Francesco Borromini: Opus Architectonicum, Milan, 1998
Published by Edizioni Il Polifilo, Via Borgonuovo 2, 20121 Milano,
Italy. 200,000 Italian lire.
Only the introduction is given here, as written in English by Joseph Connors. The Italian edition of the text, edited from the original MS in the Vallicella Archives, is available only in the hardcover edition published by Il Polifilo in Milan.
Borromini is the best published architect of the Roman baroque. There are more plates of his work in the three volumes of Domenico de Rossi's great Studio d'architettura civile of 1702-21 than of any other architect.1 But most of all his fame was assured through the two handsome volumes published by Sebastiano Giannini 1720 and 1725 on S. Ivo and the Oratory.2 Giannini called them the Opera and intended a series of at least four volumes. In the second volume he included a long-forgotten description of the Casa dei Filippini by Borromini himself. This is the text published below. To insure a larger international circulation Giannini added a Latin translation. So it is by the high-sounding eighteenth-century Latin title, Opus Architectonicum, that the whole enterprise has come to be known.
The volumes of 1720-25 also contain the famous portrait of the architect, ennobled with crosses of knighthood, surrounded by books and drafting instruments and drenched in melancholy, which is reproduced in every book on Borromini and which the Swiss have put on their currency.
Like Palladio, then, Borromini seems to have crowned his work and his life with a great book. Even if it came more than half a century after his death Giannini insisted in 1725 that it was based on "l'intero studio" of the architect, and that it was a "parto" or brainchild of the artist.3 As we will see this claim is substantially true. But the path that leads from Borromini to Giannini, from 1647 to 1720, is not straight. The beautiful volumes of the Opera are a compound of images, some made during Borromini's lifetime, others from the buildings as they stood in 1720-25, and others after his drawings. One of the main problems, then, is dating the various plates. Furthermore, Giannini was hardly a passive editor. He altered the material he had discovered, sometimes radically. And he was conditioned by the climate of competition in which he worked, particularly by a deep-set rivalry with the largest and most long-lived publisher of the Roman baroque, the firm of Gian Giacomo De Rossi and his heir Domenico De Rossi, editor of the Studio d'architettura civile.
In addition to these distortions of the eighteenth century, Borromini's own ambitions were themselves in continuous evolution. The monograph on the Casa dei Filippini was his first publication project. But he soon expanded his horizons and dreamed of a wider circulation, first through guidebooks, and then through an ambitious publication of all his major buildings. He assembled two talented helpers, the polygraph Fioravante Martinelli and the printmaker Domenico Barrière, to write texts and to produce prints. But none of this came to fruition during his lifetime. Grievously tempted by the prospect of publication, and yet held back by a secretive nature, he produced only fragments of a great book. If anything ever came of them it is due to the persistence of an eighteenth-century editor who worked with the fragments Borromini left behind, hunted the drawings to their lair, and finally published two of his buildings.
1. The Piena relatione on the Casa dei Filippini
The manuscript presented here, still kept in the archives of S. Maria in Vallicella in Rome, is entitled simply, Piena relatione della fabbrica.4 For convenience I will often refer to it as the Opus manuscript. Since it treats in detail the largest building of Borromini's early career, the Oratorio and Casa dei Filippini, a brief history of that project will be helpful.
1a: Casa dei Filippini
S. Filippo Neri (1515-96) and his followers, the Filippini or Oratoriani, were given the delapidated medieval church of S. Maria in Vallicella in the heart of the rione Parione by Pope Gregory XIII in 1575.5 Filippo decided on a massive rebuilding project that would absorb the energies of his small congregation for over a generation. The new church was built on the design of Matteo da Castello between 1575 and 1593, while the facade was built on the design of Fausto Rughesi in 1594-1606. In the years around 1600 S. Maria in Vallicella became one of the great repositories of contemporary art in Rome, with paintings by Barocci, the Cavaliere d'Arpino, Caravaggio and Rubens. But the Filippini still lived in cramped older buildings to the east of the church, facing on tiny alleys that offered no space or incentive for expansion.
The provision of a new residence, or casa, was the task of a second generation of Oratorians working in the 1620s and 1630s. These men set their sights on the large isola of houses lying to the west of the chuch, stretching as far as the Piazza di Monte Giordano. In 1622 Filippo was canonized. In the same year a young provincial nobleman from Brisighella in the Romagna, Virgilio Spada (1596-1662), joined the congregation. Spada had some architectural experience, since his father was an avid builder, and he soon became the congregation's foremost negotiator with architects. Several projects for a new casa were submitted in 1621-22 by minor personalities, including the court architect Mario Arconio, which are preserved in the drawings in the Opus manuscript.6 But the person who would shape the definitive project for the casa between 1624 and 1637, although not build it, was a much more significant figure, Paolo Maruscelli (1596-1649).7
Working closely with Spada, Maruscelli developed the first elaborate, multi-drawing project for a new casa, with 131 rooms and spaces identified in a detailed caption. It was Maruscelli who gave the oratory its definitive position in the south-west corner of the building, just where Borromini would later build it. He organized the building around two major courtyards divided by a sacristy, with a third courtyard for service functions in the rear. There is some evidence to show that he helped the Oratorians think through questions of corporate identity. He found an appropriate imagery for them by casting back to some unusual building types, including Palladio's Convento della Carità in Venice, the canonica or residence of the archbishop of Milan, and the newly finished Palazzo della Famiglia Borghese in Rome.8 His project was finalized in 1627 and is preserved in many drawings in Spada's papers, preserved in the Vatican Library, and in the Archives of S. Maria in Vallicella.9 One of these drawings, a plan for the piano nobile of the casa, was later inserted in the Opus manuscript, plate 4. Construction proceeded slowly, however, and the only portion of the new project to be built was the sacristy (no. 14 on plate 4) in 1629-30.
Borromini entered the congregation's service in 1636. He was still unknown. He had finished the residential wing (1634-35) and cloister (1635-36) of S. Carlo but these were minor commissions and the famous little church at the Quattro Fontane was not built until 1637-41. He seems to have entered the Congregation's service through the back door, as it were, helping with the design of the credenzoni and the altar in Maruscelli's sacristy.10
In the early months of 1637 Borromini managed to convince the preposito, Padre Angelo Saluzzi, that there were many flaws in Maruscelli's project, especially in the design of the Oratory. In particular, he alleged that the windows of the oratory would not line up properly with the arches of the adjacent courtyard. Saluzzi, working closely with Spada, asked a number of other architects to try to solve problems of fenestration. Their most fruitful consultation was with Girolamo Rainaldi.11 But in the end, partly through his brilliance at problem-solving in these small matters and partly through the amazing precision (essattezza) of his drawings, Borromini was taken on as second architect. Maruscelli felt he could not continue in these circumstances and resigned the commission with considerable bitterness, claiming that Borromini's oratory vault would soon crack and that the fathers would have to call him back to fix it.12 Hardly a failure, he went on to a much grander commission than the Casa dei Filippini, the rebuilding of the Palazzo Medici-Madama in 1638-41.13
Maruscelli was still alive when the Opus manuscript was composed. Borromini and Spada thus could not write him completely out of the history of the building, but they had no wish to celebrate his role either. Through hints and innuendoes they contrived to minimize his contribution. He is mentioned several times as the man who designed the sacristy in isolation, without thinking of the rest of the building:
stabilirno col conseglio, e disegno di questi [i.e., Maruscelli] la detta Sagrestia in quella forma, et sito che hoggi si vede... senza stabilire (che io sappia) nel medemo tempo il rimanente del disegno della fabrica, il che ha causato qualche sconcerto nella corrispondenza delle finestre, et nelli piani di tutta la habitatione....14
The phrase, "che io sappia," is disingenuous. Both Spada and Borrmini knew that Maruscelli had designed the full plan of the casa long before. Yet the text returns several times to this point: "Cognosca per gratia il lettore quanto importi cominciare una parte d'una fabrica senza prima haver stabilito il disegno del tutto."15 When Spada inserted into the manuscript plans by Maruscelli that showed the total design (pls. 4 and 7) it would have been embarrassing to give the real date, 1627, a decade before Borromini's arrival. So he had to imply that Maruscelli only got around to doing them on the eve of construction for the oratory in 1637.16 In a text composed in 1648, still before Maruscelli's death in 1649, Spada excoriates Maruscelli's projects: "molte piante, ma tutte con molti falsi e solecismi d'architettura, né si trovava modo di sfuggirli, ma, solo, attendeva a renderli al minor numero possibile."17
Maruscelli was not the only embarassing presence. There was another competitor who briefly entered the scene in mid-1637 with a proposal for redesigning the oratory.18 He is anonymous. He was mainly concerned to move the oratory altar, change the entrance, and preserve the purity and silence of the room in a rough artisinal neighborhood. His project is not interesting. But the justification that accompanies it, and the long rebuttal Borromini penned, allow us to hear two contrasting architectural voices, one unctuous and ingratiating, the other angry.
The outsider is moved, he says, by zeal and devotion to the saint, and intervenes out of charity not self-interest. Even though the oratory has been begun, better change course now than repent later; of two evils pick the lesser; many minds know more than one; had he kept silent he would have had to render account to God. The wisdom, prudence and intelligence of his project are, he feels, transparent. He speaks the language of an architect fully at home with priests and liturgy, and the one model he singles out for praise is the Oratorio della Caravita at S. Ignazio. One wonders if he might be a priest-architect, someone like Orazio Grassi.
Borromini was infuriated. The meddling intruder is an ignorante, a semplice, a malignio; he speaks of charity but is prompted by the devil. His scruples mask architectural incompetence. He is badly informed about what is being built. He is attacking a plan that has been carefully vetted: "una cosa tanto vintillata e aprovata da tanti omini di valore tanto della professione quanto di belli ingegni li quali anno prima voluto fare esperienze di molti altri disegni e pareri." To change such a design now would be infamy; the whole world would take note.
Through this outburst we catch our first glimpse of Borromini's indomitable self-esteem. His plan is based on deep understanding and on a reading of the great texts: "gli scritti delli migliori architetti antichi e moderni," "gli scrittori di architettura più illustri." These texts remind us that facades like faces should have a single mouth in the middle and eyes on either side. (The outsider wanted two doors, one at each side of the building; apparently he did not know of Borromini's plans for a full ecclesiastical facade for the Oratory.) In any case Borromini will not imitate the Oratorio della Caravita because "chi va dietro agli altri non gli passa mai avanti." Creative people will always be misunderstood by pedestrian minds:
è solito degli homini ignoranti e copisti di biasimare le inventione nove delli valentòmini perche non potendo loro inventare cose nove essendo privi del disegnio e della vera inteligenza del arte si metano a biasimare quelli che sono veri architetti e padroni del arte
In these outpourings we have a foretaste of Borromini's artistic theory, as it would later be articulated by his friend Fioravante Martinelli. We will hear echoes of these phrases in the two prefaces of the Opus, written over a decade later.
Borromini worked on the oratory and casa from 1637 to 1650. His position was an awkward one. Although Maruscelli had resigned, in the eyes of the majority of the Congregation his plans still represented the approved design, and Borromini was hired as their executor, charged with solving any problems that arose but not departing arbitrarily from his predecessor's design. Innovations major and minor had to be defended before a congregation which did not accept change lightly. Yet there were to be radical innovations before he was finished.
