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

 

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

Building Trades in Seventeenth-Century Bologna

Francesco Curti, Virtù et arti essercitate in Bologna (Trades Practiced in Bologna), Plate 6 (Building Trades), mid-17th century.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), M.69.7.1g / public domain
CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

This print – one of a group of twenty depicting various trades – provides an excellent overview of the different kinds of workers found at an early modern construction site. Here, the specific context is mid-seventeenth-century Bologna, and the artist Francesco Curti illustrates around a dozen specific jobs, most conveniently labeled.

Misuratore and architetto: detail of above image

The range runs from the foppish architect – identified as “architetto” on the sheet of paper he holds – through the masons (“muratori”), painter (“imbianchitore”), stonecutter (“tagliapietre”), and unskilled manual laborer (“manouale”) apparently mixing mortar. Other figures include donkey drivers (“asinari”), a sawyer (“segantino”), a kiln operator (“fornasaro“), a plaster maker (“gessaruolo”), and a carpenter (“falegname”). Many of these vocational designations varied regionally – for instance, the “tagliapietre” was elsewhere known as a “scalpellino” – but the jobs performed were similar all across Italy.

The man standing to the left of the architect is most likely a misuratore, a building surveyor who measures the completed work for calculating the materials used and thus the costs. He holds his attribute, the measuring rod, but is not explicitly labeled with his occupation. Nonetheless, his role was central to the successful practical and financial administration of the building site.

The image gives an unusual glimpse into an active cantiere in Seicento Italy, and can serve as a valuable illustrated glossary for countless construction documents of the period.

* * *

Do note the related plate with artists – painter, sculptor, relief carver, and engraver – but also merchants, soldiers, artillery specialists, and a letter carrier!

Fail or Critique?

Robert de Cotte “Adjusts” the Cappella della Sindone

De Cotte Sindone plan
Sindone plan Dissegni

Pierre Drevet, undated engraving of Robert de Cotte, Source: Yale University Art Gallery

Pierre Drevet, Robert de Cotte, undated engraving
Source: Yale University Art Gallery / public domain

The French architect Robert de Cotte (1656-1735) stopped in Turin in 1690 as part of a six-month study tour to Italy. Four drawings by de Cotte of Turinese buildings survive in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris: plans of three major palaces (Palazzo Graneri, Palazzo Carignano, and Palazzo Reale, discussed here), as well as a typical facade elevation with arcade on Piazza San Carlo.

The plan of the Palazzo Reale (seen in full below) also includes a detailed plan of the Cappella della Sindone – the chapel housing the Shroud of Turin – in its location where the palace abuts the cathedral.

While de Cotte depicts the correct number of openings and niches around the perimeter of the chapel (eight, seen in the uppermost image), he has placed them at regular intervals rather than in the more complex arrangement designed and built by Guarino Guarini beginning in 1667. In Guarini’s plan (second from top), the single wide bay between the two access staircases opening toward the high altar of the cathedral takes up a segment of the perimeter equal to that of two niches on the other side of the chapel. In effect, this single opening is a double bay, and the geometry of the building’s plan is based on a nine-part articulation of the perimeter, rather than the more conventional eight-part scheme indicated by de Cotte.

De Cotte’s pencil underdrawing for the plan literally underscores the difference between the building as built and as recorded by the French architect: the chapel in the study drawing has two major axes oriented toward the cathedral nave, as well as two diagonal axes, defining a regular eight-part division of the circular plan. Guarini’s engraved plan, instead, features an inscribed triangle representing the arches of the vaulting at the level of the false pendentives directly above the cornice ring of the first level, highlighting his articulation of the perimeter in units of three or nine.

On comparing the two plans, an obvious question arises: did de Cotte make a mistake while preparing his sketch of the chapel? Or did he intentionally “correct” Guarini’s unconventional design?

By 1690 major construction at the Cappella della Sindone was completed, although the chapel was not officially inaugurated until 1 June 1694 when the relic was deposited in the shrine atop Antonio Bertola’s central altar. Nonetheless, travelers could enter the chapel, and indeed de Cotte’s description of his visit to the building survives.* Plans of the chapel would have also been available to travelers, since Guarini’s Dissegni d’architettura civile, et ecclesiastica had been published in 1686, three years after the architect’s death. This volume included the plate illustrated here.

