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

*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.

Broken Window in Dome of Guarini’s Chiesa dell’Araceli, Vicenza

As reported by Vicenzareport, on 10 April 2020 a portion of one of the oval windows in the dome of Guarino Guarini’s Santa Maria d’Araceli, Vicenza, crashed to the floor of the church. No one was injured in the apparently spontaneous mishap.

Video footage shows firemen securing the window by removing the remaining sections of glass before a temporary covering was installed. The video also provides a close look at the roof and exterior of the dome, views of the building rarely included in photographic surveys.

The church, for a convent of Poor Clare nuns (Clarisse), was built from 1675-1680. The local architect Carlo Borella oversaw the construction. It is the only church that Guarini completed for a female religious order, and his only extant church outside Piedmont.

The recent accident, while minor, is disturbing, since the church underwent a thorough restoration from 1981 to 2000. One hopes that this is not a sign of larger issues of deferred maintenance accumulating in the intervening decades.

Further reading on Santa Maria d’Araceli

Sketching Santa Maria d’Araceli: with additional bibliography.

Guarini Sites Outside Turin: with a link to additional images.

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.

Defying the Baroque: Rome Turin Paris 1680 – 1750

Update June 2020: Exhibition Extended Through 20 September 2020

Exhibition at Venaria Reale, 13 March – 14 June 2020

Though not involved in the planning myself, I am pleased to note the upcoming exhibition Sfida al Barocco at Venaria Reale, near Turin, organized by my friends at the Fondazione 1563 per l’Arte e la Cultura, and curated by Michela di Macco and Giuseppe Dardanello.

As described on the museum website:

An extraordinary artistic journey towards modernity.

Over 200 masterpieces from the most prestigious museums and collections around the world [assembled] for an not-to-miss exhibition, set up in the grandiose spaces of the Juvarra’s Citroniera at Reggia di Veneria.

The defiance to the Baroque is launched by artists in the name of modernity with the experimentation with new forms and new communication languages developed between 1680 and 1750. A search that develops between Rome and Paris, the two poles of attraction of modern Europe, with which the Turin of those years entertains an intense dialogue of ideas and exchange of works and artists, which contribute to an epochal season of renewal of the arts on the international scene.

The ancient fables in theatrical history paintings, the sacred tales in altarpieces, the seduction and grace in sculptures and paintings, the planning of spectacular architectural models and the precious refinement of furnishings and ornaments (together with the splendid Savoy Bucentaur, to close the exhibition) accompany visitors along the exciting and amazing journey in search of a modern identity.

The Fondazione 1563 has produced an informative blog (in Italian) tracing the development of the exhibition, and chronicling some of the earlier exhibitions on baroque art and architecture held in Turin during the course of the twentieth century. The exhibition press release may be downloaded from the foundation’s website.

One can only hope that the current public health crisis in northern Italy eases in the next weeks so that the exhibition can open as planned. Fingers crossed for the team in Turin!

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


Impeach and Remove

All I want for Christmas…

Not clear on the facts? Check out the informative website Trump and Impeachment.

Join a local protest, because nobody is above the law.

Conservative, liberal, or progressive – it doesn’t matter. This is a question of criminals vs. the Constitution.

I remember Nixon. This is worse.

Enough already of this cheap swindler.

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.

Update to Guarino Guarini Resources

Some of the original periodicals are also yellowed. Here, D. G. Cravero, “Il Palazzo Carignano.” Atti e rassegna tecnica della Società degli ingegneri e degli architetti in Torino 5, no. 2 (1951): 55–63.
Source: Digital Repository, Politecnico di Torino

My files for my work include dozens of tattered old photocopies that I painstakingly collected during the work on my dissertation decades ago. Some of these historic articles appeared in obscure journals available only in a limited number of libraries. As the copies fade and the paper yellows, I sometimes wonder how much longer the texts will be legible.

Fortunately, more and more of these publications are being digitized. Last month, a sentimental favorite of mine – Hugo Schmerber’s “Einige Nachrichten über Guarino Guarini,” (Monatsberichte über Kunstwissenschaft und Kunsthandel 2, no. 8 (1902): 286–87) – appeared among the wonderful art journals digitized at the University of Heidelberg. A quote from Schmerber’s brief article served as a kind of motto for my dissertation: “Bei einem Manne, der wie Guarini sein Leben einem Orden geweiht hat, erscheint es einleuchtend, dass er in seinem Wirken als Künstler mehr oder minder von der religiösen Genossenschaft, der er angehörte, influenziert war.” His essay also provided the first published discussion of Guarini’s Prague design and its historic context.

I have now updated the Resources section of this website with a new page that gathers links to Schmerber and digitized versions of other older literature on Guarino Guarini. All the items date to before 1970, when the Guarini literature virtually exploded due to the catalytic effect of the 1968 conference on the architect held in Turin. The page will be updated periodically as new material becomes available in digitized formats.

Complete List of Resources Pages

Guarini’s Publications Online
Early Biographies of Guarini
Guarini Drawings Online
Guarini Sites Outside Turin
Guarino Guarini Timeline
Older Literature on Guarino Guarini Online
Other Guarini Resources
Re | Visiting Piedmontese Baroque Architecture