Ephemeral Architecture and Painted Architecture: The Reconstruction of Baroque Illusory Space

Ephemeral Architecture and Painted Architecture: The Reconstruction of Baroque Illusory Space

Gabriele Rossi (Politecnico di Bari, Italy) and Valentina Castagnolo (Politecnico di Bari, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7555-9.ch007

Abstract

The object of this study is a group of architectural perspectives painted on the domes and walls of noble palaces in Apulia, in particular that the baronial palace in Botrugno, the Broquier palace in Trani, and the Manes palace in Bisceglie. The perspectives belong to the “Quadratura” genre that developed in Italy and Europe in the Baroque period, but the architectural solutions represented are specific of the Apulian regional context, of Neapolitan derivation, rather than linked to the noble models of the Emilian and Roman master experiences. These architectural perspectives can be considered belonging to that “immaterial cultural heritage,” as defined by the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of 2003, if we consider the cultural significance of these painting representations—as previously mentioned—for their relationship with the 16th-17th century painting season of “Quadratura,” for the massive production of treatises on perspective, as well as for the Baroque experiences and for the tradition in the use of “Festa” ephemeral architectures.
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Introduction

The architectural perspectives that in the baroque period were painted on the domes and walls of noble palaces in Apulia - in the South of Italy - can be put as limit between the concepts of “tangible” and “intangible” cultural heritage. These painting representations - pertaining to the tangible cultural heritage - belong to the genre called “Quadratura”, which spreads in Italy and Europe mainly between the sixteenth and 18th centuries. Painted on large walls and domes of civil and religious buildings, “Quadratura” paintings are representations of an illusory architecture that dilate the real/physical room space into an illusive and “virtual” space. The perspective painters of the 15th century are the genre forerunners. However the “Quadratura” painters of successive centuries made an extensive use of perspective to decorate rooms in order to create spectacular inexistent spaces. To implement the prospective images they refer to the Renaissance treatises and also to the Father’s Andrea Pozzo studies in the 17th century.

In the Baroque culture the search for surprising and wondering effects is realized in city squares and streets space with the “Festa” arrangements composed by ephemeral and scenic architectures, which involved directly the common spectator sensorially and emotionally.

The “gallery” becomes the place of “Mirabilia” for a rich or cultured elite where the “Quadratura” painters work, creating a “material” spectacle on vaults or ceilings.

In Apulia, in southern Italy, “Quadratura” spreads in 18th century with results that both appear not very refined from the technical point of view and for their formal and painting aspects (Castagnolo, 2016, pp. 149-162), if compared with the national and the European production. However, some today known examples are to be considered significant for the symbolic value they acquire, since they are placed both in the halls of noble palaces and for the artistic relationship with the Neapolitan and Florentine schools. Moreover they are inserted in the Baroque cultural context with articulated architectures in complex volumes and marked by a large profusion of decorative themes.

These are the “Quadratura” paintings in the Broquier and Manes palaces in Bari territory and that Botrugno Baronial palace, in Salento. Though they do not reach the figurative results of Emilian or Roman masters - let us think about Mitelli and Colonna, Bibiena (Galli Bibiena, 1711) and the Father Pozzo himself (Pozzo, 1693) - these architectural perspectives can be considered belonging to that “immaterial cultural heritage”, as defined by the UNESCO Convention for the Protection of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of 2003. In fact, they include “practices, representations, expressions, knowledge, skills that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage” (Tucci, 2013, pp. 183-189).

Figure 1.

Image entitled “Cupola in prospettiva di sotto in su” from the treatise “Prospettiva de’ pittori e architetti” by Andrea Pozzo (Pozzo, 1693, fig. 90).

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