Turner in Turin

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Façade of S. Giovanni, the Cathedral at Turin, 1819. Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856.
Source: The Tate Gallery / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

In the summer, one’s thoughts turn to travel – experiences in distant destinations, often captured in diaries and sketchbooks. But in the era of COVID-19, mobility is limited, and one must often resort to vicarious voyages.

Consider Joseph Mallord William Turner. He traveled to Italy twice, in 1819 and 1828-9. On both occasions he passed through Turin and made numerous sketches of the city and its surroundings in his sketchbooks now preserved in the Tate. Seven years ago I referred to his drawings of baroque buildings in Turin in a blog post focusing on John Singer Sargent, but could only link to them on the Tate website. In the meantime, the Tate has made images from its collection available under a CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 license. This means one is free to include images of Turner’s sketches in a blog post as long as proper attribution is made, and his drawings certainly merit a closer look with this generous license.

On both trips to Turin, Turner sketched the chief monuments of the historic city center – the Piazza Castello with Palazzo Madama (by Filippo Juvarra), the church of San Lorenzo (by Guarino Guarini), the Palazzo Reale, and the cathedral with its campanile (upper story by Juvarra) and the Chapel of the Holy Shroud (Guarini). He also looked farther afield to Superga and the Monte dei Cappuccini. Turner seems to have been particularly enamored of the Shroud Chapel, drawing it several times from various angles. During an age characterized by backlash against the baroque opulence of previous centuries, he delighted in the prickly silhouette of the reliquary chapel.

His fascination with the building over a decade recalls the description of the chapel written nearly a century earlier by another Englishman, Joseph Spence:

“like a pineapple on the autside”

“…that celebrated dome is a collection of angles (something like a pineapple on the autside and like nothing in the world on the inside).”
– Joseph Spence (1740)*

Like a pineapple, the exterior of the Shroud Chapel is exotic and otherworldly, an artifact of a place far away from the quotidian cares of life at home.

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Campanile and Dome of Cathedral at Turin, 1819. Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856.
Source: The Tate Gallery / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Joseph Mallord William Turner, The Piazza Castello, Turin, 1819. Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856.
Source: The Tate Gallery / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Place du Palais Madame, Turin, 1828-9. Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856.
Source: The Tate Gallery / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

Note
*Joseph Spence, Letters from the Grand Tour, edited by Slava Klima (Montreal & London: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1975), quoted in Valentina Assandria, Chiara Gauna, and Giuseppina Tetti, “L’architettura descritta: viaggiatori e guide a Torino tra Sei e Settecento,” in G. Dardanello, editor, Sperimentare l’architettura. Guarini, Juvarra, Alfieri, Borra e Vittone (Turin: Fondazione CRT, 2001): 325-345; here 337.

#DigitalBaroque / #GlobalBaroque

Fellowships on the Age and the Culture of the Baroque, 2020 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. The topic for the 2020 edition is “#DigitalBaroque / #GlobalBaroque.” Please use the links below to learn more, and address any questions directly to the Fondazione 1563.

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The Fondazione 1563 per l’Arte e per la Cultura has announced the eighth edition of its annual program of five fellowships for postdocs, doctoral candidates, or other advanced degree holders in baroque studies, Borse di alti studi sull’Età e la Cultura del Barocco Intitolate a Rosaria Cigliano: VIII Bando – Edizione 2020. The application deadline this year is 31 August 2020. For more information, see the call for applications in Italian or English.

#DigitalBaroque / #GlobalBaroque

The current scenario in Italy, in Europe and around the world has brought to the fore the relevance of digital projects. In light of the pandemic, the cultural sector has reacted promptly to the temporary closure of its main sites (museums, theaters, libraries, archives, foundations, cultural institutes, residences, estates, parks, etc.) by making the cultural heritage available digitally. These actions are complementary and not intended to replace direct on-site cultural experiences. However, the availability of videos, images and archives online has increased the visibility of cultural assets and reached out to new and different audiences.

As regards active research, digital access to archival, library and photo library resources has become even more essential and has made the object of widespread scientific-philosophical discussion. Regardless of the lockdown phase in connection with the pandemic, digital resources have proven extraordinarily useful, particularly in promoting exchanges, advancing knowledge and fostering a more international dialogue across different disciplines.

To this end, building on the opportunities offered by the current scenario, the 2020 Fellowships made available by Fondazione 1563 will focus on proposals concerning the study of Baroque through or thanks to digital means in a global historical perspective, with special emphasis on the exchanges that have led to the creation of a globalized world.

Applicants are invited to submit proposals that rely on (existing) digital materials and that provide new research perspectives on documents, sources, images or collections, of different genres, themes and types, available in digital form or online. Applications may also concern the creation of new materials to establish, integrate or expand existing archives or collections. Applicants will outline in their proposals which materials their research will focus on and how they will be integrated.