With ready access to the chapel, and published plans of it in circulation, any competent architect could have sketched a more or less accurate plan of the building embedded between the royal palace and the east end of the cathedral. One can only conclude that de Cotte’s plan of the Cappella della Sindone is to be understood as a critique, regularizing the plan to bring it in line with the more conventional architecture principles current in late seventeenth-century Paris. But one question remains: how did de Cotte imagine the vaulting of his “classicized” Shroud Chapel? We will probably never know, but it certainly would have been more traditional than Guarini’s marvelous solution.

The chapel is currently scheduled to reopen in 2017, twenty years after the tragic fire of 1997.

* * *

Note and further reading:
*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 331 and 337.

* * *

Uppermost image: Robert de Cotte, Palazzo Reale, Turin, detail of Cappella della Sindone from plan of piano nobile, pen and ink with traces of pencil, 1690
Source: gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France

Second from top: Guarino Guarini, detail of “Pianta della Capella del S. Sudario di Torino,” Dissegni d’architettura civile, et ecclesiastica (Turin: Per gl’Eredi Gianelli,1686), plate 2
Source: Getty Research Institute / Internet Archive

Image below: Robert de Cotte, Palazzo Reale, Turin, plan of piano nobile, pen and ink with traces of pencil, 1690
Source: gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France

De Cotte Palazzo Reale

The Locus of Christmas

Jacques Callot’s Engravings of the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Jacques Callot (French, 1592 - 1635 ), Plan and Elevation of the Church of the Holy Nativity, 1619, etching and engraving on laid paper [restrike], National Gallery of Art, Washington DC / Transferred from The Library of Congress

Jacques Callot (French, 1592 – 1635 ), Plan and Elevation of the Church of the Holy Nativity, 1619, etching and engraving on laid paper [restrike], National Gallery of Art, Washington DC / Transferred from The Library of Congress

Jacques Callot (French, 1592 - 1635 ), Plan of the Church of the Holy Nativity, 1619, etching and engraving on laid paper [restrike], National Gallery of Art, Washington DC / Transferred from The Library of Congress

Jacques Callot (French, 1592 – 1635 ), Plan of the Church of the Holy Nativity, 1619, etching and engraving on laid paper [restrike], National Gallery of Art, Washington DC / Transferred from The Library of Congress

In 1619 the French artist Jacques Callot prepared numerous prints of sites in the Holy Land to accompany the second edition of the Franciscan Bernardino Amico’s Trattato delle piante & immagini de sacri edifizi di Terra Santa (Florence: Pietro Cecconcelli, 1620). The Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and its adjacent monastic complex are documented in seven plates at the beginning of the volume. Callot’s engravings were based on Amico’s own architectural surveys performed in Jerusalem and Bethlehem during his five-year stay in the Holy Land from 1593-98.

A star in the pavement of the crypt-like lower level grotto in Callot’s image marks the traditional location where Jesus is said to have been born, just as is the case today – though the present star has fourteen points rather than the six depicted by Callot.

Amico intended the publication to serve as both an accurate antiquarian treatise on the holy sites as well as a devotional aid for pilgrims. Its function today can be similar, reminding us that the epicenter of Christmas is not the North Pole but rather at the heart of this rich architectural palimpsest in Bethlehem.

* * *

Sources and Further Reading:

● UNESCO World Heritage listing description of the Church of the Nativity and Pilgrimage Route, Bethlehem

● Zur Shalev, “Christian Pilgrimage and Ritual Measurement in Jerusalem,” Preprint 384, Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin: 11-15.

The traditional site of Jesus's birth in the grotto underneath the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem Source: Wikimedia Commons / public domain

The traditional site of Jesus’s birth in the grotto underneath the Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem
Source: Wikimedia Commons / public domain

The Newly Laid Easter Egg

Easter egg

Johann Baptist Klauber, “Diss neu=gelegte Oster=Ey…”, print, Augsburg, c. 1750s
Image: © The Trustees of the British Museum

This seasonal artwork from mid-eighteenth century Germany shows an Easter egg decorated with an image of the resurrected Christ quashing death and the devil. The oval tomb underscores the implicit parallel between the Resurrection and new life hatching from the egg. In translation, the pious poem surrounding the egg reads:

“This newly laid Easter egg / Just discovered in the nest / Shows you that death and devil have been / Overcome by Christ.

“Let your heart, oh child of man / Take pleasure in this egg / Follow Jesus, avoiding sin / He will not let you fall.”