First of all Borromini completely redesigned the oratory. Maruscelli's oratory had been a simple vaulted room with a small chapel for the altar. Borromini's was instead a daringly skeletal structure, with tall slender loggias for singers at one end of the space and for visitors at the other. Maruscelli had not envisaged a church-like facade for his Oratory, but instead intended to hide it inside a domestic exterior. Borromini, on the other hand, insisted on an ecclesiastical facade, which led to all sorts of conflicts and compromises with his patrons. Much of the rhetoric in chapter 7 of the Opus manuscript--about the oratory being the "figlio della chiesa" and the facade the humble "figlia della facciata della chiesa" but at the same time "la gemma pretiosa dell'Anello della Congregatione"--must reflect these heated discussions. Deference to the facade of S. Maria in Vallicella in height, in materials and in degree of ornamentation were conditions imposed on the Oratory facade from the outset.
Borromini's facade went through several stages in design.19 When construction began in 1637 it was still conceived of as a narrow facade, only five bays wide. The upper story would probably have been narrower still, only three bays wide. One can get an idea of this phase by looking at the present building and "counting" as part of the facade only the five central bays. Only they curve inward and only they are topped by the powerful cornice. Only here does Borromini use the fine brickwork that he compares to an ancient "torrione" on the Via Flaminia. There is a passage in the Opus manuscript that reflects quite literally this early five-bay stage:
nel dar forma à detta facciata mi figurai il corpo humano con le braccia aperte com' che abracci ogn'uno che entri, qual corpo con le braccia aperte si distingue in cinque parti, cioè il petto in mezzo, e le braccia ciascun' in doi pezzi dove si snodano (VII 23r)
The facade proper was flanked on either side by a bay of plain brickwork which was bordered by a bugnato strip. On the right this bay contains the main door of the casa; on the left there could obviously be no door, since it would have cut right into the middle of the oratory. Similar brick bays bounded by brick bugnato strips flank the facade of S. Giacomo al Corso, designed by Francesco da Volterra and Carlo Maderno in 1600-08. In neither case were these bays meant to be read as part of the central image, but rather as transitional zones that helped to integrate the facades into a larger context.
In August 1638, when the Oratory facade had been built up to the level of the first main cornice, a decision was made to move the library from its planned location at the rear of the building to the front above the oratory. The library was a very large space, too large to fit behind the upper story of the facade as it was then conceived. The problem was not so much how to expand the upper story, since it had not yet been built, but how to expand the lower story in a visual sense, that is, how to preserve the image of a well-proportioned facade without rebuilding what had just been built. Borromini's solution was in the end an optical one, designed to influence the spectator's perception without radical changes to the fabric of the building. He expanded (visually) the lower story by including the two bays of plain brickwork that flanked it on either side. Two discrete volutes were designed to link these bays to the new, expanded upper story. What had been mere backdrop now became part of the central image. The brick bugnato strips, formerly lying outside the visual field of the facade altogether, now became its official outer boundaries.
The way the facade was built--with a sudden change in design when it was halfway up--posed obvious problems for any publication. The two drawings of the facade included in the Opus manuscript and the three prints in the 1725 printed edition show a marked confusion about how the final image should be read. Should one think of the whole south face of the building as the facade, or should one concentrate on a smaller image and detach it from the context of the casa and the church? Was this smaller image seven bays wide, or only five? Should one remember the asymmetrical layout of the rooms behind the facade, or pretend that it was a completely symmetrical image? Borromini himself, as we will see, tended towards an idealizing position, stressing a symmetrical and detached facade. But the publications of the building would in the end include a much wider range of images.
The Oratory, library and facade were completed in 1644. Even before this, in 1638-41, Borromini built some important functional rooms in the rear of the building: the kitchen, where the building turns an angle on the Via di Monte Giordano, and the refectory and the sala di ricreatione above it, both following an ingenious oval plan. For these six years, 1638 to 1644, Virgilio Spada served as preposito of the Congregation, and was on hand to interpret Borromini's changes and innovations to his fellow Oratorians. In 1644, however, he was taken on as elemosiniere segreto in the household of the new pope, Innocent X. There was a lull in building activity at the Vallicella from 1644 to 1647. It was during this interlude that Borromini and Spada turned to the composition of a book on the building, the Piena relatione della fabbrica (Opus manuscript).
The book is a narrative in 28 chapters, in which Borromini speaks in the first person as author. He recounts the history of the building beginning with the construction of S. Maria in Vallicella by the first generation of Oratorians and proceeding up to the great building enterprise of 1637-47. By far the largest space in the text is accorded to function. The relatione is quite literally piena, and thanks to it we know the use of every room and the domestic and festive habits of the Congregatione dell'Oratorio down to the most intimate details.
We also have a sense, especially from Chapter 5, of the moral overtones which seventeenth-century patrons attached to architectural detail. The Oratorians were a new group in the religious landscape of the city, and their corporate personality was still to some extent in flux. When it came to commissioning a residence they knew what they were not better than what they were. They were not Jesuits, not Theatines, not Benedictines, in fact not monks at all, since they took no vows and could hold property. Thus there was a floor of ornamental decorum beneath which they refused to fall. And yet they were not princes, cardinals or great prelates, and there was a ceiling above which they would not let their architect rise:
frà le regole statemi proscritte da Padri una fù che volevano la positivezza massime nelle cose di loro servitio, ralentandomi solo alquanto la briglia nelle cose appartenenti al culto divino...
[unlike other religous orders] che le fabriche di questi sono state fatte da Principi a' quali conviene far cose grandi, mà facendo loro medesimi la propria fabrica premevono sopra tutte le cose nella modestia, bastandoli haver' l'occhio alla perpetuità...
o se in alcuna cosa eccedei qualche poco la regola prescrittami, per un'pezzo udij dei brontoli, e però devo esser compatito, se non corrispondono tutte le parti à quello, che per altro converebbe.20
The manuscript can be dated with confidence to 1646-47 on the basis of internal evidence.21 The Oratory and its facade, the library, and the kitchen and refectory wings at the rear of the building had all been completed. But the long west wing, running from the Piazza di Monte Giordano on the north to the Oratory on the south, was still unfinished at the time of writing, and the two main courtyards still stood open to the outside world.
In late 1647, shortly after the manuscript was finished, a part of the building was begun that had not been envisaged in the early design, namely the Torre dell'orologio. This is a major innovation, but it finds no mention in the manuscript.
The tenses of the original manuscript are an important indication of date. When it uses the future tense, it is invariably describing parts of the building that remained to be built in 1647: the garden fountains, the main scalone, the elevated walkway along the south side of the garden court, the short east wing behind the church and the Via della Chiesa Nuova.22 It speaks of arrangements to prevent theft that make sense only when we remember that the two main courtyards still stood open to the street and contained many delapidated tenements, which housed a sullen population hovering for years on the brink of eviction. The text was composed when much had been accomplished, but the building was not yet closed to the outside world nor was the design process over.
1b. Sources for the Architectural Monograph
Where, we might ask, did Borromini get the idea for a monograph on his first large building? Architectural monographs were still unusual in the early seventeenth century, especially for domestic buildings, but he could have known a few precedents. In 1587 Bernardino Baldi published a comprehensive monograph on the Palazzo Ducale di Urbino that may have provided a model. Like the Opus manuscript it proceeds methodically from questions of site and general layout to the vestibule, court, stairs and other rooms, with a chapter alloted to each.23 In 1589 Juan de Herrera published a Sumario y breve declaración of the Escurial, for which Pedro Perret had prepared eleven large plates between 1583 and 1589.24 When Domenico Fontana mentions the Lateran palace in his book on the obelisks, he says wished he could devote a full monograph to the building.25 Monsignor Agucchi drew up a long descriptive Relatione on the Villa Aldobrandini in Frascati in 1611 which remained in manuscript form.26 Ferrabosco combined measured drawings with older projects in a St. Peter's monograph in 1620.27 Paolo de Angelis published a lavishly illustrated monograph on S. Maria Maggiore in 1621, partly to expound the history of the church and partly to celebrate Paul V's contributions.28 The same author published a volume on St. Peter's in 1646.29 Even a garden was the subject of a monograph, namely the garden of the Elector Palatinate in Heidelberg, celebrated in a set of lavish plates published with a brief text in 1620.30
These often lavish books may have fired Borromini's ambitions. But the closest model for the organization of his monograph is a manuscript drawn up in 1625 to elucidate a project for the Palazzo Barberini.31 The author is an unspecified amateur. He had a set of plans prepared that do not survive. In the manuscript he describes every room on every floor, keying the descriptions to the lost drawings by number. Thus the document is a caption blown up to enormous length, 66 pages, what one might call a caption raisonné. No document is closer to the Opus manuscript in scope and ambition, and in the way that chapters explaining form and function are closely keyed to drawings. The Barberini manuscript is a much closer model than, for example, Aedes Barberinae, the great illustrated book of 1642 that is more of a rhetorical encomium on the patron and the frescos than an architectural monograph.32 The Opus manuscript rejected the obvious models and instead took shape as a caption raisonné, a text that would deal extensively with function and technical details and would rely heavily on drawings to make its points. The problem was how to make such a text come alive.
1c: Authorship: Spada or Borromini
Borromini is the narrator of the Opus manuscript, and up to this point I have generally spoken of him as the author. But as Hempel discovered in 1923, we have just as much reason to assign authorship to Borromini's patron, Virgilio Spada. On the flyleaf of the manuscript one finds this note:
Questo libro fu fatto da me, Virgilio Spada, in nome del Cav(alie)re Borromini con pensiere ch'egli facesse i disegni mà non è stato possibile e pero non si vede pieno dove andarebbero, e no ho fatti fare alc(uni) da altri ma poco a proposito. Virgilio Spada33
The main philological problem then, is to distinguish between Borromini's voice and Spada's. The task can only partly be solved by method and comparison; part must be left to instinct. But first, let us try to gauge the depth of Spada's architectural competence and get some sense of his language as an architectural critic.
Spada was a most useful man to have on a building committee. An expert archivist, he kept collections of contracts and prices signed with masons all over the city, and he could assess the incentives for waste or cheating that lay in the fine print of any document.34 He knew how to chair a meeting. His analytic mind, schooled in the dubii or cases of conscience that a good Oratorian confessor read regularly,35 liked to divide a problem into its component parts and work by process of elimination. He took to meetings only cose digerite, problems that he had already thought through. He scribbled out, in his execrable hand, not only his own thoughts but also those of the architects with whom he collaborated.
