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.

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!

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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Fortuna del Barocco in Italia. Le grandi mostre del Novecento

Book Launch: Proceedings of November 2016 Conference

Fortuna del barocco book launch invitation
As the work on the research project Antico / Moderno. Parigi, Roma, Torino 1680-1750 concludes, the second publication arising from the project will be presented at the Salone del Libro in Turin on 10 May at 16:30. Volume 2 in the series Quaderni di Ricerca of the Fondazione 1563 per l’Arte e la Cultura collects the conference proceedings from the November 2016 conference Fortuna del Barocco in Italia. Le grandi mostre del Novecento.

My contribution to the volume consists of a response to the talk by Joseph Connors entitled “Il barocco in Italia visto dall’estero. Le mostre di architettura.” View details of the other essays comprising the book in the table of contents. Looking forward to this volume documenting a very stimulating conference!

Publication

Di Macco, Michela, and Giuseppe Dardanello, editors. Fortuna del Barocco in Italia. Le grandi mostre del Novecento. Fondazione 1563, Quaderni di ricerca 2. Genoa: Sagep Editori, 2019.

Other news from the Fondazione 1563 per l’Arte e per la Cultura

● This is a great chance to note the new Summer School organized by the Fondazione 1563, entitled “Ripensare il Barocco (secoli XVII e XVIII). Nuove prospettive storico-critiche.” The Summer School takes place in Turin from 2-7 September 2019 and the deadline for applications is 31 May 2019. For more information, see the call for applications in Italian or English.

● The Fondazione 1563 per l’Arte e per la Cultura has also recently announced the seventh edition of its annual program of fellowships for postdocs or advanced doctoral candidates in baroque studies, Borse di alti studi sull’Età e la Cultura del Barocco Intitolate a Rosaria Cigliano: VII Bando – Edizione 2019. The five annual fellowships support emerging scholars under the age of 35. The application deadline this year is 27 July 2019. For more information, see the call for applications in Italian or English.

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!

Carnival in Rome

Bartolomeo Pinelli, Il Carnevale in Roma, 1815. From: Nuova Raccolta di cinquanta costumi pittoreschi […], Plate 49.
Source: e-rara / ETH-Bibliothek

Carriages, Enormous Eye-Glasses, Strange Animals

Charles Dickens lived in Italy for eleven months in 1844-45. He wrote about his stay in the travelogue Pictures from Italy, published the year after his return to England. His vivid description of Carnival in Rome in the Pictures from Italy rivals Goethe’s famous account from nearly sixty years earlier. The amusing prints of the festivities by Bartolomeo Pinelli, dating midway between the two texts, perfectly capture details noted by both authors.

In the following excerpt, Dickens gives an impression of the range of costumes and customs seen in the streets during Carnevale:

“… the spectators at some upper balcony or window, joining in the fray, and attacking both parties, would empty down great bags of confetti, that descended like a cloud, and in an instant made them white as millers. Still, carriages on carriages, dresses on dresses, colours on colours, crowds upon crowds, without end. Men and boys clinging to the wheels of coaches, and holding on behind, and following in their wake, and diving in among the horses’ feet to pick up scattered flowers to sell again; maskers on foot (the drollest generally) in fantastic exaggerations of court-dresses, surveying the throng through enormous eye-glasses, and always transported with an ecstasy of love, on the discovery of any particularly old lady at a window; long strings of Policinelli, laying about them with blown bladders at the ends of sticks; a waggon-full of madmen, screaming and tearing to the life; a coach-full of grave mamelukes, with their horse-tail standard set up in the midst; a party of gipsy-women engaged in terrific conflict with a shipful of sailors; a man-monkey on a pole, surrounded by strange animals with pigs’ faces, and lions’ tails, carried under their arms, or worn gracefully over their shoulders; carriages on carriages, dresses on dresses, colours on colours, crowds upon crowds, without end. Not many actual characters sustained, or represented, perhaps, considering the number dressed, but the main pleasure of the scene consisting in its perfect good temper; in its bright, and infinite, and flashing variety; and in its entire abandonment to the mad humour of the time…”

– Charles Dickens, Pictures from Italy (London: Bradbury & Evans, 1846), pp. 178-179.