According to John Brand, Observations on Popular Antiquities, I (London: Charles Knight, 1841): 98, such prints were occasionally given as gifts at Easter in Germany, instead of eggs. At only 74 x 111 mm (around 3 x 4.5 inches) it is probably best understood as a forerunner of today’s greeting cards. In contrast to the fleeting delights of edible treats, the print continues to offer spiritual nourishment two and a half centuries after its creation.

Altered States: An Early Version of Guarini’s Lisbon Section Plate

BNP Lisbon sectionGuarino Guarini, “S. Maria della Divina Providenza di Lisbona,” engraved by Giovanni Abbiati (loose sheet), here dated c. 1680.
Source: Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, E. 1235 V.

Guarino Guarini’s intention to publish an architectural treatise dates back at least to 1666, during his time in Paris. In that year, Giuseppe Silos listed an Architetturae arte Commentaria among the Theatine’s projected publications in a bio-bibliography. The enterprise seems to have gotten underway only in the late 1670s as Guarini began to prepare the plates for the treatise together with a team of engravers based in Turin and Modena. At Guarini’s death in 1683 the manuscript for the text remained unfinished and in disarray, as explained in the introduction to the 1686 publication of a selection of the plates without any text, the Dissegni d’architettura civile, et ecclesiastica. The entire treatise was published only a half-century later as Guarini’s Architettura civile (Turin: Mairesse, 1737) after the young Bernardo Antonio Vittone edited the MS and – perhaps – commissioned some additional plates.

Understanding the genesis of the treatise, as well as dating its text and plates to particular periods during Guarini’s lifetime or after his death, therefore rely on a variety of internal and external evidence that establishes dates ante quem or post quem: mentions or representations of buildings known to date to certain years, a handful of preparatory drawings for the plates, other related drawings (or drawing copies), and a few dates engraved directly on the plates.

Plates in both the 1686 and 1737 editions fall into two groups – text illustrations, or project presentation plates reproducing Guarini’s building designs, whether executed or unexecuted. The project plates differed slightly in the two editions, with some of the dedicatory inscriptions and engravers’ names obliterated for the 1737 publication. This yielded two states of each project plate, as illustrated below on the example of the section for Guarini’s unexecuted Lisbon church, plate number 18 among the projects in both editions (click for larger images).

1686 Edition

Lisbon section DissegniGuarino Guarini, “S. Maria della Divina Providenza di Lisbona,” Dissegni d’architettura civile, et ecclesiastica (Turin: Per gl’Eredi Gianelli,1686), plate 18, engraved by Giovanni Abbiati.
Source: Getty Research Library / Internet Archive

1737 Edition

Lisbon section AC croppedGuarino Guarini, “S. Maria della Divina Providenza di Lisbona,” Architettura civile (Turin: Gianfrancesco Mairesse, 1737), plate 18, [engraved by Giovanni Abbiati].
Source: gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France

The redacted portions of the plates are clearly evident in this comparison. The dedication to Padre Antonio Ardizzone, the founder of the Theatines’ Lisbon establishment, followed by Guarini’s own name in his capacity as ducal mathematician, appeared along the upper right edge of the sheet in 1686, and has been removed in the 1737 sheet. Furthermore, the name of the engraver Giovanni Abbiati, present at lower left on the earlier sheet, has also been removed for the later edition. Scholars generally agree that these changes were made after the names of the engravers and original dedicatees became irrelevant fifty years after Guarini’s death.

New Preliminary State

Now, an additional state of this Lisbon section plate has emerged in the digitized collections of the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal, Lisbon (at the top of this post). This version of the plate is virtually identical to the 1686 edition, with the sole difference that the numeral 18 is missing at the upper right corner. In this case, though, the number has not been obliterated, but rather has yet to be inserted as part of the process of ordering the plates for publication. It thus predates the 1686 plate, and illuminates a stage of the production process apparently before a fixed order for publication of the project plates had been determined. Indeed, perhaps the plates remained unordered at Guarini’s death.

Further evidence suggests the sheet was sent to Lisbon to function as would a presentation drawing, to provide the patrons with a grand and appealing representation of the planned construction. The handwritten inscription at the bottom (not by Guarini) clarifies some details of the design: it labels the voids in the nave piers as confessionals, and explains that the spaces above these are tribune that will be accessible through a passageway from behind. Finally, it enumerates the cupole (domes and lanterns) in the building, three on the longitudinal axis (nave and choir), two over the transept chapels, a larger one at the crossing, and four over the nave chapels for a total of ten.