The Call aims to promote research based on the use of digital instruments both in project design and execution, and in the way the project will be made accessible upon completion. Therefore, applicants should possess adequate digital skills and familiarity with digital instruments, particularly with reference to Human Language Technologies, Historical Content Analysis, Temporal and Spatial Content Tracking, Data Visualization, GIS and Linked Open Data. Proposals will be evaluated also according to their dissemination potential, that is to say the accessibility of the project outcomes both in digital and traditional forms.

The Call is open to researchers born after 1st January 1982, holding a doctoral degree or an advanced or master’s degree issued by Italian universities or equivalent degrees from foreign Universities.

Applications may be submitted exclusively online by filling out the forms available on the Fondazione 1563’s website at www.fondazione1563.it under About us/Funding opportunities.

Applications must be submitted by 31 August 2020 at h 24.00 (midnight, Italian time / CET).

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

Deadline 31 August 2020

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Other news from the Fondazione 1563

The first publication in the series Quaderni di ricerca (Libri bianchi) of the Fondazione 1563, La riscoperta del Seicento. I libri fondativi, edited by Andrea Bacchi and Liliana Barroero (Genoa: Sagep, 2017) is now available as an open access download from the foundation’s website.

According to the flyer for the book:

Il libro raccoglie gli esiti di un seminario curato da Andrea Bacchi (Università di Bologna) e Liliana Barroero (Università di Roma Tre) e promosso dalla Fondazione 1563 per l’Arte e la Cultura della Compagnia di San Paolo nell’ambito del Programma di studi sull’Età e cultura del barocco, diretto da Michela di Macco (Università Sapienza, Roma). Ciascuno degli autori dei saggi (Andrea Bacchi, Liliana Barroero, Giovanna Capitelli, Elisa Coletta, Valeria Di Giuseppe Di Paolo, Michela di Macco, Tomaso Montanari, Giovanna Perini Folesani, Stefano Pierguidi, Yuri Primarosa, Giovanni Romano, Lucia Simonato, Maddalena Spagnolo, Maria Cristina Terzaghi, Stefania Ventra, Arnold Witte) “rilegge” uno dei libri che, a giudizio dei curatori, hanno segnato e segnano in modo significativo gli studi sul Seicento artistico italiano, da Renaissance und Barock di Heinrich Wölfflin (1888) al Niccolò Maria Pallavicini di Stella Rudolph (1995), offrendone una trattazione critica secondo la prospettiva attuale.

Download the book here.

Early Modern Monuments to Deliverance from the Plague

As lockdown restrictions due to the coronavirus COVID-19 begin to ease after six to eight weeks, one gains new appreciation for humanity’s historic experience of epidemics. It is no coincidence that the word “quarantine” derives from a forty-day period of isolation, nearly identical to the length of our collective lockdown. The monuments erected to celebrate deliverance from historic epidemics also appear in a new light as we emerge from our circumscribed private lives back into the public realm. These commemorations historically included paintings and regular performances but the selection below focuses on votive buildings and sculpture.

The two prominent Venetian churches, Palladio’s Redentore and Longhena’s Santa Maria della Salute, begun after the plagues of 1575-76 and 1630, respectively, underscore Venice’s position as a prosperous port city subjected to recurring waves of disease introduced by international trade. The numerous central European plague columns (or pyramids), such as those in Vienna and Maribor, represent more modest but no less fervent expressions of civic gratitude. The Obelisk (or Guglia / Spire) of San Domenico in Naples also belongs to this category of monument. Guarino Guarini’s high altar in San Nicolò, Verona, like Santa Maria della Salute, fulfilled a vow to celebrate the end of the plague of 1630, although the altar was not installed until the mid-1670s and statues were still being added in the early eighteenth century.

What form will the coronavirus monuments take? Arguably, adequate healthcare infrastructure and universal healthcare access for everyone on the planet would be the most lasting way to express thanksgiving and prevent similar tragedies in the future.

Further Reading

Harold Avery, “Plague Churches, Monuments, and Memorials,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine 59(2), February 1966: 110–116.

Celebrating the End of the Plague (Festa del Redentore),” Google Arts and Culture. (h/t @schelbertgeorg)

Images of the Plague in Rome, 1656

Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi’s Plague Broadsides

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In 1657, the Roman publisher Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi issued a series of three large prints depicting daily life in Rome during the plague epidemic of 1656. The prints are each composed of a series of vignettes depicted in four or five horizontal strips, almost like a graphic novel or comic book. The French artist Louis Rouhier probably designed the prints. Similar series were produced by other publishers in Rome that year and, a decade later, marking the plague in London in 1665.