Whether you celebrate Carnival, Carnevale, Shrovetide, Fasnacht, Mardi Gras, or Fasching … enjoy it while it lasts!

Bartolomeo Pinelli, costumes of Roman Carnival, 1812. From: Lettre de M. Millin,… à M. Langlès, sur le carnaval de Rome (Paris: J.-B. Sajou, 1812).
Source: Gallica / Bibliothèque nationale de France

Guarino Guarini Letterato

A Neglected Article by Martino Capucci

“Quel che si sa di Guarino Guarini architetto non è molto: ci sono le sue opere, non la sua figura intera. Manca ancora una monografia che dica non solo dell’artista, ma anche del trattatista d’architettura, del letterato, del matematico e filosofo farraginoso e dottissimo. … riteniamo opportuno ordinare quel che si sa su Guarini scrittore, delinearne gli essenziali aspetti; offrendo così qualche materiale che potra non essere inutile per lo storico dell’arte che voglia tenerne conto.”

From: Martino Capucci, “Guarino Guarini Letterato,” Lettere Italiane 8:1 (Gennaio-Marzo 1956): 75-82 [75].

The article cited above, by the late scholar of Italian literature Martino Capucci (1926-2013), recently surfaced in JSTOR – apparently the journal Lettere Italiane is a new addition to the repository’s invaluable resources. In the 1956 essay, Capucci called for an integrated approach to Guarino Guarini’s life and work, considering all of his activity – in mathematics, astronomy, philosophy, and indeed literature – as inseparable from his architectural work. Capucci, who taught at the University of Bologna, surveyed all the writings of the Theatine architect, but then focused his attention on Guarini’s first publication, the play La pietà trionfante (Messina, 1660). Capucci situates the tragicomedy within the tradition of seventeenth-century Italian theater, succinctly and honestly assessing it from the point of view of italianistica. While Capucci finds the play of low literary quality, he nonetheless recognizes its value in reflecting the culture in which Guarini took part:

“In questo ‘maestro del barocco’ il fascino della cultura è straordinario e spesso soffocante, ma a noi non importano tanto i risultati quanto il desiderio di esperienza che sta alla radice di questa cultura; ed è qui, non in un rapporto esterno o magari deterministico, quel punto di contatto fra i due aspetti della personalità guariniana, che giustifica l’esame della sua attività di erudito, trattatista e scrittore da cui possiamo trarre maggior sicurezza nella valutazione dell’opera per la quale egli vive ancora.” [81-82]

To my knowledge, Capucci’s article has remained entirely unknown within the literature on Guarino Guarini. It is not included in any of the usual authoritative bibliographies on the Modenese Theatine. Yet Capucci’s essay coincided with the flowering of studies on Guarini and Piedmontese baroque architecture in the late 1950s through the 1960s, such as Paolo Portoghesi’s short monograph published the same year. Its omission can only be due to the disciplinary blinders that still plague Guarini research today. Few studies on Guarini make more than passing reference to La pietà trionfante, although a play based on it was produced in Modena in 2005, Le regole del cielo. Capucci’s article thus fills a notable gap in Guarini scholarship, providing important literary expertise to assist in our understanding of a figure who is fully comprehensible only through interdisciplinary efforts.

Consult “Guarino Guarini Letterato” by Martino Capucci at this JSTOR permalink. It deserves to be better known and to take its place within the standard literature on the architect.

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Further reading:

● Martino Capucci’s colleagues at the University of Bologna prepared this booklet as a memorial tribute following his death in 2013. The biographical essay includes an account of the genesis of Capucci’s early essay on Guarini.

● Download Guarini’s La pietà trionfante from the Biblioteca Nazionale Braidense.

