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.

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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.

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

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.

Francesco Grimaldi, Theatine Architect

Grimaldi portrait 400th Anniversary of His Death, 1 August 1613

Four hundred years ago today, Francesco Grimaldi died in Naples in the Theatine house of Santi Apostoli, which he had designed along with its adjacent church. Grimaldi (born 1543 in Oppido Lucano) was the first significant Theatine priest-architect. He provided the original plans for the Theatines’ Sant’Andrea della Valle, Rome; built the order’s Sant’Irene, Lecce; as well as the Cappella del Tesoro di San Gennaro at the Duomo in Naples, and numerous churches for the Theatines and other patrons in that city.

His career parallels those of first-generation priest-architects from the other counter-reformational orders, including men such as the Jesuit Giuseppe Valeriano (1542-1596) or the Barnabite Lorenzo Binago (1554-1629). These architects gave architectural form to their orders’ institutional identities during their period of rapid expansion and intensive church construction between the late Cinquecento and early Seicento.

Although recent studies* have reassessed some traditional attributions to Grimaldi, his importance for counter-reformational architecture and the architectural identity of the Theatine order remains undisputed four centuries after his death.

Pâris SS_Apostoli_Napoli_Besançon

Pierre-Adrien Pâris, Plan de la maison ou monastère des Théatins de laquelle dépend l’église des Saints-Apôtres à Naples, late eighteenth century.
Image: Mémoire vive: patrimoine numérisé de Besançon

Top: Portrait of Francesco Grimaldi from Domenico Martuscelli, Niccolò Morelli di Gregorio, and Pasquale Panvini, eds., Biografia degli uomini illustri del regno di Napoli, ornata de loro rispettivi ritratti, vol. 8 ([Napoli]: N. Gervasi, 1822): unpaginated.
Image: Google Books

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*Andrea Masciantonio, “Francesco Grimaldi e Alessandro Albertini nella genesi progettuale del complesso di Sant’Andrea della Valle a Roma (1589-1608). Il disegno 23 del Fondo Panciatichi 178 della Biblioteca Nazionale di Firenze,” Römische Historische Mitteilungen 47 (2005): 123-169; Fulvio Lenzo, Architettura e antichitá a Napoli dal XV al XVIII secolo. Colonne del tempio dei Dioscuri e la chiesa di San Paolo Maggiore (Rome: L’Erma di Bretschneider, 2011). For a complete biography of Grimaldi, see the entry by Gaetana Cantone in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani 59 (2003).

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.

Review of Public Buildings in Early Modern Europe in JSAH

My review of K. A. Ottenheym, K. De Jonge, and M. Chatenet, eds., Public Buildings in Early Modern Europe (Turnhout: Brepols, 2010) has been published in Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 71:4 (December 2012): 565-567. The book collects thirty papers from two conferences held in Utrecht in 2006 and 2008, examining buildings for government, justice, trade, and education, as well as hospitals. The essays focus primarily on the Low Countries, France, and the German-speaking regions between 1400 and 1800.

Antwerp 1914 gallicaView of Antwerp, 1914. The city and its town hall (left) feature in several of the volume’s essays.
Photograph: / Agence Rol