Individual vignettes from the three de Rossi prints featured in the image gallery above recall our current condition with the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. People pore over the lists of the dead, hospitals are set up at churches throughout the city, carts or boats transport the sick or the dead, and trenches at the edge of town serve as mass graves. Those who are able flee the city. Measures for quarantining travelers at Porta del Popolo or “disinfecting” cash with vinegar remind us that basic tenets of public health have a long tradition, even if the importance of hand washing only became clear during the course of the nineteenth century.

De Rossi’s broadsides offer a graphic, sobering perspective on the recurring human ordeal of epidemics. Yet we can take solace in the fact that no pandemic lasts forever: this, too, shall pass.

Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi, Ordini diligenze e ripari fatti con universal beneficio dalla paterna Pietra di N. S. PP. Alesandro VII. et emin.mi SS. card.li della S. congr.me della sanita per liberare la citta di Roma dal contagio, 1657
Source: Rijksmuseum / public domain

Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi, Episodes in the plague in Rome of 1656, 1657
Source: Wellcome Collection / CC BY 4.0

Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi, Episodes from the outbreak of plague in Rome, 1656, 1657
Source: Wellcome Collection / CC BY 4.0

Further Reading

Ellen B. Wells, “Prints Commemorating the Rome, 1656 Plague Epidemic,” Annali dell’Istituto e Museo di storia della Scienza di Firenze 10:1 (1985): 15-21.

EAHN 2020 Program Available and Registration Open

Important Update, March 2020

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

The program and list of session speakers for the European Architectural History Network (EAHN) Sixth International Meeting are now available on the conference website. Conference events include plenary lectures by Anne Lacaton, Miles Glendinning, and Caroline van Eck. Details of the program of tours around Edinburgh and other sites in Scotland will be announced in the coming weeks. Twenty-five panels and roundtables, with additional open sessions, furnish rich content across a range of periods, methodologies, and geographies.

Conference registration is open, with special early bird registration rates available until 10 April. Standard registration at higher rates will be available until 3 June. The conference website has complete information about registration categories and rates.

EAHN 2022 Preview

For those thinking ahead to the next EAHN biennial conference – EAHN 2022 will be held in Madrid!

General Plan of the City, Castle and Suburbs of Edinburgh. Engraved by W. Faden. Faden and Jefferys, Pub., 1773.
Source: Beinecke Library, Yale University / public domain

 

Holiday Cranberries

Cranberry, late 1800s-early 1900s. Firm of Peter Carl Fabergé (Russian, 1846-1920). Chalcedony, jade, rock crystal, gold; overall: 11.5 x 4.8 cm (4 1/2 x 1 7/8 in.).
Source: The Cleveland Museum of Art, The India Early Minshall Collection 1966.446 / CC0 1.0 public domain dedication

The Best Part of Thanksgiving and Christmas

Although ornate Fabergé eggs usually leave me cold, this sprig of cranberries made by the Fabergé firm is absolutely charming. Artfully devised from semi-precious stones and gold, they never wilt or shrivel. The deceptively simple piece immortalizes the humble berries.

This is just as it should be, since cranberry relish, cranberry sauce, cranberry juice, cranberry bread, and dried cranberries punctuating cookies or muffins are among my perennial favorites. Their cheery color and tangy flavor turn meals into celebrations. For me, they are a highlight of the year-end holidays.

Wishing everyone a Happy Thanksgiving and a festive holiday season filled with all the cranberries you can eat.

An Eighteenth-Century French Engraving of San Lorenzo, Turin

Gabriel-Pierre-Martin Dumont, after Guarino Guarini, “Plan, et coupe de la chapelle royale du St. Suaire de Turin” [but in fact San Lorenzo, Turin], 1781.
From: [Oeuvres de] Jacques-Germain Soufflot, plate 16.
Source: Bibliothèque de l’Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA), collections Jacques Doucet / “Licence Ouverte / Open Licence” Etalab

Inspiration for the Panthéon in Paris

This print has fascinated me ever since I discussed it in an article in 2001. The image reproduces the plan and section of Guarino Guarini’s church of San Lorenzo, Turin, based on plates from the architect’s treatise, except the caption misidentifies the building as Guarini’s Chapel of the Holy Shroud (Cappella della Sindone). As the caption goes on to say, Jacques-Germain Soufflot, the architect of Sainte-Geneviève in Paris, had the plate engraved by Gabriel-Pierre-Martin Dumont to bolster the number of authoritative examples for constructing the dome of his church.

Sainte-Geneviève (now the Panthéon) was constructed from 1758-1790, and spirited discussions in the architectural community accompanied the long process of planning and realization. In several meetings of the French academy of architecture, Soufflot defended his plans to construct a large, structurally daring dome over the crossing of the church. In these sessions, he cited multiple precedents that he had seen on his travels throughout Europe: the churches of Notre Dame in Dijon, Toussaints in Angers, Sant’Agostino in Piacenza, San Carlo al Corso in Rome, Christopher Wren’s Saint Mary-le-Bow in London, Milan cathedral, and unnamed churches by Guarino Guarini. From the guidebook published by Soufflot’s traveling companion Charles-Nicolas Cochin, we know that the French architect had been to Turin and had seen both San Lorenzo and the Cappella della Sindone in 1750.

