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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Borromini Colloquium in Einsiedeln

30 June-1 July 2019

Portrait of Francesco Borromini, frontispiece to Opera del Cav. Francesco Boromino, Cavata da Suoi Originali cioè L’Oratorio e Fabrica per l’Abitazione De PP. dell’Oratorio di S. Filippo Neri di Roma, ed. Sebastiano Giannini (Rome, 1725).
Source: Getty Research Institute / Internet Archive

Werner Oechslin (Stiftung Bibliothek Werner Oechslin / ETH Zürich) and Francesco Moschini (Accademia di San Luca, Rome) have organized a two-day colloquium on Francesco Borromini, his sources, and his architectural offspring. The event assembles many established and emerging Borromini scholars and features a special keynote address by Paolo Portoghesi.

I am looking forward to participating with my presentation, “Borromini and Guarini: The French Connection.” My talk examines Guarino Guarini’s adaptation of Borrominian motifs at his ill-fated church of Sainte-Anne-la-Royale in Paris, and the subsequent reception of this design by French architectural writers.

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Program

Sonntag, 30. Juni / Domenica, 30 giugno
1. Arbeitstag. Borromini und seine Architektur im Kontext / Primo giorno: Borromini e la sua architettura nel contesto

09.30 –12.00 Uhr / Ore 09.30–12.00

● Francesco Moschini / Werner Oechslin
Einführung, Hypothesen / Introduzione, Ipotesi

● Paolo Porthoghesi (Rom)
Prolusione inaugurale: L’architettura di Borromini

● Federico Bellini (Rom)
La SS. Sapienza: l’espressione visual e sonora del misterio trinitario

13.30 –18.00 Uhr / Ore 13.30–18.00

● Giuseppe Bonaccorso (Rom)
Borromini e i rapporti con amici, conoscenti e committenti: una chiave di comprensione del suo processo del fare

● Eleonora Gaudieri (Wien)
Alois Riegels „Entstehung der Barockkunst in Rom“

Kaffeepause

● Alina Aggujaro (Rom)
Bramante e Borromini: le due prospettive

● Alexander von Kienlin, Gunnar Schulz-Lehnfeld (Braunschweig)
„Aufgebrochene Schlingen und Ketten“ – zum Michelangiolesken in Borrominis Architektur

Montag, 01. Juli / Lunedì, 01 Luglio
2. Arbeitstag: Borromini und die Folgen: Geometrie, Entwurfsprozesse / Secondo giorno: Borromini e le consequenze: Geometria, procedure del disegno

09.30 –12.30 Uhr / Ore 09.30–12.30

● Susan Klaiber (Winterthur)
Borromini and Guarini: The French Connection

Kaffeepause

● Martin Raspe (Rom)
Il Calvino dell‘ Architettura? Borromini und die Doktrin vom rechten Winkel

● Werner Oechslin (Einsiedeln)
Borromini il Cartesio dell’Architettura und die (nachfolgende) Disziplinierung der Kurve

14.30 –18.00 Uhr/ Ore 14.30–18.00

● Daniel Tischler (Wien)
Synoptische Architekturzeichnungen Borrominis

● Richard Bösel (Tuscania) – Diskutant

● Torsten Tjarks (Bonn) – Diskutant

Kaffeepause

● Stefan Kummer (Würzburg)
Anmerkungen zur vermeintlichen ‚Kurvenfeindlichkeit‘ Balthasar Neumanns am Beispiel der Würzburger Residenz

● Sebastian Schütze – Diskutant

● Schlussdiskussion / conclusione

18.15 Uhr / Ore 18.15: Besichtigung der Klosterkirche Einsiedeln / Visita della abbazia di Einsiedeln

Venue

Stiftung Bibliothek Werner Oechslin
Luegetenstr. 11
8840 Einsiedeln

Attendance is free, but registration requested at info@bibliothek-oechslin.ch.

Download

Download the colloquium program as a PDF.