A good example of Spada's way of working can be glimpsed in the Discorso he prepared for the investigation into the structural flaws caused by Bernini's campanile on the facade of St. Peter's.36 This document was prepared in May 1645, about a year before he began to draft the Opus manuscript. It shows a thorough investigator at work. Spada insisted on remeasuring every inclination from the vertical, not only of the campanile and facade but also of older parts of the building, like Michelangelo's south and west apses. Experts were in attendance, like Borromini, who would not let a millimeter of inclination go unrecorded. Twice Spada descended into the tasto, the 80-palmi-deep shaft that led to a series of tunnels into and around Maderno's foundations. One can only imagine the discomfort and claustrophobia of such inspection trips, conducted by torchlight in pits flooded by underground springs. Spada interviewed everyone who had worked on the building, especially the old masons who had begun their careers as boys under Maderno. Most importantly he scoured the archives of the fabbrica and discovered a long-forgotten account of the foundations written by an eye-wittness, Grimaldi, who made clear how poor the quality of the soil really was, and described the specific measures Maderno had taken to compensate for it.37
Spada makes an interesting distinction in the Discorso between the kinds of foundations needed for ordinary buildings, where the rule was the deeper the better, and for truely colossal buildings, where the best solution was not depth but a concrete raft or platea like that constructed by the Romans beneath the Pantheon. He observes that in many churches where the facade has been built later than the church, like the Gesù, the Vallicella, S. Carlo ai Catinari, or the Cathedral of Bologna, there are cracks at the juncture. Only S. Ignazio is free from such problems, since the facade was built at the same time as the body of the church.
The Discorso on St. Peter's has vivid metaphors for the phenomenon of soil compression that show us the livelier side of Spada's writing. One is borrowed from the pages of Alberti, who reminds us that a deer and an ox will leave hoofprints of different depth. The ox may weigh six times as much as the deer, but the deer has a smaller hoof and so its prints will be deeper. Or take the example of the pope's sedan chair. Each of the four bearers will have only a few inches of pole resting on his shoulder, yet he carries fully a quarter of the weight. Finally, out of the tall tales of a youth spent growing up in the Romagna, he dredges up the fable of the floating islands of the Ferrarese, made of compacted soil but so large and buoyant that one can hunt on them on horseback.38
These are flashes of metaphor in a document that is generally dry and technical. Given seventeenth-century standards of soil mechanics no investigation could have been more rigorous. Yet in the end Spada comes to the conclusion that Bernini's campanile should not be demolished, and that it would even be hazardous to try to rebuild the foundations from below. His conservativism is typically Oratorian: "Patienza un paio d'anni... Io lodarei, che non s'innovasse cosa alcuna."39
Returning to the Opus manuscript, there can be no doubt that it was Spada who held the pen and that it is Spada's language, that of priest and casuist, which pervades the text. When the Oratorians had doubts about any of the new and radical ideas that went into their building, it was Spada who had to convince them. For example, in 1640 he read the Congregation a discourse on the design of the oval dining room:
Il Padre [Spada] facci leggere, in congregatione generale, la scrittura fatta da Sua Reverenza, sottoscritta dall'architetto, colla quale si prova l'impossibilità di far la sala in forma quadra.40
There must have been many such position papers on his desk, and it must have seemed natural at a certain point to combine them and flesh out a "caption raisonné" until it became a unique architectural monograph.
When we listen for Spada's voice we hear it on every page. The detailed picture of how a complex religious residence functioned is certainly his, from the liturgy of mass and Oratory to mundane functions like cooking, storage and waste disposal. The fear of soggetione, both physical and visual intrusion, and the strictly segregated patterns of circulation for priests, visiting cardinals, singers, and gentlemen reflect Spada's constant concerns. 41 His also is the precise knowledge of numbers: the 58 or 60 members of the Congregation who need to be seated at dinner, the 20 "principi" who might visit on important occasions as opposed to the 4 or 6 cardinals present at a normal weekday Oratory, the overflow crowds who could be accommodated in an underground oratory on feast days. It is Spada who becomes rhapsodic at the prospect of a garden and open loggia lined with citrus fruits in vases, a paradise lifted aloft in the most crowded part of the city.42 This was, after all, his home. The remarks on the numbers raised in relief on the napkin boxes outside the refectory, which can be read by touch when the air is dark or the sight failing, come from the young superior of a Congregation of aging priests.43 But it is especially the relentless and sometimes tiresome logic of the moral theologian, the specialist in dubii and cases of conscience, that best catches Spada's voice.44
But Borromini's voice comes through as well. His for instance are the architect's rules of thumb on vault and wall construction: "l'angolo isolato cede,"45 "per faticare meno le muraglie esterne,"46 "nè mi spaventò la forza della volta...considerai che l'agetto del cornicione fà contra peso al fianco della volta,"47 and the comments on the chains that will resist even strong thrusts, "quando anche la volta le spingesse gagliardamente."48 His too are the many remarks on optical illusion: "Mi risolsi dunque d'ingannare la vista dei passaggieri,"49 "per ingannare per quanto potei e seppi la vista,"50 "ogn'uno vi resta ingannato."51 He praises his "finestra vera" and "finestra finta" of the sacristy with a large window above them "abracciando il vero, et il finto sotto di lui finisce di sodisfare la vista,"52 and his solution for problems of window alignment: "si pensa con un poco di prospettiva da farsi di stucco di apportarvi qualche remedio."53
His are naturally the references to his other buildings underway at the same time: Palazzo Falconieri, Palazzo di Spagna and the salone of Palazzo Pamphilj, which he even intended to illustrate with a drawing.54 And his are the references to antiquity: the vaults of Hadrian's Villa55 and the Baths of Diocletian,56 the excavations carried out with the Marchese del Bufalo,57 or the torrione outside Porta del Popolo that inspired the fine brickwork of the facade.58
Borromini's too are the references in the text to the frustration he felt with patrons who were not willing to follow him to the limit. They had laid down strict rules and often pulled in on the reins. He heard no end of it if he exceeded their ceiling of modesty or fell beneath their floor of basic dignity.59 Sometimes he pleased the connoisseurs in the profession but not the rank and file of Oratorians. They would have been quite content to remove the marble fireplace of the Sala di Ricreatione, for example, "perché pareva che, per essere troppo suntuoso, non fosse corrispondente alla modestia, quale professa la Casa." Pressure from Spada and Borromini stopped them:
Fu discorso intorno e resoluto, che si lasciasse stare come stava, già che pareva che molti, sì di casa, come forestieri, non stimavano che ci fosse tale eccesso nella modestia, che meritasse d'esser levato; oltre che l'architetto ne mostrava notabile disgusto.60
The rancor of this incident is greatly moderated in the text of the Opus:
un camino nell'ornato nel quale confesso che passai i limiti prescrittemi da Padri...lodato da virtuosi contutto che alli Padri per la loro modestia sia parso troppo formoso (XXV, 69v).
One can only imagine how Borromini expressed his disgusto. These lines remind us how effective Spada was at filtering out the sarcasm and anger that are part of Borromini's authentic voice.
Powerfully and unforgettably Borrominian are the vivid architectural images that surface in the text from time to time. The pilasters around the courtyards are likened to giants that rise up to support the cornice.61 The alternating balusters of the oratory balconies are like the alternation of men and trees produced by nature.62 The Oratory facade is like the human breast, with arms outstretched in an embrace, the chest, two upper arms and two forearms working together like the five bays of the original facade.63
There is a beautiful passage where Borromini airs his preference for good design, disegno, rather than precious materials, materia, or decioration, ornato:
si trovarà che il piacimento nasce più dal disegno riuscito vago, che dalla matteria, ò dall'ornato, essendomi contentato di fare i capitelli con cinque semplici foglie lisce senza intagli, senza volute, e senza veruna ricchezza di lavoro.... [I pilastri] fanno gran rumore, nella maniera che un vestito ben tagliato, e ben cuscito di tela sangalla comparisce molte volte più che uno di drappo mal fatto indosso di uno homaccio.64
The metaphor of the well-fitting suit of honest cloth on the back of big burly fellow beautifully catches the voice of an architect who might design the loggias with the giant order but who had no control, except in the utopia of the printed image, over the huge residential wings that loom up behind them.
Both the building and the text were the product of an uniquely close collaboration, and there are many passages where the voices of Spada and Borromini speak in perfect unison. Borromini's forms and Spada's functions interweave in the description of the oval refectory, of the little hexagonal chambers in the southwest corner of the oratory, and of the enfilades where the sight penetrates through carefully aligned doors.65 A brilliant architect, working with an imaginative patron "che si dilettava, e si diletta d'architettura," produced unusual solutions for a Congregation that felt itself to be unique.66 In these cases there is no separating the two voices.
If Virgilio Spada's note on the flyleaf has caused some ambivalence about who wrote the Piena relatione, at least there was no doubt that Borromini was the designing architect. So it came as a surprise in 1967 when Incisa della Rocchetta published a short dialogue of about 1648 in which Spada claims credit for many of the features we usually associate with Borromini. Written for internal consumption, in particular for younger Oratorians curious as to how the unusual building had come into existence, the Dialogo is a tour-de-force arguing the case of the creative patron who in effect designs his own house:
Veramente, queste sono cose, che non si possono pagare; ne ci è architetto, che le possi ritrovare, fuori che il padrone, in casa propria.67
Spada puts himself at center stage. He speaks of his fabled ability to attract bequests and his ingenious finances. But he also claims credit for the division of the casa into three courtyards, an idea which may be his although it goes back to some of the earliest projects. He says he is responsible for the proportions of the oratory and the refectory, for the corridor system, and for many other features usually associated with Borromini. Naturally he takes credit for the Piena relatione: "ne formai già un libro, sotto nome del Borromini, con disegni e piante." Borromini gets credit for the fireplace that nobody liked and for some ingenious windows ("in materia di lumi, non ha pari").
In the Piena relatione Borromini boasts of the originality of his giant order of pilasters:
Non ci è cosa in questa fabrica della quale io resti maggiormente sodisfatto che dell'haver con un ordine solo di pilastri abracciato tutte due le loggie, che se bene fù inventato tal modo da Michel'Angelo nel Palazzo del Campidoglio, tuttavia non è stato praticato dà alcuno nelle loggie.68
But in the Dialogo Spada takes credit for himself:
Lo rubbai da Michel Angelo, nella facciata del Campidoglio, del che si mostrò molto soddisfatto il Boromino.69
The drawings in this case seem to show that it was Borromini who made the innovation, though Palladio was in his mind as well as Michelangelo. But when Spada says that it was his idea to put the library behind the upper story of the facade, and that in his excitement he went to tell Borromini who was working at S. Carlino, we can well believe him. But the drawings record the incredible effort Borromini spent on solving the problems this move caused.70 Whatever Spada's powers of suggestion may have been, it seems that in the Dialogo he overstates the case of the creative patron.
1e: Castel Rodrigo
Some time after the completion of the manuscript in mid-1647, possibly as late as 1650, Spada and Borromini decided to publish it. They went in search of a patron. However, these were lean years. Cardinal Francesco Barberini went into exile between January 1646 and February 1648.71 Innocent X was close to the Oratorians but his nephew Camillo was not a generous patron of the printing press, except for a book on his own villa. So they decided to dedicate the book to an unlikely foreigner, Don Manuel de Moura y Corte Real (?-1651), the second Marchese di Castel Rodrigo.
