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


Perceptions of Architecture in Early Modern Europe

Conference at Durham University, 5 November 2016

ledoux-eyeKimberley Skelton has organized a fascinating conference on architecture and the early modern viewer with ten papers to be presented on topics ranging across Europe from the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. Maurice Howard will deliver the keynote address, speaking on “Buildings Observed in Early Modern England.” I am delighted to be participating with my talk entitled “Inside Out: Situating the Theatine Interior.” It examines a mid-eighteenth-century guidebook to the houses of the Theatine order written specifically for the members of the order.

The complete conference program may be consulted on the website of the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Durham University, or as a PDF download with the registration form. The registration deadline is 26 October 2016.

* * *

From the conference description:

Across discourses and media, early modern Europeans encountered advice about and models for interacting with the built environment around them. Architects scattered brief instructions for designing a viewer’s experience throughout their treatises, poets narrated imagined tours of house and estate, and artists who composed prints and paintings of buildings located viewers at particular vantage points. Simultaneously, philosophers and scientists debated human perception of the physical world at large – for example, explanation first by Aristotelian Scholastics and then mechanistic philosophers of how particle vibrations acted upon the human senses to create mental images of objects. Such architectural, philosophical, and scientific discussions had their echoes in self-reflective viewing of buildings by travellers who described in their journals the buildings that they visited.

* * *

From my presentation: Georg Balthasar Probst, Vüe du Pont Neuf, vers le pont Royal, a Paris, 1740.
Source: Gallica / Bibliothèque nationale de France

Baroque Turin in Study Sketches

Piedmontese Baroque architecture – indeed any Baroque architecture – never figured widely in the drawings prepared by nineteenth-century architects on study tours of Italy. With the increasing availability of open access digitized image collections, one can search and compare thousands of such sketches and more formal studies in repositories such as Gallica, the architecture museums of the TU Munich or TU Berlin*, and the Massachusetts Digital Commonwealth collection. These sheets typically depict monuments of classical antiquity, the medieval period, or the Renaissance, but occasionally one finds examples recording Baroque buildings or urban ensembles.

A selection of such rare representations of Baroque Turin follows, including two cases of medieval / Baroque hybrid structures: Palazzo Madama, and Juvarra’s upper story and attic for the cathedral bell tower.**

Palazzo Barolo

Nohl Maximilian (1830-1863), Palazzo Barolo, Turin: Perspektivische Innenansicht. Bleistift auf Papier, 20,6 x 30,7 cm (inkl. Scanrand). Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin Inv. Nr. 13931.

Nohl Maximilian (1830-1863), Palazzo Barolo, Turin: Perspektivische Innenansicht. Bleistift auf Papier, 20,6 x 30,7 cm (inkl. Scanrand). Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin Inv. Nr. 13931. Public domain mark.

Palazzo Madama / Castello

Nohl Maximilian (1830-1863), Palazzo Madama, Turin: Ansicht. Bleistift auf Karton, 12,2 x 17 cm. Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin Inv. Nr. 13895.

Nohl Maximilian (1830-1863), Palazzo Madama, Turin: Ansicht. Bleistift auf Karton, 12,2 x 17 cm. Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin Inv. Nr. 13895. Public domain mark.

Stiehl Otto (1860-1940), Skizzen- und Fotoalbum 4: Palazzo delle due torri, Turin: Details. Bleistift auf Papier, (inkl. Scanrand). Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin Inv. Nr. 57189,008.

Stiehl Otto (1860-1940), Skizzen- und Fotoalbum 4: Palazzo delle due torri, Turin: Details. Bleistift auf Papier, (inkl. Scanrand). Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität Berlin Inv. Nr. 57189,008. Public domain mark.