This extraordinary print testifies to Soufflot’s appreciation of Guarini’s structural achievement at San Lorenzo. Since Soufflot hoped to build a dome at Sainte-Geneviève seemingly supported primarily by slender columns, San Lorenzo provided a good example of how to do this. Guarini’s design at San Lorenzo relied on a framework of hidden brick and timber arches to support the dome, rather than placing any significant weight on the marble columns that visually carry the superstructure.

The mistake in the caption was perhaps due to confusion on the part of the engraver Dumont as he produced the print after Soufflot’s death in 1780. Construction of the church continued for another decade until it was completed after the beginning of the French Revolution.

Soufflot’s commission of such an engraving is surprising in view of the criticism of Italian baroque architecture voiced by the French architectural writers in the eighteenth century. French critics targeted Guarini in particular because of his ill-fated, incomplete church of Sainte-Anne-la-Royale in Paris. Nonetheless, Soufflot’s admiration for San Lorenzo demonstrates the power of an innovative architectural solution to transcend polemics based on style, taste, and nationality.

Fredrick Nash, Interior of the Panthéon in Paris, first half 19th century. Watercolor over graphite.
Source: Cleveland Museum of Art / public domain

 

White Walls: Practical Advice from Guarino Guarini

“Paint your neighbor’s wall white”

Guarino Guarini’s posthumous architectural treatise Archittetura civile (Turin: Mairesse, 1737) is filled with common sense observations. This one on the power of white paint, in a larger section devoted to optical adjustments for altering the perception of architecture, is one of my favorites:

Gli Oggetti, che sono bianchi pajono più grandi, che di colore oscuro, ò nero, e più illuminati

… Il bianco ha forza disgregare e dilatare la vista, e perciò le cose bianche paiono sempre maggiori di quelle che sono d’altro colore; massime che nel bianco ogni sinuosità si conosce a motivo del’ombre, che nel bianco più si vedono che in qualunque altra spezie di colore. Che poi appariscono più luminose è si manifesto, che nelle contrade strette ed oscure per aver luce maggiore nelle stanze basta imbiancare l’opposto muro del vicino.

Architettura civile, Trattato III, Capo xxi, Osservazione 6, p. 159.

[“Objects that are white seem larger and brighter than those of a dark color or black
… White has the power to fragment and widen sight, and therefore white things always seem bigger than those that are of another color; especially since in white every sinuosity is revealed because of the shadows, which you can see in white more than in any other kind of color. That they then appear brighter is shown since in narrow and dark streets to get more light in your rooms it suffices to paint your neighbor’s opposite wall white.”]

I am considering using this tactic for a dark window well in my basement – some of Guarini’s advice is still relevant today!

A Summer Souvenir of Superga

Souvenir spoon with view of Turin [Superga], late 19th century
Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Turin was never a major stop on the Grand Tour. During the great age of pre-aviation tourism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the city served as a gateway for travelers entering Italy from the north before heading to more popular destinations such as Venice, Florence, or Rome. Thus, apart from devotional objects produced for pilgrims venerating the Shroud of Turin, relatively few typical souvenir items such as postcards, photo albums, painted porcelain, or other knickknacks representing the Piedmontese capital survive in public collections.

This souvenir spoon at the Metropolitan Museum in New York is a charming exception. The enameled bowl of the spoon bears a view of Filippo Juvarra’s church of Superga (1716-31) on a hill overlooking the city. The view prominently includes the funicular railway connecting the city (at 225 meters elevation) with the summit (at 672 meters). Since the railway opened in 1884, and the spoon was donated to the museum in 1900, we can date it to the final sixteen years of the nineteenth century. The top of the spoon’s handle features a bull, the symbol of the city of Turin.

Other spoons donated with the same extensive collection represent traditional tourist highlights in Italy and elsewhere in Europe: Rome (St. Peter’s, the Colosseum), Venice (Rialto, Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s), Florence (Palazzo Medici, Duomo, Piazza della Signoria), Naples (Bay of Naples, Pompeii), Potsdam, Dresden, Seville, Madrid, and many others. Meant for display rather than use, such objects still perform their intended function as reminders (“souvenirs”) of summer vacations long ago.

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Related Reading

In 2016, the Consiglio regionale del Piemonte presented an exhibition of ceramics featuring views of Piedmont, Il Piemonte sui piatti. The exhibition catalogue may be downloaded as a PDF from the Internet Archive. See p. 28 of the catalogue for plates with views of Superga.

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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!