Castel Rodrigo was a Portuguese nobleman who had served as the ambassador of Philip IV of Spain in Rome between 1631/32 and 1640, the last years of political unity for the Iberian peninsula.72 He had been impressed by Borromini's first building, S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, and in 1634, even before the church was begun, he had offered to pay for the residential wing of the convent. Before his departure in 1640 he offered to subsidize the facade, a generous proposal that caused Borromini to remark that to absorb all the money in such a small church the facade would have to be entirely of marble.73
However, after the rebellion of Portugal in 1640, it became impolitic to have a Portuguese nobleman, however loyal, representing Spanish interests in Rome. Castel Rodrigo was posted first to Vienna (1642-44) and then to Brussels (1644-47), finally returning to Madrid in 1647. The project closest to his heart during these years was the family chapel in Sâo Bento in Lisbon. He had commissed an extensive program of architectural and sculptural embellishment for the chapel from Borromini and Duquesnoy, and some of this material had been shipped. But until the Portuguese returned to submission to the Spanish crown the chapel could not be finished. This of course never happened. Unique in the annals of seventeenth-century revolutions, the revolt of 1640 secured Portugal permanent independence from Spain. Castel Rodrigo died in Madrid, a heartbroken exile, on 28 January 1651.
So in 1647 Castel Rodrigo had been out of Rome for seven years and was in no position to return. In spite of all the affection he had shown for Borromini, treasuring S. Carlino and entrusting him with two family commissions ("fui honorato di servirla in questa Città nel disegno della regia fabrica cominciata da suoi antenati, e dei sepolchri de suoi heroi")74 he was an unlikely patron for the book, and in the end died in 1651 without contributing anything.75
Nevertheless the dedicatory letter to the Marchese is still an interesting document. In the courtly language typical of such prefaces Borromini turns his request for patronage into a command by the patron that the artist cannot refuse.76 He will not, he says, let the great number of drawings that an "essatta relatione" requires intimidate him. But literary skill, stile, is not his gift, and he is used to handling the stile, stylus, more for drawings.77 It is a play on words similar to that made by Vasari, who has his head more in drawings than in words and his hands more ready with the pennelli than the penna.78
Birth metaphors abound in Borromini's preface. This book, he says, will be a "parto della mia debolezza." But since the Marchese di Castel Rodrigo has loved him as a son he will excuse the imperfections of the book and give it form, like the bear who licks her cubs into shape:
mà che con la lingua della sua gratia darà forma à questo parto niente meno di quello che raccontano i naturali dell'orso verso i suoi figli.79
In the second preface, "Alli benigni lettori," Borromini bares his emotions with surprising frankness. Spada recedes into the background, and we hear the architect's voice, brave, wounded, unfettered, more clearly here than the rest of the text. He hesitates to take up the pen, he tells us, even at Castel Rodrigo's command. But this is what virtuosi do, exercise virtù in fields other than their own. As for the vicious tongues who encircle him they will be their own undoing:
L'invidia fratel mio se stesso lacera.80
Then he unleashes all his pent-up resentment against the Oratorians, who had held him back all these years:
Prego dunque chi leggerà queste mie dicerie à riflettere, che ho havuto à servire una Congregatione di animi così rimessi che nell'ornare mi hanno tenuto le mani, e conseguentemente mi è convenuto in più luoghi obedire più al voler loro che all'arte.
He concludes with a famous outburst:
io al certo non mi sarei posto à questa professione col fine di esser solo copista, benche sappia che nell'inventar cose nuove non si può ricever il frutto della fatica, se non tardi, sicome non lo ricevette l'istesso Michel'Angelo quando nel riformare l'architettura della gran Basilica di S. Pietro, veniva lacerato per le nuove forme et ornati, che da suoi emuli venivano censurate, à segno che procurorno più volte di farlo privare della carica di architetto di S. Pietro, ma'indarno, et il tempo poi ha chiarito, che tutte le cose sue sono state reputate degne d'imitatione, et ammiratione.
Words that had come to him in an angry outburst in 1637, as he defended his oratory against a meddling intruder, return now emblazoned on his shield. For an unusually silent artist, these lines are the closest we will ever come to a spiritual testament.
The Piena relatione needed drawings to make its full impact, very many drawings indeed. There were the overall plans and elevations, and then each room discussed would have to have its own plan and section, with further drawings for details of exceptional beauty, like the doors of the Oratory or the portal of the Saint's room. The plan and elevation of the facade were to be complemented by drawings of the capitals and bases, niches, window frames and iron grilles. A small space like the lavamani would have been illustrated by five drawings, including even a rendering of the napkin boxes. When he was writing the preface Borromini found the task daunting but doable: "non perche mi spaventi il numero dei disegni di chiaschedun' membro di essa fabrica." Yet in the end he did not provide the drawings.
Spada had many drawings at hand in the church archives, though they were often out of date, such as projects by Mario Arconio or Paolo Maruscelli.81 Nevertheless they were useful as illustrations for the historical introduction. Master carpenters had left crude drawings of the sacristy credenzoni and various wooden doors.82 Borromini had given Spada one drawing, a beautiful pencil elevation of the main portal of the casa.83 Coming upon this drawing as one turns the pages of the manuscript is still a source of considerable excitement and pleasure. Folded like a true workman's drawing84 and left in raw graphite, unenhanced by color, it is at once less pretentious than the other drawings and more powerful. The short, sharp strokes carve the moldings of the door like a piece of abstract sculpture. In shaping and reshaping the hood above the window the pencil digs deep into the paper and its trace shines with reflected light. It is one of the finest examples of a style that has been termed the "graphite revolution."85
Finally Spada held another Borromini drawing in his files that he intended to use in his text, although in the end he never did. It is a section of the salone of Palazzo Pamphilj. I have included it at the appropriate place.86
Spada also had two of Borromini's plans copied in ink, one of the entire casa and one of the oratory in isolation. I have called the copyist Anonymous A. He adjusted the plans to fit the building as it stood in the years 1650-53. Thus these drawings prove that Spada was working on the publication project after Borromini had abandoned it.87
In the hope of completing the project without Borromini's cooperation Spada commissioned drawings from two draftsmen, whom I have called Anonymous B and C. Anonymous B is extremely interesting. At at first sight he looks like an amateur, awkward in perspective and freehand drawing. But he is intimately familiar with every space in an around the oratory. He is an insider. He has prowled around in the basement and he has climbed up into all the loggias reserved for musicians and cardinals. He can even locate chains hidden in the thickness of the vaults. He provided a facade elevation, five sections through the oratory and adjacent loggias, and a project for the south side of the garden court. Inside the Oratory he shows Borromini's original wooden model for the altar, which is surmounted by fictive organ pipes alluding to the musical patron, S. Cecilia. Since this model was replaced in 1653, his drawings should be dated slightly earlier, about 1652-53.88
Spada finally engaged Anonymous C, a draftsman of superficial facility but no deep understanding of the building, to do eighteen drawings.89 For some reason he had him do a copy of the one authentic Borromini drawing, of the casa portal, and he included both in the manuscript. Anonymous C also copied two drawings by Anonymous B, as though Spada was toying with the idea of making Anonymous C the "official" draftsman of the project. But he was disappointed. Anonymous C could be counted on for quantity but not for quality. When one compares his copy of the Borromini drawing with the original his weakness becomes evident.
It is instructive to compare the two drawings of the Oratory facade by Anonymous B and C. Both misunderstand Borromini's design, but in different ways. Anonymous B (plate 21) provides a large, powerful drawing that conveys something of the grandeur of the facade and the power of its curved embrace. But he interprets the facade as the full south front of the building, and gives the viewer no clue as to where backdrop ends and the facade proper begins. Anonymous C (plate 20), on the other hand, does not realize that the facade suddenly grew in size when it was half finished. For him it is a completely static image, made up of only the bays that curve and are built in fine Roman brickwork. Anonymous B overextends the facade, while Anonymous C is a literalist. Borromini's prints were done in part to show just how mistaken both these readings were. But even Spada could see that these drawings were, in his words, "poco a proposito."
1g: Camillo Arcucci
In the period around 1650-52 Borromini began to slide out of the favor of the Congregatione dell'Oratorio. He offended the padri by not handing over certain Libri delle misure when there was a dispute with the masons in 1650. In 1651-52, in the face of his disapproval (and Spada's) the Congregation decided to rebuild the high altar of the oratory, inserting four beautiful but completely inappropriate alabaster columns. A pleasing young man named Camillo Arcucci stepped in to supply a design. Arcucci was accomodating, pious, a lover of music, and the nephew of a powerful Augustinian prelate. A sottomaestro delle strade, he showed how he could be helpful in lawsuits. On 23 August 1652 the Oratorians took him on officially:
In luogo del Cav.r Borromini, che ha ricusato d'essere, nell'avvenire, architetto per la nostra Congregatione, si è eletto il Sr. Camillo Arcucci, con la solita provisione.90
All this happened while Spada was out of office, serving as elemosiniere in the household of Innocent X. Then in 1656 Spada was re-elected preposito. In April 1657 he tried to restart the building, and did everything in his power to have the Congregation reverse the trend of the past few years and return to Borromini. But he failed. On 17 May 1657 the Oratorians rejected Borromini by a resounding vote. Most of the west wing of the building, including the grand scalone, was in fact built by Arcucci, more or less following Borromini's plans.
The notes that Spada drafted for the crucial meetings of May 1657 survive. They are perhaps the most interesting document to flow from his scratchy pen.91 They muse over fundamental questions. What makes a good architect? How can the patron judge? In this imperfect world everyone is attached to his own architect, like his own doctor, and what counts most for an architect is having friends in high places. New fashions sweep through architecture like changes of style in dress. Innovators draw ridicule upon themselves in the beginning, then acceptance, then praise and emulation. Michelangelo, for example, turned taste in favor of a new architecture based on the antique, which was scorned at first but is now universally admired.92
In choosing an architect, Spada recommended that the patron pay close attention to his origins and see whether he studied antiquity and read books. The acid test of an architect's value is not ornament but plan. There was only one way to test the mettle of competing architects: set them the same task and then compare the plans. Here we catch an echo of the procedure that led to Maruscelli's removal and replacement by Borromini. An architect should know how to calculate costs and work for the patron's advantage. Borromini, unlike the spendthrift Arcucci, runs a very tight ship. He is hated by the workmen because he neither steals himself nor lets them steal. He cuts their bills drastically. He may be more lavish in his use of ornament than the norm, but he trims the costs so much that the patron usually profits.
Ask the professionals, Spada continues, and they will recommend Borromini, even when they have broken with him. Bernini, Cardinal Francesco Borromini, Cortona, Innocent X ("de i sospetti del quale non fù alcuno immune"), Alexander VII, Camillo Pamphilij, Oratio Falconieri, Andrea Giustiniani, Cardinal Ulderico Carpegna, Cardinal Bernardino Spada and the Congregazione della Propaganda Fide are all invoked as witnesses to Borromini's qualities. Indeed he has broken with patrons, when they did him an injustice, but when they dealt with him with the respect his love and his fidelity deserved, then he was a puppy ("egli è un cagnolo").
None of this succeeded in convincing the Congregation to take Borromini back. His dismissal was the cause of a permanent rupture with the Oratorians, and even a temporary feud with Spada. Borromini never came back to the Piena relatione, which sat in the Congregation's archives until Giannini found it in 1720-25. Henceforth his ambition to publish his work would take other channels.