From my presentation, “Borromini and Guarini: The French Connection”

EAHN 2020, Edinburgh: Call for Papers

David Roberts (1796–1864), Edinburgh from the Castle, 1847, Oil on canvas, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection
Source: Yale Center for British Art / public domain

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

The scientific committee for EAHN 2020 in Edinburgh has selected twenty-five sessions and round tables for the conference, and published the call for papers for these panels. I am no longer actively involved in the EAHN, but am delighted to see that the colleagues currently leading the organization have pulled together such a varied and stimulating program. For complete details on the call for papers, see the conference website and the listing of panels. An additional webpage provides a convenient overview of all the panels with their individual details.

EAHN 2020 CALL FOR PAPERS – DEADLINE 20 SEPTEMBER 2019

The call for papers (sessions) and discussion positions (round tables) is now live. The deadline is 20 September 2019, and proposals should be submitted to the Session Chairs, whose details may be found below. All proposals should include the following information:

· A proposal, in English, of no more than 300 words

· The title of the paper, or discussion position

· Your name

· Your professional affiliation

· A short curriculum vitae (maximum of two pages)

· A mailing address, email address and telephone number

Sessions will consist of either five papers or four papers and a respondent, with time for dialogue and questions at the end. Each paper will be limited to a 20-minute presentation. Abstracts for presentations should define the subject and summarize the argument to be presented in the proposed paper. The content of that paper should be the product of well-documented original research that is primarily analytical and interpretative rather than descriptive in nature.

Round tables will consist of five to ten participants and an extended time for dialogue, debate and discussion among chair(s) and public. Each discussant will have 10 minutes to present a position. Abstracts for round table debates should summarize the position to be taken in the discussion.

Please note: papers may not have been previously published, nor presented in public. Only one submission per author will be accepted. All abstracts will be held in confidence during the selection process. In addition to the thematic sessions and round tables listed below, open sessions may be announced in due course – details to be provided on the conference website.

Sessions and Round Tables:

● Urban planning during state socialism: global ambitions, national ideologies and local desires

● Public Health in the Early Modern City: Salutogenesis Through Architecture

● Ephemerality and Monumentality in Modern Europe (c.1750-1900)

● Splitted Cultures/New Dialogues: Research in Architectural History and Theory

● User Comfort, Functionality, and Sustainability as (Early?) Modern Architectural Concerns

● Shifting Identities of the Ottoman Vernacular

● Migration and Domesticity in the Long Nineteenth Century

● Cosmopolitanism’s Others: Transnational Architecture and Planning beyond Europe and North America

● Design as Process in Pre-Modern Architecture

● Rethinking Architecture for Friars: Process and Spatial Solutions in the Medieval and Early Modern Europe, 1200 – 1500

● English as the Academic Lingua Franca?

● The Urban Commons: Collective Actors, Architectural Agency and the City

● Multilateralism since 1945. From the Comecon to the Belt and Road Initiative

● The Role of Women in the Building of Cities in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

● Architects do not make buildings: A last call for disegno

● Drive-In Architecture, Carriage to Motor Age

● Radical Exchanges between Latin America and Europe in the Everlasting Sixties

● Hotels in the Global South and the Architectures of Contact Zones

● Empires of Heritage: World Monuments before UNESCO

● European Welfare Landscapes: Histories and Futures

● Southern Exchanges: Relocating Architectural Knowledge Production

● Territories of incarceration: The project of modern carceral institutions as an act of rural colonisation

● Flexibility and its Discontents: Techniques and Technologies in Twentieth Century Architectural Production

● Genius Loci: The Politics of Pre-Modern Architectural Style

● Cultivating the Child Eye’s View

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.

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.

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

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.

Guarini – Saarinen?

