Brakmann (Freie Universität, Berlin)
Spaces of architectural knowledge: The model collection and “Kunstkammer” of Johannes Faulhaber (1580-1635) in Ulm

Elizabeth Merrill (MPIWG)
Model Book Production & Architectural Education in Fifteenth-Century Siena

13:00 – 14:00 Lunch

14:00 – 16:00 Panel III

Federico Bellini (Università degli Studi di Camerino)
Architecture for Music: sonorous spaces and furnishings in sacred buildings of the Roman Renaissance and Baroque

Stefan Holzer (ETH Zürich) and Nicoletta Marconi (Università degli Studi di Roma Tor Vergata)
Construction and restoration scaffoldings development between 17th and 19th Century in Europe: case studies in Italy, France and Germany, and their interrelationships

Merlijn Hurx (Universiteit Utrecht)
“The most expert in Europe”: knowledge production and innovation in specialised
building technologies in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic

16:00 – 16:30 Coffee

16:30 – 17:30 Panel IV

Anthony Gerbino (University of Manchester)
Architectural Knowledge as Spatial Practice: Geometrical Survey in Sixteenth-Century France

Edward Triplett (Duke University)
Drawing Borders with Castles and Maps – Making Sense of the 16th Century Livro das Fortalezas

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Please RSVP to emerrill@mpiwg-berlin.mpg.de by 14 May 2018

Image above from my talk: Frontispiece to Girolamo Vitale, Lexicon Mathematicum, 2nd ed. (Rome: Vannacci, 1690).
Source: Internet Archive / public domain

Rosaria Cigliano Fellowship Program

Fellowships on the Age and the Culture of the Baroque, 2018 Edition

Once again, I am delighted to share this information about the fellowship program for emerging scholars in Baroque studies run by my friends at the Fondazione 1563 per l’Arte e la Cultura in Turin. This year, the fellowship program has been renamed in memory of the late president of the Fondazione 1563, Rosaria Cigliano, who died in December 2017. The topic for the 2018 edition is “Landscape and Nature (1680-1750).” Please use the links below to learn more, and address any questions directly to the Fondazione 1563.

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The Rosaria Cigliano Fellowship Program aims to assign individual fellowships to promote original studies on the Age of Baroque, also in an international comparative perspective.

Research proposals for the 2018 call will need to pertain to the following theme:

Landscape and Nature (1680-1750)
A fundamental indicator of the variation of cultural aspirations between the late Seventeenth and the mid-Eighteenth century is the representation of the natural world and the landscape. The Seicento is the century of scientific breakthroughs and sees the formulation of new theoretical canons of representation of nature, through a doctrine that aims to amend natural features and thus to improve on them. As modernity gains momentum, in the Eighteenth century nature reclaims its centrality and authoritativeness with a great variety of outcomes in the European centers of literary, philosophical, artistic, musical, and architectural production, where the new priorities combine, connect, mitigate and find liberation from the sedimentation of earlier traditions.

The competition is open to researchers born after 1st January 1983 holding a university or master’s degree, or other equivalent degrees, issued by an Italian or equivalent foreign University.

Priority will be given to applicants holding a PhD or equivalent from an Italian or foreign university.

Applications will be submitted exclusively using the forms available online and following the procedure indicated on the Foundation’s website under Chi siamo/Bandi/Procedure in corso/Borse di Alti Studi 2018 at www.fondazione1563.it.

Applications must be submitted by 22 July 2018 at h 24.00 (midnight).

Important: For the complete Notice of Competition for the fellowships, consult the PDFs in English or Italian.

Deadline 22 July 2018

EAHN 2018 Program Available and Registration Open

Fifth International Meeting of the European Architectural History Network
Tallinn, 13-16 June 2018

The detailed program for the European Architectural HIstory Network (EAHN) Fifth International Meeting is now available on the conference website. Conference events include keynote talks by Christine Stevenson, Krista Kodres, and Reinhold Martin, as well as a fascinating program of tours around Tallinn and other sites in Estonia. Twenty-eight panels and roundtables, organized in five sessions and five thematic tracks, furnish rich content across a range of periods, methodologies, and geographies.

Conference registration is open, with special early bird registration rates available until 30 March. Late registration at higher rates will be available until 20 May. The conference website has complete information about registration categories and rates.