2. S. Carlo Relatione
Around 1650 another of Borromini's patrons, Fra Juan di S. Bonaventura, procurator general of the Trinitari Scalzi at S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, undertook a description of the church and convent: Relatione del Convento di S. Carlo alle 4o fontane di Roma di Religiosi Scalzi del ordine della SS.a Trinitta del Riscatto della Congregatione di Spagna, del modo e forma come fu fabricato dalli suoj principij, et delle cosse particolari che occorsero nella sua fabrica.93
To some extent this document is modelled on the Oratorian Piena relatione, but it is not organized with the same tight logic. Like Spada Fra Juan realized the need for illustrations and included five amateur drawings. They show a plan of the general site at the Quattro Fontane, a plan of the garden, an elevation of the residence, a plan of the courtyard and a plan of the church.
But unlike Spada Fra Juan completely lacks stylistic grace, writing in a quasi-literate Italian full of hispanicisms. There is no formal organization, not even chapter headings. He wanders and often repeats himself. Mixed in with the building history is an edifying spiritual portrait of Fra Juan di S. Bonaventura's predecessor, Fra Juan de la Anunciacion, the man who had built S. Carlino working in close collaboration with Borromini. This ambitious monk died in 1644 without quite becoming a cardinal. Fra Juan di S. Bonaventura's aim was to tell future generations of Trinitarians how their marvellous church and convent had come into being, and there is no sign that the Relatione was meant for publication. But thinking that it would have some diffusion Borromini fed the author much interesting information, and some misinformation, about his early career.
Borromini protests his loyalty and admiration for Carlo Maderno and the "mai come merita lodata" facade and nave of St. Peter's, which the Lateran will emulate.94 At S. Carlino he wanted to sweep the site clean and be unincumbered by the previous buildings. He never accepted any fees and he insured high quality by close personal supervision of all craftsmen:
Si che è vero che le sue fabriche valgono assai, et dovendo stimare secondo il suo valore ascendono a grande summa: ma questo non proviene della spesa che fanno li patroni delle fabriche, ne anco della materia ne multiplicatione di giornate, spesa nella manifattura, ma del arte, ingenio, et modo che detto sig. Francesco usa nelle sue fabriche, disponendo le materie in modo tale alli artifici, che quella lavor, che doveva portare molte giornate [....] la fa venir cossì facil anco che sia dificilissima, come si se facesse lavor lissa et ordinaria: Perche detto S.r Francesco lui medesimo governa al murator la cuciara; driza al stuchator il cuciarino, al falegname la sega, et l'scarpello al scarpellino; al matonator la martinella et al ferraro la lima.95
Most interestingly we hear a new version of how Borromini obtained the commission at the Oratory. Supposedly there was a nation-wide competition, advertised with great fanfare: "far mettere editti per li cantoni di Roma, et anco per le città più nobile di Italia." Flooded with drawings and recommendations, the Oratorians unanimously chose Borromini's by secret ballot, although he was completely unknown. This is not an accurate version of events, and there was never any competition in the usual sense of the word.96 But it is interesting to see Borromini refashioning the history of the commission after the key witness, Maruscelli, had died in 1649.
As with Spada's Piena relatione, Borromini held back at the key point and provided no drawings. The drawings that Fra Juan di S. Bonaventura commissioned are grossly amateur. The church plan offers no clue either of the geometry or of the projected facade. He tells us how many visitors from foreign lands begged for the plan, and how much advantage Borromini could have drawn from having it printed.97 But the busy and at heart reluctant architect never found the time.
3. Lateran Publications
At exactly the time when Borromini and Spada were composing the Piena relatione on the Casa dei Filippini, both men were swept up into the immense task of restoring the Lateran. It would be the great commission of Borromini's career in terms of size, expense and ecclesiastical importance, as well as the most difficult in terms of logistics and structure.98 In the intensely competitive climate of Roman architecture it was a closely watched building, with all of Borromini's emuli on the sidelines waiting for him to trip. More than any other commission it clamored for a published justification, and many pens took up the task.
In about 1652, when Innocent X had more or less accomplished his goals but Alexander VII had not yet begun to reinstall the medieval tombs, Spada composed a Discrittione that he intended eventually to illustrate with plans, elevations and details.99 Although there is a good deal of ecclesiastical rhetoric (in restoring the church the bishop adorns his spouse, like Solomon's Temple the new structure is better than the old), the text is refreshingly exact about architectural issues. It perceives the tight concatenation of ornament and space and thus brings us very close to Borromini's way of thinking. The nave piers had to be narrow, for instance, so the arches between them, and consequently the aisles behind them, could be wide and spacious. But the tabernacles destined to go in these piers were extremely tall. How could they ever fit? Borromini solved the problem by giving them oval plans and having them bulge out in front of the piers like a "petto," but he only did so after experimenting with seven full-scale models in wood over eight anxious months. Spada writes with great appreciation for precious stones, especially the thirty-six marble columns of the side aisles, the recuperation of which was a motivating force in the whole enterprise. And Michelangelo is outdone, he says, because the travertine pilaster bases of St. Peter's, which are fitted together from several pieces, are excelled by Borromini's monolithic marble bases.
The Discrittione is also concerned about the work that remained to be done at the Lateran. Borromini had to rebuild the weak, quarry-ridden foundations of the aisles and facade so that eventually the nave could carry a vault and a new facade added. But in the meantime Spada explains the extreme care that Borromini took to rebuild the walls without removing the "Michelangelo" coffered ceiling. Light now penetrated in ingenious ways into the side aisles, and the sight lines were so constructed that no one in the nave could see the thickness of the clerestory walls. The entrance bays to the nave are "curved" as in the printed plan of St. Peter's by "the marvellous architect Raphael of Urbino."100
There is one fascinating instance where it is possible to compare Borromini's language directly with Spada's. On Alb. 377, a plan of the inner facade of the Lateran nave, there is an inscription in which the architect explains his thoughts as he transformed the static box of the nave into a dynamic, space-shaping design. He is concerned with unity and continuity, and wants the rhythm of arch-solid-arch to continue unbroken around the whole sweep of the nave, from the arcade on the left around the facade to the arcade on the right. And he treasures the element of echo, riverbero, between the inner facade and the apse. He formulates his ideas in a little over 100 words. In his Discrittione Spada takes these thoughts and expands them into a highly polished piece of rhetoric. In his 400 words he weaves snatches that must have come from conversations with Borromini: "Considerò, che l'unità è più perfetta della multiplicità"; "Considerò, che la natura è nemici degl'angoli."101 The result is like a nutshell version of the Opus manuscript: Borromini's voice but Spada's prose.
Like the Piena relatione on the Casa dei Filippini and so much of Spada's literary output the Discrittione remained unpublished. He must have spoken of it often around the evening fire, since his fellow-Oratorian Marsilio Onorati touches on many of these themes, sometimes using identical language, in his popular guidebook of 1649 for the coming Holy Year.102 And as we shall see below, Fioravante Martinelli echoes this language in his Primo trofeo, published in 1655.
However, no author could hope to keep a building as important as the Lateran to himself at this crucial juncture in its history. There is also a treatment of the restoration in the 1651 Latin edition of Bosio's book on the catacombs.103 But the great Lateran monograph was to be published in 1656-57 by Cesare Rasponi, an ecclesiatic from a noble family of Ravenna, made a cardinal in 1666 and buried in 1675 in the basilica. Most of Rasponi's book is on the early Christian and medieval history of the church and the patriarchate, but he devoted an informed chapter to the baroque restoration.104 Before publication in 1656-57 he submitted it to Spada, who was forthcoming with corrections that are in many ways more interesting than Rasponi's dry text.105
Rumor had it that the reconstruction of the Lateran was sparked by the finding of an early Christian dove, which had special resonance for the Pamphilj pope. Spada cuts this legend to pieces. Actually the dove was not mosaic but fresco, carried no olive branch, was painted on a wall that was not ancient, and in any case was found after work was begun. The real motivation was to restore the church before it was too late and to recuperate the precious verde antico columns.
Spada explains the logic of Borromini's aediculas designed "con artificio, quasi inescogitabile," and the lighting system of the nave and aisles. He speaks as though there were considerable criticism in the air, especially the old charge of eccentricity, departure from the rules, "del singolare." As in the Piena relatione he defends Borromini by adducing the example of Michelangelo, who said "chi seguita altri, non và avanti," and of the antique, especially the drawings of curved tempietti from Hadrian's Villa in Cardinal Barberini's collection.
Most interesting of all Spada mentions writings by Borromini, now unfortunately lost, which explained both practical problems, like the off-center ceiling, and deeper theoretical issues, like the relation of melody and architecture:
Si manda una scrittura del Cavaliere Borromino in risposta à certi miei quesiti, dove al numero 7.o spiega il modo, che si propose nell'edificio di questo Tempio; poi che si come la melodia delle voci nasce da numeri, così la bellezza delle fabriche, professa nascere parimente da numeri, e che tutte le parti habbino una tale proportione, che un'apertura di compasso, senza mai muoverlo, le misuri tutti.106
Faint echoes of Spada's voice can be heard in the published book, but in the end Rasponi was not overly concerned with the defense of the architect. But he did include three engravings of the Lateran by the monogramist "DL," a plan and two interior elevations, the first prints we have of any Borromini building. The printmaker may well have been working with Borromini drawings, but they are not as sophisticated or detailed as we might have expected.
In Rasponi's frontispiece there is a clever play on identities.107 Constantine is shown in the act of commissioning the Lateran. The architect who kneels before him has, anachronistically, the features of Michelangelo. But the plan he holds is neither early Christian nor Michelangelesque, but is rather Borromini's plan of 1646. Borromini would have appreciated the connection with Michelangelo, while Innocent X, who thought of his rebuilding as a restoration of Constantine's church, would have been pleased by this reference to the first Christian emperor.
4. Palazzo Pamphilj at Piazza Navona
In approximately 1650 Virgilio Spada composed a short treatise on Palazzo Pamphilj in Piazza Navona, a project that was more or less contemporary with the restoration of the Lateran.108 He tells how Innocent X was determined to have a facade of great length, 384 palmi, and views down a seemingly endless enfilade: "le fughe delle camere massime verso Piazza Navona non hanno simile." Girolamo Rainaldi is given credit for the facade but Borromini for the gallery and the salone.109 Much of the text is about the daring salone vault, the "volta reale à schifo" that confounded the skeptics, including the masons, who thought that such a large room, unbuttressed on two sides, would surely have to be covered with a wooden ceiling. The pope, though troubled by the "murmorio," nevertheless placed his full confidence in Borromini. He was not disappointed. The vault turned out to be stable and magnificent; without it "havrebbe perso quel palazzo gran parte della magnificenza, che nasce da quel primo ingresso nell'appartamento nobile."
It is on the matter of the salone vault that this text overlaps with the Piena relatione on the Casa dei Filippini, in particular with a long passage at the end of chapter XV, fols. 46v-47r, which is concerned with the vaulting of the small residential rooms on the top floor of the building. Here we receive an explanation of Borromini's technique of chained vaults that rise up into the space under the roof usually reserved for trusswork. This daring and relatively novel technique, which made liberal use of hidden iron chains, allowed him to vault rooms that had no buttressing on either side. The text mentions rooms that had just been vaulted with a similar technique at Palazzo Falconieri.110 Success on a small scale led to the experiment on a grand scale at Palazzo Pamphilj, where considerable lateral thrusts could be expected ("spingesse gagliardamente"). To illustrate the structure Spada planned to insert a drawing of the Pamphilj vault at the end of the chapter XV. He never did, but a section by Borromini that seems almost made to order is preserved in Spada's papers in the Vatican.111 In the 1725 printed edition the text is abridged at this point and there is no mention of a drawing of Palazzo Pamphilj. In the present edition I have restored Borromini's drawing to its rightful place at the end of chapter XV.