Palazzo Civico / Piazza Palazzo di Città

m_digitam_0892584 Zanth TUM

Karl Ludwig Wilhelm von Zanth, “Mercato delle Erbe” in Turin
Source: Architekturmuseum der TU München, Signatur zant-1-27 , CC BY-NC-ND 4.0


Henri Labrouste, Plan de la Municipalité de turin [sic] et de la place du Marché qui la précède, from Voyage en Italie, 1825-1830
Source: Gallica /Bibliothèque nationale de France

Castello del Valentino

Labrouste BnF

Henri Labrouste, Le Valentin, près Turin, from Voyage en Italie, 1825-1830
Source: Gallica / Bibliothèque nationale de France


Edward Lear, “From the long alley’s latticed shade”; Turin, (Italy.), after 1872. Not an architect, Lear prepared this drawing for his edition of the poems of Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Source: Yale Center for British Art. Public domain.

Palazzo dell’Università

[Turin_Musée]_Labrouste_Henri_btv1b8553696k (2)

Henri Labrouste, Musée [entre les] Contrada del Po [et] Contrada della Zecca, from Voyage en Italie, 1825-1830
Source: Gallica / Bibliothèque nationale de France

Palazzo Trucchi di Levaldigi


Henri Labrouste, Palais [à l’angle de deux rues, dont la] Contrada di S. Carlo, from Voyage en Italie, 1825-1830
Source: Gallica / Bibliothèque nationale de France

Campanile del Duomo

Green, Campanile, Turin, Digital Commonweath

James C. Green, Campanile, Turin, c. 1891
Source: Boston Architectural College Library / Digital Commonwealth, CC BY 3.0

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* Kudos to the Architekturmuseum der TU Berlin for its recently implemented public domain policy and the convenient metadata attached to its image files.

** I have consciously omitted from this selection the numerous drawings of Turin available in the Joconde database by the French artists Prosper Barbot and Pierre-Adrien Pâris, and may return to them in the future.

Review of Jöchner, Gebaute Entfestigung


Filippo Juvarra, Basilica of Superga, Turin, 1716-1731 (photograph c. 1939)
Source: ETH-Bibliothek Zürich, Bildarchiv / Fotograf: Unbekannt / Fel_055167-RE / Public Domain Mark

My review of Cornelia Jöchner, Gebaute Entfestigung. Architekturen der Öffnung im Turin des frühen 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts (Berlin: De Gruyter 2015) appears in the May issue of Kunstchronik. The book explores two architectural ensembles built outside Turin’s historic city walls – Superga, and Piazza Vittorio with the church of the Gran Madre di Dio. It analyzes these in the context of the spatial turn, situating them within a long-term process of defortification. Download a PDF of the review here.

Translating the title as Constructing Defortification: Architectures of Opening in Turin in the Early 18th and 19th Centuries, De Gruyter’s website provides the following description of the book:

How does a city become an open city after a long history of being walled? Turin is notable in this regard for two important architectural ensembles: the Superga Basilica and Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Defortification means destruction as well as the creation of new spaces. The architectural features at the edges of Turin give evidence to these changes in a very specific way, for they contributed to a new political order in the city and country.

Torino, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele

Giuseppe Frizzi, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele (now Vittorio Veneto), Turin, 1825-30, with Ferdinando Bonsignore’s church of Gran Madre di Dio, 1818-31 (photograph before 1905)
Source: AKON/Österreichische Nationalbibliothek

Other Reviews

Jöchner’s book has been widely reviewed, with the following two essays available online and open access. Of the two, I found Meinrad von Engelberg’s assessment of the volume quite similar to my own.

● Meinrad von Engelberg: [Rezension zu:] Jöchner, Cornelia: Gebaute Entfestigung. Architekturen der Öffnung im Turin des frühen 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts (= Studien aus dem Warburg-Haus; 14), Berlin 2014. In: H-ArtHist, Oct 2, 2015 (accessed 29 May 2016),

● Ulrich Fürst: Rezension von: Cornelia Jöchner: Gebaute Entfestigung. Architekturen der Öffnung im Turin des frühen 18. und 19. Jahrhunderts, Berlin: de Gruyter 2015
in KUNSTFORM 17 (2016), Nr. 2,

Turin from Superga

James Mitan, 1776–1822, Turin from the Portico of the Superga Church, 1818-1820
Source: Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection / public domain

Re | Visiting Piedmontese Baroque Architecture Tour Material Online

EAHN 2014 Two-Day Post-Conference Tour Documentation

The European Architectural History Network Third International Meeting (Turin, Politecnico di Torino, 19-21 June 2014) offered a rich program of twenty-one conference tours, among these the two-day Re | Visiting Piedmontese Baroque Architecture.  This study tour (22-23 June) presented key monuments as seen through the historiographic lens of earlier scholarly exploration of Baroque Piedmont.