Janus and Chronos at the New Year

Giulio Romano, Victory, Janus, Chronos and Gaea, preparatory drawing for the Sala dei Giganti in the Palazzo del Te, Mantua, ca. 1532-1534
Source: The J. Paul Getty Musuem / Getty Open Content Program

At the threshold between the years 2018 and 2019, Giulio Romano’s group of Janus and Chronos in a preparatory drawing for the Sala dei Giganti at the Palazzo del Te seems a particularly appropriate emblem. They belong to the gathering of gods who have just vanquished the giants, toppling everything in their path. Janus – who gives January its name – looks backward (as an old man) and forward (as a youth), viewing the past as well as the future. Chronos (“Father Time”) strides ahead purposefully, while Victory seems about to place the victor’s crown on his head, marking the ultimate triumph of the inexorable march of time. (The position of this crown is shifted in the executed fresco.) Finally, at the lower right, a wistful Gaea looks on in horror at the violent end of the giants.

After the upheavals of 2018, here’s hoping that Janus sees a bright future for us all in January and throughout the rest of 2019!

Antico/Moderno. Parigi, Roma, Torino 1680-1750

Research Project Website Online

For the past two years, the Fondazione 1563 per l’Arte e la Cultura has supported the research project Antico/Moderno. Parigi, Roma, Torino 1680-1750, which comprises several different strands of historiographic inquiry on the baroque, all coordinated by the scientific directors Michela di Macco and Giuseppe Dardanello. It has been a privilege for me to be involved in this stimulating initiative with such an inspiring group of scholars.

As the various working groups gradually wrap up their activities, the Fondazione 1563 has launched new webpages describing the research and presenting the resulting outputs. The project homepage outlines the components of the initiative. Each component, in turn, has its own webpage. Additional pages document the research outputs, in the form of videos and publications. To date, these include:

Conference Videos: Fortuna del Barocco in Italia. Le grandi mostre del Novecento

For those who missed the conference Fortuna del Barocco in Italia: Le grandi mostre del Novecento in November 2016, all introductions, papers, and responses from the meeting may now be viewed in fourteen videos. A separate volume of conference proceedings is forthcoming in the series Quaderni di Ricerca of the Fondazione 1563.

The opening remarks for the conference (video below) by the late Rosaria Cigliano, president of the Fondazione 1563, are particularly poignant after her premature death last month.

The conference examined issues concerning the reception of Baroque painting, sculpture, and architecture in twentieth-century exhibitions in Italy, with a special emphasis on Piedmont. For a summary of the conference contributions, see my earlier post on the subject.

Video Reconstructions of Historic Exhibitions, 1937 and 1963

The project component Barocco in Piemonte – Barocco in Europa: a cinquant’anni dalla mostra del 1963 involved several scholars working together with a seminar of students at the Università di Torino in order to reassess the history, historiography, and reception of the two large exhbitions of Piedmontese baroque art and architecture organized by Vittorio Viale in 1937 and 1963. Under the guidance of Sara Abram and Giuseppe Dardanello, the students worked to reconstruct the nearly forgotten exhibition of 1937, and compare it with the intervening evolution of the field as manifested in the second exhibition twenty-six years later. A forthcoming volume in the series Quaderni di Ricerca will publish this work, along with additional framing essays by established scholars.

Abram and Dardanello presented initial results of this research at the conference Fortuna del Barocco in Italia in the form of videos reconstructing the two exhibitions. The Fondazione 1563 has made both films available online as well as a third video introducing the reconstructions (below).

La Riscoperta del Seicento. I libri fondativi

The first in a series of six volumes produced by the Antico/Moderno teams, La Riscoperta del Seicento. I libri fondativi, edited by Andrea Bacchi and Liliana Barroero, publishes the contributions to a three-part seminar held in Rome in spring 2016. Covering the late nineteenth through late twentieth centuries, each of the sixteen essays revisits a fundamental text of the art and architectural history of the Baroque, and situates it within the international historiography on the period.

For more information, view the publisher’s flyer or the table of contents.

More to come…

Stay tuned in the coming months for additional research outputs from this initiative.