Finally, Spada's text mentions a fundamental change in the contour of Piazza Navona. The house at the southeast corner of the piazza that protruded far into the public domain was demolished and reconstructed on the legitimate property line, while next door the church of S. Giacomo degli Spagnuoli received a new facade.112 The fountain in the center, supplied with 200 oncie of water from the Trevi aqueduct, lifted on high an obelisk that had lain fragmented in six pieces. For its decipherment Spada referred the reader to Kircher, thus establishing a date of around 1650 for his text.113 The church of S. Agnese, begun in 1652, is not mentioned.
5. The Publication Enterprise of 1660: Martinelli and Barrière
By 1657 the Casa dei Filippini, S. Carlino and the Lateran had been described in manuscript relazioni, and some Lateran material had been published in two learned tomes. But Borromini himself was already looking at other outlets. For a time the small Roman guidebook seemed to him to be a better vehicle for showing his buildings and voicing his views than large monographs too closely bound up with the interests of the patron. Two friends emerged, the learned antiquarian Fioravante Martinelli and the French printmaker Domenico Barrière, who helped him find his own voice and craft his own public image. Working with them in a harmony and understanding that he never completely achieved with Spada, Borromini conceived the idea of a great publication of all his work.
5a. Fioravante Martinelli
Fioravante Martinelli (1599-1667) was a polygraph who was destined to become Borromini's most eloquent champion.114 The two men were exact contemporaries, though they do not seem to have met until they were both past fifty. Martinelli came out of a poor Roman background and entered the church. In 1630 he was made a member of the Congregazione Urbana, an association of gentlemen prelates serving in the great noble households.115 At about the same time he came into contact with an Oratorian prelate, Oratio Giustiniani, who was destined to play a crucial if ambiguous role in his career.116
Giustiniani was named primo custode of the Vatican Library in 1630 and cardinal librarian in 1636. During the decade 1630-40 Martinelli's role might be described as acting librarian and agent of the cardinal. Service blossomed into friendship, and Martinelli was named Giustiniani's heir in a will of 1633. He was at the dying cardinal's bedside, comforting him but keeping off his brothers, in 1649. Thereafter there was bad blood between Martinelli and the Giustiniani clan, which included another Oratorian, padre Giuliano Giustiniani. Martinelli finally settled affairs relating to the cardinal's will with the Oratorians only in 1654, after padre Giuliano's death. Thus in the years around 1650-52, when Borromini was falling out of favor with the Oratorians and beginning to lose his hold on the commission, Martinelli was also at loggerheads with the congregation. Possibly ostracism from the inner circles of the Oratorians was a common bond.
It is not known how the two men met, but it was probably around 1653. In the early editions of his Roma ricercata, published in 1644 and 1650, Martinelli makes no effort to single out Borromini's buildings.117 Nor does the architect occupy a special place in Martinelli's survey of Roman churches and antiquities of 1653, Roma ex ethnica sacra. But he may well have furnished a drawing for the frontispiece.118
But by 1655 Martinelli had assumed the role of Borromini's spokesman. His book Primo trofeo della SS. Croce, published in that year, is a monograph on the underground oratory of S. Maria in Via Lata, the church that would be transformed three years later by Pietro da Cortona. In a long digression Martinelli describes Borromini's work at the Lateran. From his choice of words we can see that Martinelli was in close touch with Virgilio Spada and with Borromini himself. He repeats themes explored in Spada's manuscript on the Lateran, the Discrittione, like the logic of Borromini's convex tabernacles and the artful use of marble. He even echoes Spada's suggestive phrase, "angoli nemici della natura." His praise goes to the heart of Borromini's endeavor:
una nuova architettura d'artefici, dotato dalla natura con infinita prodigalità d'ingegno, & impossessato, per li continui studij, e frequentata esperienza, della Vitruviana professione, dovesse far apparire nuova meraviglia nel mondo.119
In Martinelli the architect found a writer who could air his views more eloquently than Spada. All that was wanted now was a competent printmaker, and Borromini found one in the person of Domenico Barrière.
5b. Domenico Barrière
Domenico Barrière (c. 1610/15-1678), a native of Marseilles, arrived in Rome around 1640. He would spend his entire working life there.120 He was a disciple and friend of Claude Lorrain, and in his earliest prints he imitated Claudian seascapes.121 In 1646 he provided etchings for Ferrari's book on lemon-culture.122 Around 1647 or 1648 he began to work for Prince Camillo Pamphilj, and he is documented in the service of the Pamphilj all through the period 1653-59, even though the great book on the family villa that includes many Barrière etchings did not appear until about 1670.123 Following the trail of Claude's patrons, he published a large print of Frascati in 1647 and of the Villa Borghese in Rome in 1650.124 But princely patronage was erratic and Barrière's meager income had to be supplemented throughout his life by loose prints of ecclesiastical themes, especially the Quarant'ore.
Barrière remained close to Claude all his life.125 Yet to become an architectural etcher he had to learn many things that Claude could not teach him: rigorous perspective, symmetry and a disciplined hatching appropriate for reproducing architectural drawings. His first essay in architectural etching is a brilliant print of 1648 after a project by Martino Longhi the Younger for the facade of SS. Vincenzo ed Anastasio. It shows the full complement of decoration that the patron Mazarin had originally wanted but in the end could not afford.126 In 1649 he did a large view of Rome from the Pincian,127 and in 1650 a splendid view of the Easter festivities in Piazza Navona, which shows Borromini's gallery facade next to the Pamphilj palace.128
We may assume that Borromini and Barrière met some time between 1650 and 1653; in any case their paths crossed frequently in these years. In 1653 Barrière was commissioned to etch a frontispiece for an oration in honor of S. Ivo. He put the drum and spiral of Borromini's church, which had just been finished, in the background of his print.129 In 1654 he used the Lateran--in fact the first image we have of Borromini's nave--for the decorative cartouche on a conclusione, or announcement of a public disputation of a doctoral thesis.130
The trio of architect, scholar and printmaker had definitely come together by 1655, when Barrière etched plates for Martinelli's Primo trofeo and Borromini supplied the author with information on his restoration of the Lateran. The three men found that they could work with productive synergy. They collaborated again in 1658 on the third edition of Martinelli's Roma ricercata, a tiny book, as small as the Opera and Studio are large, but one of great importance. It shaped Borromini's public image for a generation.
In the first two editions of Roma ricercata, 1644 and 1650, Martinelli had not taken any special notice of Borromini. By the time of the third edition of 1658, however, Borromini and Martinelli were fast friends. Borromini and his buildings are mentioned fifteen times in the text, always with admiration and sometimes with inside information. The Casa dei Filippini is discussed at length and accompanied by three Barrière etchings, done after drawings supplied by Borromini: "dal quale sono stato honorato del suo disegno."131
The prints do not show the Casa dei Filippini "as is," but instead tend to isolate it and idealize it. We must assume that this was Borromini's intention. The print of the Torre dell'Orologio shows ornament that was never carried out, including a corner fountain. The garden courtyard is shown as a graceful airy loggia, while the bulky mass of dormitory rooms that in reality looms up around the courtyard is entirely suppressed. The Oratory facade is shown with an ideal symmetry that it never really had. It is cut off from the church on the right and from the extra corner bays on the left. It stands on a unified podium and shows a unified skyline. Three open doors give the illusion that a normal church lies behind. This tiny etching, in which the facade is freed from the circumstances of its genesis and reclaimed from its patrons, looks forward to the full-blown idealizations of the great publication project of 1660.
We know about the publication enterprise of 1660 from a detailed description that Borromini's nephew, Bernardo Castelli-Borromini, gave of it in 1685:
é perche delli molti studij e pensieri fatti per diversi personaggi--et altri disegni di tempij e fabriche secondo che li venivano nel pensiero--quali acio non restassero sepolti aveva determinato di farne un libro et darli alla lucie con stamparli, tanto quelli messi in opera quanto quelli non messi in opera per diversi acidenti, et li altri soi pensieri per fare vedere il molto del suo sapere. E cosi prese Domenicho Bariera intagliatore de rami--al quale li diede li disegni della Sapienza, e li fecie intagliare la pianta giumetrale et in prospettiva. Li fecie intagliare l'alzata per di dentro et per davanti et per di dietro--et anche li fecie intagliare la faciata del Oratorio de S. Filippo--con l'orologio, nelli quali rami spese da quatro cento scudi in circha, come delle riceute apare apresso al nepote di detto Boromini--fatte dal detto Bariera--et li detti rami sono in mano del nipote del Boromino.132
Bernardo speaks of seven Barrière prints: five of the Sapienza, one of the Oratory facade, and one of the Torre dell'Orologio. The closest we can get to these prints are four proofs--three of the Sapienza and one of the Oratory--which entered the collection of Carlo Antonio Dal Pozzo at some time in the seventeenth century and are now in London.133 They correspond exactly to Bernardo's description: "l'alzata per di dentro et per davanti et per di dietro" of S. Ivo and "la faciata del Oratorio." Thus the ones that are missing are "la pianta giumetrale et in prospettiva" of S. Ivo and the facade of the Torre dell'Orologio. The prints of S. Ivo can be dated with exactitude to 1660. They show the church as it stood after Alexander VII's extensive alterations, finished in that year, which completely transformed the shell left behind by Urban VIII and Innocent X.134 On the interior the dome has been given its new stucco decorations; corretti have been opened in the upper parts of the walls and niches have been filled in. The exterior of the drum has been drastically changed, compared to the state shown in Barrière's thesis print of 1653 or in a drawing in Berlin of c. 1655.135 Eighteen new pilasters have been added to the drum as well as figurative ornament like the book with seven seals and the Chigi monti along the top of the exedra.
On the other hand there are many features in the prints which will disappear or be changed shortly after 1660. Through the door of S. Ivo one glimpses a floor pattern that was superseded when the present marble floor was installed in 1661. The north portone on Piazza S. Eustachio is shown as it was built in 1660, but the south portone merely repeats it in symmetry and does not yet show the different design carried out in 1664. A columnar portal with statues of Faith and Charity is shown in front of the main entrance on the courtyard, although in the end it was never carried out. In the section one can still see the large doors which originally connected the church with the side corridors, but which were sealed shortly after 1660 in order to brace up the failing structure. A baldachin, mentioned by Borromini himself in a conversation of 1660, is shown suspended over the high altar.136
Finally, it may be observed that Barrière's perspectives idealize the building in a way that is familiar from the little prints in Roma ricercata. The great drum is shown in splendid isolation from rest of the Sapienza, and the huge buttresses that had to be installed between it and the side wings are completely omitted.
Bernardo says that Borromini also had Barrière engrave "la pianta giumetrale" of S. Ivo. This plate does not survive, but Borromini's preparatory drawings for it do (Alb. 499-500).137 Although sometimes taken as projects for the church, these small drawings are in fact simplified idealizations of the design. They show it not as built but as Borromini reconceived it in 1660. They include Alexander VII's library and many smaller innovations of the campaign of 1658-60: the opening up of new singers' corretti inside the church, the closing of the upper story of niches, and the closing of the large doors which formerly led from the church to the loggie on either side, and Alexander VII's many changes on the exterior of the drum.