As a permanent resource for tour participants and others interested in the topic, a page in the Resources section of this website now archives supporting material from the tour as PDF and JPEG downloads. These downloads include the tour itinerary, a selection of maps, documentation for travels in the region by A. E. Brinckmann and Rudolf Wittkower, as well as image dossiers for the sites visited.

In addition, a Google Map documents the principal stations of the tour, and a separate page of selected links leads to further reliable, content-rich web resources on most of the sites.

Tour leaders:
Pino Dardanello, Susan Klaiber, Edoardo Piccoli

Tour organizers
Roberto Caterino, Susan Klaiber, Walter Leonardi, Edoardo Piccoli

Resource Pages
Re | Visiting Piedmontese Baroque Architecture
Links for Re | Visiting Piedmontese Baroque Architecture

Palazzo Carignano: “Good Masses Spoiled by Bad Detail”

Guarini and Juvarra Reception in 1903

“Hideous,” “ugly,” “unsightly”: the following extensive passage from Russell Sturgis, How to Judge Architecture (New York: Baker & Taylor, 1903): 169-172, requires little commentary. It can stand alone as an example (now inadvertently humorous) of Baroque architecture reception at the turn of the last century. In his invective against ornament, Sturgis prefers Filippo Juvarra’s Palazzo Madama to Guarino Guarini’s Palazzo Carignano – but not much. Palazzo Madama is “a failure”, Palazzo Carignano “a disfigurement.”

Despite the mistaken caption, the accompanying image of Palazzo Carignano (upper photo on plate below) redeems itself by featuring the palace as it appeared before Carlo Ceppi’s neo-Baroque frontispiece was added in 1883-4. For more on Sturgis, see this biography provided by Avery Library, which holds the Sturgis Architectural Drawings and Papers in its collection.

Sturgis Carignano Madama

* * *

“Plate LV shows the front of a well-known building in Turin [i.e. Palazzo Carignano], and here architectural detail has been so handled that it is indeed a disfigurement. If the reader will look past the astonishing window casings and the really hideous filling of panels like those in the pilasters of the basement, he will see a well understood front. … Here are six ‘flats’ of rooms, all abundantly lighted, and yet the front has been laid out in such a way that it has all the elements of a very imposing and stately structure. Even the singular soft rounding, with a plan made up of several curves, of the projecting central mass which includes the porch of entrance, is capable of perfectly dignified, and even stately, treatment. The appearance above of the great rotunda which holds the staircase, completes the composition of this central mass, and leaves one regretting that it might not be given to some modern designer of good taste, and a hard hand on the vagaries of his assistants, to work out the problem of this curious central mass, so manifold and so capable of unity.

“one cannot be expected to stand very long in front of such a building; it is a monster”

“But, now, if one leaves for a moment that abstract way of regarding the whole front and allows those window casings to secure his attention, why then all is lost, of course: one cannot be expected to stand very long in front of such a building; it is a monster, but it is that merely because of the exceptionally ugly and wholly unreasonable gim-cracks that are stuck all over it. If you should take the Hermes of Olympia and dress him like those ‘fantasticals’ at an old fashioned Paris masked ball, you would no doubt produce a very unsightly object and it would take the eye of an expert in human form, a sculptor, namely, to discover the beauty of the figure within.

“That Turin building is of about 1690; see now what the reaction brought forth and what gravity of design was possible to the artists of thirty years later in the same city! There seems no doubt that this front of the Palazzo Madama (see Plate LV) was built by Filippo Juvara about 1715. To look at it is a rest indeed after the enormities of the Palazzo Carignano: and yet even here one finds himself wishing that the wretched device of carved trophies of arms, as the single motive of the exterior sculpture, were absent here. Sculptured ornament was beyond the strength of the eighteenth century: when they tried to introduce it, then the result was a failure.”