The Church of the Immacolata Concezione, Turin, and Modernism

In a December 2009 review of an exhibition on Eero Saarinen published in the Brooklyn Rail, the art critic Joseph Masheck wrote about the relation of certain aspects of modernism to the twentieth-century “rediscovery of the Baroque.” Mascheck, who was awarded the 2018 Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing on Art by the College Art Association last week, specifically compared Saarinen’s forms with those of Guarino Guarini:

The Finnish-American Saarinen (1910-1961) is not unfamiliar in this context, if only owing to those who seem to think that the TWA Terminal (1958-62) at what is now John F. Kennedy International Airport must not be modernist because modernism means rectilinearity, and even they can see that this building is as curvy as Gina Lollobrigida.

“when I teach the building I show the similarity of its ground plan to the interpenetrating lobes of the plan of Guarino Guarini’s Church of the Immaculate Conception, Turin”

Surely a main spiritual “function” of the building was to coddle against Reisefieber the many travelers who some fifty years ago were waiting to take their first flight. Well, who said modernism can’t be polymorphous perverse! Actually, I’ve always thought that building had vital entailments, not only in regard to contemporary art—notably the Louisiana-born, ever-verging-on-tacky José de Rivera (1904-1985), whose curvaceous, revolving polished chrome sculptures are rather embarrassingly coincident with Saarinen’s forms, if not his saving amplitude—but also to art history. Ever since it was new it has seemed to me that the voluptuousness of its modernism, following upon Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp Chapel (1950-55), related just as vitally to the rediscovery of the Baroque, of which 18th-century rationalists had, one thought, definitively disposed. To this day, when I teach the building I show the similarity of its ground plan to the interpenetrating lobes of the plan of Guarino Guarini’s Church of the Immaculate Conception, Turin, of 1672-97, which was popularly accessible at the time of the terminal’s construction through Henry A. Millon’s still fascinating Baroque and Rococo Architecture (Braziller, 1961).

In fact, Millon deemed the Immacolata Concezione “Guarini’s most influential church design,” referring to its progeny in the eighteenth-century German-speaking regions. “The space, although violently shaped,” he noted, “is not interrupted but merges into an incredibly dynamic and expressive entity.” The same could also be said of Saarinen’s TWA terminal. Even more than the ground plan, Saarinen’s roof recalls Guarini’s vault – pinched and depressed in the center, and billowing upward as it expands at either end.

The Immacolata Concezione – technically only attributed to Guarini, but convincingly so – was not widely known before its appearance in Millon’s Baroque and Rococo Architecture. Notably, it did not feature in Rudolf Wittkower’s Pelican survey Art and Architecture in Italy, 1600-1750 (1958). While planning for the TWA terminal began well before the publication of Millon’s text, leaving any causal connection between the flight center and the Turinese church largely speculative, Guarini’s design clearly intrigued another prominent architect of the 1960s. Robert Venturi went on to include the Immacolata Concezione in his Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1966), where it was the only building by Guarini represented. Venturi characterized the church as “a duality in plan and yet a unity,” citing Millon’s textbook as the source for his illustration. As part of Venturi’s influential book, the church entered the standard historical repertoire of late modernism and nascent postmodernism.

Further Reading:

Chiesa della Immacolata Concezione on the Città e Cattedrali website.

Chiesa della Immacolata Concezione on the Museo Torino website.

Immacolata Concezione as part of the “Documentazione Chiese Storiche” on the website of the Associazione Guarino Guarini.

Photo gallery of the church, on the website of Studio di Architettura Momo, responsible for restoration of the facade in 2006.

● Henry A. Millon, Baroque and Rococo Architecture (New York: George Braziller, 1961). [On the Immacolata Concezione, see pp. 22-23.]

● Luciano Tamburini, Le chiese di Torino: dal Rinascimento al Barocco, 2nd ed. (Turin: Edizioni Angolo Manzoni, 2002): 269-278.

● Henry A. Millon, “La chiesa dell’Immacolata Concezione a Torino,” in G. Dardanello, S. Klaiber, H. A. Millon, eds., Guarino Guarini (Turin: U. Allemandi,2006): 365-375.