Dating Guarini’s Lisbon Design

The Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal’s record on the sheet dates it to c. 1650, based on a 1977 publication by A. Aires de Carvalho [Catálogo da colecção de desenhos (Lisboa: BN, 1977) no. 532]. This date corresponds with the foundation of the Theatines’ Lisbon establishment by Ardizzone and Alberto Maria Ambiveri, but not with Guarini’s plans for the church. The engraving must date to Guarini’s years in Turin (beginning in late 1666), since the engraver Giovanni Abbiati is known as active in Turin and Milan, c. 1678-1700.

But the design itself also dates to Guarini’s years in Turin. As I have demonstrated (Klaiber 1993, followed by Morrogh 1998, Varela Gomes 2001-3, and Varela Gomes 2006), Guarini’s project for the Theatine church of Santa Maria della Divina Provvidenza, Lisbon, almost certainly dates to the years around 1680, when the young Duke of Savoy, Vittorio Amedeo II, entered a marriage contract with his first cousin, the Portuguese Infanta Elisabetta Luisa Giuseppa. The plan was to establish him as king or regent in Portugal, thus gaining for the Savoy the power and resources associated with the vast Portuguese overseas territories. In anticipation of the marriage the two courts exchanged diplomats, artists, and other representatives, as well as gifts and cultural projects. The contract, however, was dissolved in 1682 before any marriage occurred, and the entire enterprise evaporated. Guarini never went to Lisbon, his church was not built (though, according to Varela Gomes 2001-3, possibly begun), and therefore not destroyed in the 1755 earthquake.

The Lisbon sheet provides an invaluable snapshot of a previously undocumented stage in the production of Guarini’s project engravings for his treatise. And it captures a moment when Guarini was simultaneously preparing designs for publication while using prints of the same designs to communicate with patrons and woo them to support his projects.

Lisbon plan DissegniLisbon plan AC CROPPEDThe plan for Guarini’s Lisbon church, in the 1686 (above) and 1737 (below) versions: Guarino Guarini, “Pianta di S. Maria della Divina Providenza di Lisbona,” Dissegni d’architettura civile… (Turin: Gianelli,1686), plate 17, engraved by Giovanni Abbiati.
Source: Getty Research Library / Internet Archive

Guarino Guarini, “Pianta di S. Maria della Divina Providenza di Lisbona,” Architettura civile (Turin: Gianfrancesco Mairesse, 1737), plate 17, [engraved by Giovanni Abbiati].
Source: gallica.bnf.fr / Bibliothèque nationale de France


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Thanks to Helena Simões Patrício of the BNP for clarifying the permission to include an image of the BNP sheet in this post.

Sources and further reading:

Susan Klaiber, Guarino Guarini’s Theatine Architecture, Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University 1993: 305-359.

Susan Klaiber, “Guarino Guarini, Dissegni d’architettura civile, et ecclesiastica, Turin, 1686,” in A. Placzek and A. Giral, eds., Avery’s Choice: Five Centuries of Great Architectural Books (New York: G. K. Hall, 1997): 45.

Andrew Morrogh, “Guarini and the Pursuit of Originality: The Church for Lisbon and Related Projects,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 57:1 (1998): 6-29.

Paulo Varela Gomes, “Les projets de Francesco Borromini et Guarino Guarini pour le Portugal,” Revue de l’Art 133 (2001-2003): 81-92.

Paulo Varela Gomes, “Guarini e il Portogallo,” in G. Dardanello, S. Klaiber, H. A. Millon, eds., Guarino Guarini (Turin: Allemandi, 2006): 514-523.

San Gaetano, Founder of Theatine Order

Feast Day 7 August

San Gaetano British Museum open access

Born as Gaetano Thiene in Vicenza, October 1480, died in Naples 7 August 1547, beatified 8 October 1629, canonized 12 April 1671. Founded the order of Clerks Regular, known as the Theatines, together with Gian Paolo Carafa (later Pope Paul IV), Paolo Consiglieri, and Bonifacio da Colle in 1524. In English he is known as St. Cajetan. For a full biography, see the entry in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani 51 (1998).

The image depicts San Gaetano on a bank of clouds hovering over a view of Naples.

After Francesco Solimena, San Gaetano, c. 1700
Image: © The Trustees of the British Museum