Note: The quote in the post title here, “Good Masses Spoiled by Bad Detail,” is taken from Sturgis’s page heading on p. 171.

Image: Palazzo Carignano (above) and Palazzo Madama (below), both in Turin, from Russell Sturgis, How to Judge Architecture (New York: Baker & Taylor, 1903): plate LV facing p. 172.
Source: Internet Archive / public domain

Celebrating Churches to San Gaetano

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On the feast day of the Theatine founder San Gaetano Thiene (1480-1547), this image gallery celebrates a few of the order’s churches associated with the saint. Known in English as Saint Cajetan, the younger son of a noble Vicentine family was canonized in 1671. Many of these churches were originally dedicated to other saints, with the dedication to Gaetano added – formally or informally – after his canonization. Others, such as the two unexecuted designs by Guarini, followed immediately in the wake of canonization.

Most of these churches are no longer served by the Theatines, and some (notably Nice) are today known under different dedications. For more (if not all) churches dedicated to the saint, see this Wikimedia Commons category page. All images are in the public domain.

John Singer Sargent Sketches Guarini and Juvarra

John Singer Sargent Metropolitan Museum

Dome of San Lorenzo and Campanile, Turin
John Singer Sargent (American, Florence 1856–1925 London), ca. 1877–78
Pen and ink and graphite on off-white wove paper, 9 x 11 3/4 in. (22.9 x 29.8 cm)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mrs. Francis Ormond, 1950, 50.130.141u

The exhibition of John Singer Sargent watercolors currently at the Brooklyn Museum (before traveling to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, in October) offers a good excuse to reexamine some of Sargent’s other works on paper. Undoubtedly better known to Americanists than scholars of Piedmontese Baroque architecture, this Sargent sketch of Guarini’s San Lorenzo dome along with Juvarra’s upper levels of the Turin cathedral campanile captures the same sun-dappled play of light as many of the watercolors. The sketch’s neutral, documentary quality seems to reflect a newly objective approach to Baroque monuments after a century of anti-Baroque criticism.

Perhaps some distaste for Guarini lingered, however. Sargent ended up focusing more closely on Juvarra, sketching three other sheets with the cathedral campanile alone, today in the Fogg Museum at Harvard (here, here, and here).

The comparison with J. M. W. Turner’s sketches of the same buildings a little over a half-century earlier is instructive. Turner’s Façade of S. Giovanni, the Cathedral at Turin, Piazza Castello, Turin, and Campanile and Dome of Cathedral at Turin (all from one of his northern Italian sketchbooks of 1819 now in the Tate Gallery) reproduce the same architectural features, along with the dome of the Cappella della Sindone. But Turner’s sketches are less precise, more atmospheric than documentary, and often unfinished.

While Turner and Sargent clearly had different priorities with their sketches, one cannot help speculating about how the comparison might illustrate starkly contrasting attitudes toward Baroque architecture in Regency England and expatriate American circles in later nineteenth-century Italy.

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Stephanie L. Herdrich and H. Barbara Weinberg, with Marjorie Shelley, American Drawings and Watercolors in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: John Singer Sargent (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000): 154-155.

Piedmontese Baroque Architecture Studies Fifty Years On

Roundtable at the European Architectural History Network Third International Meeting, Turin, 19- 21 June 2014

Update May 2014:

View the roundtable program and abstracts here.

Call for Papers

The current decade marks the fiftieth anniversary of the great flowering of studies on Piedmontese Baroque architecture during the 1960s. Proceeding from pioneering works of the 1950s such as Rudolf Wittkower’s chapter “Architecture in Piedmont” in his Art and Architecture in Italy 1600-1750 (1958), or Paolo Portoghesi’s series of articles and brief monograph on Guarini (1956), international and local scholars like Henry Millon, Werner Oechslin, Mario Passanti, and Nino Carboneri produced an impressive array of publications on the period. Some of the milestones of this scholarly output include the architecture section of the exhibition Mostra del Barocco Piemontese (1963), Andreina Griseri’s Metamorfosi del Barocco (1967), and Richard Pommer’s Eighteenth-Century Architecture in Piedmont (1967). This scholarship culminated in major international conferences on Guarini (1968) and Vittone (1970), as well as the initiation of the Corpus Juvarrianum in 1979.