At about the same time Borromini did a similar set of idealized geometrical drawings for S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. These drawings too are often mistaken as projects for the church, but they drastically simplify the plan and were certainly done to transmit to a wider public the "secret" of S. Carlino, namely the mysterious geometric armature around which the church and the facade were designed (Alb. 168, 169, 173, 175, 176).138
Borromini invested great emotive effort in the publication enterprise. He had already paid Barrière a large sum, 400 scudi, and as was the practice kept the plates.139 He prepared drawings for prints of S. Ivo and S. Carlo, and possibly also others for Palazzo Falconieri.140 Borromini was about to cross an important threshold and to fulfill expectations that were commonly held about the learned architect in a bookish culture.
No one helped Borromini move into the literary world more ably than Fioravante Martinelli. The friendship formed between the two men around 1653 was close and destined to last until their deaths fourteen years later. We hear of walks together in Roman churches and explorations of the ruins of the Palatine.141 Borromini designed a small and delightful villa for Martinelli on Monte Mario.142
At times it seems as if Martinelli alone understood the deepest principles of Borromini's art. As S. Ivo was nearing completion in about 1658-60 Martinelli composed a long monograph on the history of the Sapienza, in which he explained the great virtues of Borromini's design and defended him from the closing ring of enemies.143 Martinelli thought of illustrating the book with Borromini drawings.144 The monograph was not published. Martinelli then incorporated it into his guidebook, Roma ornata, written 1660-63, but this suffered the same fate. This was unfortunate for Borromini, who could have used Martinelli's ringing praise, as well as his penetrating analysis, in his embattled last years:
Si che fu scelto il Cav. Borromino, al quale per la vivezza dell'ingegno, per la prattica delle regole Vitruviane, e per l'assuefattione ad imitare l'opere de migliori professori d'architettura antichi Greci, e Romani, non dava travaglio il miscuglio de' cantoni, e delle linee dritte e torte, ne la mancanza di lume vivo, conoscendo, che il trofeo del valore dell'architetto nasceva dalle difficoltà, dalle quali veniva travagliato, et essercitato l'ingegno (fol. 274r-v)
si risolse piantare una Cappella, che potesse servire per modello di gratioso, e ben stabil tempio, e che secondase con proportionata vaghezza gli angoli, che produceva il sito angustiato fuor di ogni regola da i muri laterali (fol. 274v)
Diede l'osservante architetto principio ad ornare con vaga bizzarria, mantenendosi nel decoro dovuto al sacro luogo, la detta cappella... (fol. 277r)
...Cav. Borromino, al quali i virtuosi della sua professione devono restar molt'obligati per haver insegnato di fabricare edifitij reali senza demolire le sue parti nobili; e di nobilitare picciolissimi siti con fabriche sontuose, magnifiche, e copiose d'ordine e di ornamenti...(fol. 278r-v)145
Martinelli died on 24 July 1667, just one week before Borromini's suicide. The emotional stress of the architect's last days was probably exaggerated by the loss of this articulate and understanding friend.146
In the last few years of his life Borromini was courted by the polymaths of Rome, who had begun to form expectations about his projected book. In 1664 Carlo Cartari, former rector of the Sapienza, wrote to Borromini, asking for information for what we would now call a bio-bibliography of the architect:
Se altri autori l'abbiano fatta mentione di V.S. oltre Mons. Rasponi, Padre Macedo, e S. Fioravante Martinelli. Quali opere V.S. habbia pensiero di stampare.147
To Cartari Borromini was a virtuoso and a professore, the kind of man for whom publishing and being published were part of the natural course of events. And in his better moods Borromini thought of himself in the same high terms. He even intended, his nephew tells us, to publish designs for "tempij e fabriche secondo che li venivano nel pensiero," that is, fantasy projects for which there was no actual commission, but which he wanted to show to the world, "acio non restassero sepolti."148 But this desire for fame was held in check by a very private personality, and in the end the urge to secrecy welled up to block the publication project before it could come to fruition. Bernardo remarks that a few days before Borromini's death he burned all the drawings that he had planned to publish out of fear that they would fall into the hands of his rivals.
Domenico Barrière, the last of the trio involved in the publication project, survived for another decade. Although he worked as a commercial engraver and was engaged by many diverse artists and patrons, there is some evidence that the relationship with Borromini had been a special one. In his last years he struck up a friendship with a Minim monk, Charles Plumier, a concitoyen from Marseilles who resided at the Trinità ai Monti in Rome, where he pursued his studies in botany. Barrière told Plumier how Borromini often showed him a manuscript of "lessons in architecture" by Michelangelo with drawings in the master's own hand. This lost book must have been one of Borromini's most precious possessions.149 For like Michelangelo, but unlike the minor talents who wrote trivial treatises on the orders in the mid-seicento,150 Borromini was determined to teach by example, not by rule. For a brief moment it seemed as if Barrière would provide the wings on which his exempla would fly far and wide. After Borromini's death Barrière returned to the usual commissions for festival apparatuses, catafalques and conclusioni (thesis prints), ecking out a meager living.151 He died a poor man in 1678.152
In 1685 Bernardo wrote that the plates engraved by Barrière were still in his possession, and so were the hundreds of drawings now in the Albertina. But Bernardo tried to make his own career out of the skillful reuse or even forging of his uncle's drawings and had no interest in seeing them published.153 For sixty years the publication project of 1660 lay in hibernation, while publishers hunted for traces of it, almost always in vain.
6. Cruyl, Falda and the De Rossi firms
The fact that Borromini's buildings were in the end extensively published was due to the interest of the commercial firms, and this began in earnest in the last decade of his life. The importance of architectural prints in this period can be seen in a letter sent from Rome by the Frenchman Louis Fouquet to his brother Nicolas Fouquet, the patron of Vaux-le-Vicomte, in Paris on 2 August 1655:
J'ay recherché soigneusement dans Rome toutes les estampes d'architecture, fontaines et palais; je vous les ay envoiés par Saint-Malo et j'en ay fait descrire un mémoire que je vous envoie. Il s'en trouvera encore quelques unes pour les ornements particuliers des maisons...154
The great architectural publisher of the reign of Alexander VII was Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi (1627-91), who by inheritance and acquisition had assembled a large collection of plates in his shop in Piazza della Pace. His first publication of a Borromini work was the Abundance Fountain in an illusionistic niche across from Palazzo Spada, which appeared in a collection of small prints of Roman fountains.155 But it is with the Giovanni Giacomo's Nuovo teatro of 1665 and the advent of Falda that Borromini is really published in abundance for the first time, albeit in stolen images.
Giovanni Giacomo's rival was a cousin of the same clan, Giovanni Battista de Rossi (c. 1601-78), aided by his son Matteo Gregorio (1638-1702), with a shop in Piazza Navona.156 In 1664-65 the two printers each applied for a papal privilege to protect a great work that was in the making. Each had a brilliant young draftsman in training, like racehorses in rival stables. In 1657 Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi had discovered a 14-year-old prodigy working in Bernini's shop, Giovanni Battista Falda (c.1643-1678) from Valduggia near Novara. He raised Falda almost like a son, sending him for training in perspective and giving him access to his great print collection.157 This happy combination of nurturing publisher and talented apprentice would dominate the market for Roman prints up to Falda's premature death in 1678 at the age of thirty-five.158
By far the greater talent, however, lay with a thirty-year-old Flemish priest, Lievin Cruyl of Ghent.159 Raised in the city of Jan Van Eyck, he furthered his training in Rome in the circles of perspectival experts around the French Minims and Cardinal Bernardino Spada. Cruyl had an eye that was at once wide-angled and telescopic. In his views the air is always limpid and one can pick out the most distant buildings on the horizon, but the streets and piazzas of the city also open up into grandiose and regal spaces. The arc of vision in his views can cover 200 or even 300 degrees. He combines the most acute and realistic observations about buildings with a sweeping urban vision.160
Falda borrowed almost literally from many of Cruyl's drawings for the prints of his first book, the Nuovo teatro of 1665. But he was so ill at ease with Cruyl's wide angled vision that he often split the views into two or sometimes three separate prints.
Between August 1664 and April 1665 Cruyl produced the twenty-one views now in Cleveland and Amsterdam, in addition to eight or nine others known from prints in the Prospectus or from the vignettes on Matteo Gregorio de Rossi's map of 1668.161 Aside from his optical equipment and his amazing eye Cruyl had inside information on the Piazza S. Pietro, the twin churches at Piazza del Popolo, and the facade of S. Rita al Campidoglio, which he draws complete in January 1665 just as it was about to go up. Possibly he was in touch with the young Carlo Fontana, who could have shown him drawings for all these projects.162
But Cruyl was more attentive to Borromini's buildings than those of any other architect. He informed himself about projects and kept abreast of changes as buildings went up. Just after he drew the Propaganda Fide, for instance, Borromini enclosed the open terrace above the facade. Cruyl immediately sketched the change in pencil on the back of his drawing163 and was the first to show the new attic in a little view on the title page of the Prospectus in 1666. He gives us precious testimony about the early rustic front and campanile of S. Carlino, which he drew in the month Borromini's new facade was begun. We can only regret that he did not return to show the new facade rising.
Barrière's prints had tended to idealize Borromini's buildings and take them out of their messy contexts. Cruyl's realist eye works in the opposite direction. By omitting no oddity or irregularity, he deflates the fictive symmetries and inganni dell'occhio that Borromini had labored so hard to create. It is not hard to tell from his drawings, for instance, that the right half of the Propaganda facade or of the Oratory facade has a different kind of space behind it than the left half. He was fascinated by Borromini, but his first allegiance was to the squares and streets that Alexander VII was reshaping. If Barrière idealized Borromini's fanciful images, Cruyl seems intent on showing how well they were performing under the duress of reality.
Cruyl was a master of context, urban and social. With some subtlety he conveys the differences in rank between the Vallicella facade standing on a stone platform, the Oratory facade rising from the unpaved street and the motley houses of the neighborhood. In one wide sweep he alludes to the whole winding route leading from the Castel S. Angelo to the Oratory. In the print of Piazza Navona the Torre dell'Orologio is stuck like a needle in the background that pulls the eye back into the urban maze. In his veduta of S. Ivo he shows not the courtyard exedra but the S. Eustachio facade that Alexander VII had just reshaped, complete with little men climbing the spiral. He "demolishes" Palazzo Stati to show the full facade, which is more honest than Falda, who sets it back as though the piazza were roomy. Cruyl's view of Piazza Trevi does not flatter either Bernini's unfinished fountain or Borromini's unfinished Palazzo Carpegna. But he is acutely sensitive to the power relationships that had created this politically charged space, and he does not forget to include the palace of Mazarin, along with that of the Barberini and the Quirinal, on the horizon.