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This roundtable aims to commemorate the golden age of studies on Piedmontese Baroque architecture through a critical assessment of the heritage of the 1960s. Have Griseri’s and Pommer’s “challenging” (Wittkower) concepts proven robust? Does a traditional geographic-stylistic designation remain fruitful for investigating a region whose two major architects built throughout Europe and whose ruling dynasty entered supraregional marriage alliances? Do recent interdisciplinary methodologies – drawing from fields like geography, sociology, or history of science – reframe the roles of agents like civic authorities, construction workers, or military engineers? Has new material evidence altered long-held assumptions?

Discussion positions may directly address historiography or methodology of the 1960s, or present alternative approaches in the form of case studies or new research projects that critically engage with this historic body of scholarship on Piedmontese Baroque architecture, urbanism, and landscape.

The Mostra del Barocco Piemontese attracted an international audience (newsreel of August 1963).
Source: Cinecittà Luce / Archivio Storico Luce / YouTube

At its previous conferences, the EAHN did not highlight the architecture of the host region in dedicated panels. Turin, however, arguably presents an ideal venue for an international roundtable with regional focus: then as now, Piedmont is a major European crossroad for cultural influences from the Italian peninsula, France and Spain, northern Europe, and the former Hapsburg empire. Piedmontese Baroque architecture continues to occupy both local and international scholars, as demonstrated by the recent series of monographic conferences in Turin on architects like Alfieri, Garove, and Juvarra organized by the Bibliotheca Hertziana together with the Venaria Reale consortium. Breaking out of these monographic constraints, this roundtable will provide an opportunity to reflect on where the field has been during the past half century, as well as where it might go in the next fifty years.

Deadline for proposals: 30 September 2013

Please submit proposals for ten-minute discussion positions with CV through the submissions portal on the EAHN 2014 conference website between 15 April and 30 September 2013.

Roundtable chair: Susan Klaiber

Download this call for papers in PDF format.

For complete details on EAHN 2014, visit the conference website.

Dal Borromini al Guarini


In honor of Guarino Guarini’s birth on today’s date in 1624, watch the film Dal Borromini al Guarini (1976), conceived by the architectural historian Paolo Marconi, directed by Vittorio Armentano for the Enciclopedia dell’arte italiana, and available on the Archivio Storico Istituto Luce / Cinecittà website.

Viewed from 2013, the voice-over narration of the fifty-minute documentary seems to emerge from a historiographic time capsule forgotten long ago. The images, however, include rare views of the apex of the Cappella della Sindone cupola, and they document the condition of several buildings (including San Lorenzo and the Palazzo Carignano) before the restoration campaigns of recent decades.

The film’s most egregious error confuses Guarini’s unexecuted church project for the Padri Somaschi in Messina with his executed facade of the Santissima Annunziata there, destroyed in the tragic earthquake of 1908 (15:45). And the script presents some puzzles: Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane is missing entirely, and Bernini plays no role whatsoever in the story line. The film is truly a “figlio del suo tempo,” as the narrator remarks about Guarini (16:50). Occasionally instructive or compelling images still make it well worth watching, though, and it is an interesting exercise in presenting Baroque architecture to a general audience.

Buildings featured, with position in minutes: Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza (0:55); Cappella della Sindone (6:30); San Lorenzo (11:15); Collegio di Propaganda Fide (18:45); Oratorio dei Filippini (21:00); urban project for San Martino al Cimino (23:06); San Giovanni in Laterano (24:13); Palazzo Carpegna (27:00); Palazzo Carignano (29:34); Collegio dei Nobili (35:00); Guarinian influences in Bohemia (37:00); Municipio, Bra (38:20); Santa Chiara, Bra (39:28); Santuario della Visitazione, Vallinotto (44:00); Mole Antonelliana (47:15); Basilica di Superga (49:07); Sant’Agnese in Agone (50:30).