Very few of Cruyl's exquisite drawings got into print. He was exploited, not nurtured, by his unscrupulous publisher, especially the son, Matteo Gregorio de Rossi.164 The slim volume of ten prints which appeared in 1666 represents only a fraction of Cruyl's output, and only one shows a Borromini building, S. Agnese in Piazza Navona.165 Ever the realist, Cruyl showed just what he saw in 1665-66, when the three-story gallery to the left of the church has not yet been raised to match the four-story library to the right. For this commission still in process it was the wise printmaker who bided his time, and in fact it is Falda who gives us the classic image of the fully symmetrical church facade in 1667-69.166
Falda too, though often derivative from Cruyl, shows flashes of insight and sometimes seems privy to inside information. He presents an unexecuted project for the sculpture program on Carlo Rainaldi's facade of S. Maria in Campitelli. He cuts the Oratory facade off on the left, deftly exploiting the edge of the print to produce an almost-idealized image much like Barrière's. Around the Propaganda Fide facade he shows a symmetrical arrangement of windows that was never carried out but that may reflect Borromini's intentions. And as late as his map of 1676 he shows a five-bay facade on the Propaganda, recalling Borromini's project of fifteen years earlier.167 As the facade of S. Carlino was being finished by Bernardo in 1675-77 he ventured a guess as to what Borromini might have wanted it to look like.168
But it is still a tragedy that Cruyl withdrew from the printmaking trade, turning instead to small drawings for collectors, and that his optically sophisticated vision would reach the world mostly in Falda's watered-down versions. Cruyl left Rome some time between 1671 and 1676, while Falda died in 1678. At least some justice was done in 1697, when many of Cruyl's vedute were published in Graevius's great Thesaurus.169
7. Posthumous Publications: 1670-1693
After Borromini's death in 1667 his reputation was such that Falda and De Rossi continued to search out his original drawings. They never seemed to have had access to the legacy kept by Borromini's nephew, Bernardo. Nevertheless, Rome was full of Borromini drawings if one knew where to look. Their first coup was the discovery of an original drawing for Palazzo Falconieri. They may have come across it with the help of Ottavio Falconieri, the nephew of the builder of the palace and the cousin of the then owner. Ottavio did not live in the palace, but being an érudit he may have had access to the family archives. He knew Falda, since he had illustrated his book on the Pyramid of Cestius in 1665.
In any case Falda and De Rossi included the Falconieri drawing in a group of four etchings of Palazzo Falconieri, which they published in 1670-77 in their edition of an older book, Pietro Ferrerio's Palazzi di Roma.170 The key to understanding the elevation is to remember that it, and in fact all of Falda's prints except the plan, show the palace in reverse. Secondly, the elevation contains an optical trick. What looks at first glance like a single long rooftop loggia is really two separate loggias. The executed three-bay loggia, which should appear on the left of the print, is shown on the right because of the reversal. On the left the print shows a second loggia, four bays long. This is puzzzling at first but suddenly makes sense when one realizes it represents not a loggia on the Via Giulia facade but a loggia that was planned, thought never built, on a wing of the palace closer to the river. The convention of the orthogonal elevation makes the two structures seem to be continuous along the roofline, when in fact they were meant to be separate structures.
The curving rooftop parapets, the little torrette with pinecones on top, and the ionic columns in front of the torrette were all built on the right side of the palace; difficulties with the church of S. Maria dell'Orazione e Morte prevented their being built on the left.171 But of course they must have been present at both ends of the palace in the original project. The reversal and other distortions aside, the roofline shown in the Falda print conveys a dynamic space-shaping mentality that is entirely characteristic of Borromini.
It was five or six years after Falda's death in 1678 that De Rossi came very close to putting his hands on the material Borromini had prepared for publication, though he still did not find the great hidden cache of drawings. In 1683 he issued a handsome folio volume of Roman church designs, the Insignium Romae Templorum Prospectus. It was a splendid if partly pirated volume,172 showing churches from Sangallo and Michelangelo to the late baroque. The fulcrum rested squarely on Borromini. The printmakers Francesco Nuvolone and Giovanni Francesco Venturini did a creditable job with S. Carlo, S. Agnese and the Oratory. But they worked directly from the buildings; at this stage they did not have access to original drawings.
But no sooner was the book out than De Rossi came across copies of the Barrière prints of S. Ivo and the Oratory, probably the proofs in the Dal Pozzo library. He immediately issued a second edition in 1684 using the new material. He redrew all the Barrière prints in strict orthogonal elevation, updating them where necessary to match the buildings as they then stood.173 The results are strangely clumsy, and in addition De Rossi reversed all his sources. The spiral of S. Ivo, for instance, turns in the wrong direction. And he did not find any plan for S. Ivo; the one he gives is obviously of his own making, and it is hopelessly incorrect.174
The quick second edition of the Insignium Romae Templorum Prospectus shows the eagerness with which publishers sought out fresh Borromini material, but also the traps into which they could fall without authentic plans to guide them. Aside from this one glimpse of Barrière proofs Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi seems never to have cracked Bernardo's hold on the drawings.
The best print of a Borromini building from the late 17th century was published by Giovanni Giacomo's old rival, Matteo Gregorio de Rossi, in 1693. It shows the Lateran nave and is full of ingenious observations of the roof structure, light sources, "reliquary" ovals, and entrance "teatro." Without help from secret drawings, it recreates the complex spatial play in the basilica in a way that far surpasses Rasponi and would not even be outdone by Piranesi.175
8. The De Rossi Firm: Specchi and the Studio d'architettura civile
By the late 17th century Giovanni Giacomo de Rossi had successfully elevated his firm to the leading position among Roman printmakers. He vastly increased the small stock of copperplates that he had inherited in 1648. He invested heavily in new undertakings, cultivated contacts among the aristocracy and college of cardinals, and exploited the advantages of the papal privilege. He rode the wave of Alexander VII's interest in topographical prints as a means of propagating the glory of papal Rome. His only setback was the unexpected death of Falda in 1678 at the age of thirty-five. Falda was to have become his adopted son and heir. Recoiling from the blow he adopted the young printmaker Domenico Freddiani in 1679, obliging him to change his name to Domenico de Rossi. In 1692 Domenico inherited Giovanni Giacomo's shop in Piazza della Pace with its large collection of copperplates. He also inherited his adoptive father's tendency to expand aggressively and to advertise himself at every turn, both with printed catalogues and announcements of his extensive list on the frontispiece of new publications.176
What Domenico lacked was a Falda, but he found someone even better in the young Alessandro Specchi (1666-1729). Specchi had an unusual combination of talents that would not be seen again until Piranesi: architect, draftsman and skillful etcher. He worked with Carlo Fontana in the 1690s and etched many of the plates in Fontana's great book of 1694, the Templum Vaticanum.177 Domenico De Rossi took him on to do the plates for a fourth volume of the Nuovo teatro, published in 1699, where he could show his mettle as Falda's heir and even outdo the late lamented prodigy. In fact Specchi developed a wide-angled vision and a preference for telescopic views that is reminiscent of Cruyl. But except for a splendid angle view of the Propaganda Nuovo teatro IV tends to neglect Borromini.178 Still, these fifty-two magnificent etchings were a fresh view of Roman Seicento architecture. In contrast to his rival Matteo Gregorio de Rossi, who had pirated Falda's prints after the expiration of the papal privilege,179 Domenico de Rossi tried to revivify the Nuovo teatro by new investment.
Specchi's genius as a printmaker is perhaps best seen in the three-plate etching of 1704-06 of his own newly completed Porto di Ripetta.180 Wide-angled and telescopic simultaneously, enlived by insets showing the previous condition of the site and the view across the river, picturesque in a way that seeks to charm ("pascere la vista") but is also informative about the "Idea" or geometric plan, the etching is one of the landmarks of early 18th-century topographical printmaking. It is no coincidence that it was published by the astute Domenico de Rossi.
The great architectural publication of the period, the Studio d'architettura civile, was conceived by Domenico de Rossi as a response to the conditions of academic teaching.181 The third class of the Concorsi Clementini required young architects to draw portals and other pieces of famous Renaissance and high baroque buildings. The Studio was meant to serve as a pattern book for an audience of aspiring architects both in Rome and abroad. The first volume of 1702 had 142 prints, mostly "porte e finestre" with a few outline drawings of facades in order to situate the details in a larger context. The drawings preserved in the Uffizi and Berlin show the care with which Specchi and his associate Carlo Quadry measured the architecture and checked their renderings against the originals.182 Fascinated with modinature they drew geometrical templates for every intricate moulding on the surmise that the original architects, especially Borromini, had done the same.
Protected from the outset by a papal privilege, Domenico de Rossi was already predicting the appearance of a second volume of the Studio in the preface to the first. It duly appeared in 1711, and when it was reviewed that year in the Giornale de'Letterati d'Italia the writer explained that a third volume was also in preparation, which only saw the light in 1721.183 The second volume was dedicated to chapels and tombs, the third to churches, chapels and a few grand buildings outside of Rome.
There is a progression in the three volumes from the small detail to the larger ensemble, loosely corresponding to the progression from third to first class in the concorsi. Volume I richly represents Borromini's finest doors and windows from the Palazzo Barberini, the Lateran, the Propaganda and the Oratory. In volume II the renderings show larger parts of buildings. One plate depicts the full facade of the Propaganda as well as sections through the Re Magi chapel, eight plates show ornament from S. Carlino and one attempts a partial section and a crude quarter-plan of that difficult church. Eight prints are devoted to Borromini's reinstalled monuments in the Lateran, including the tomb of Cardinal Giulio Acquaviva, an ancestor of Cardinal Francesco Acquaviva d'Aragona to whom the volume is dedicated. All of this comes from the buildings as they stood in the early eighteenth century, and there is no indication that De Rossi was cognisant of original drawings. They were reserved for a complete newcomer.
10. Giannini: The Opera 1720-25
In 1720, onto a scene majestically dominated by De Rossi's Studio, Sebastiano Giannini's Opera came as a bolt out of the blue. Nothing is known of him or his shop "all'insegna dell'Ancora" in Piazza Navona, and there are no other books from his press.184 His whole enterprise was based on a lucky coup. He claimed to have found "l'intero studio" of the late Borromini at a time when Borromini's drawings were in great demand: "questi disegni adunque in grande stima tenuti da tutti gl'Intendenti." This was his comparative advantage over the De Rossi behemoth. Whereas De Rossi offered the public a wide array of architects, the Opera dei più celebri architetti, Giannini offered them just one man but in depth, the Opera del Caval. Francesco Boromino Cavata da suoi originali.
Where did Giannini get the Borromini drawings? Bernardo Borromini went to his grave in 1709 without completing the publication enterprise that his uncle had begun in 1660, but without letting anyone else complete it either.185 There is no mention of drawings or models in his testament, and the location of the drawings between 1709 and 1720 is still not known. By 1720 Giannini had come across them or possibly even purchased them, and used them to produce the first volume of his Opera in 1720 and the second in 1725. He seems to have been working on the third volume when he died, we may surmise, around 1730. This, then, would be the date when the drawings entered the collection of Philipp von Stosch.186
10a. Dedications to Clement XI and Cardinal Imperiali
Giannini dedicated the first volume of 1720 on S. Ivo to Pope Clement XI. He hoped that it would prove an incentive to finishing the Sapienza. He knew that Clement XI had sponsored the programs of apostle statues and paintings of prophets in the Lateran nave,187 and so he praised the pope for building new temples and restoring the celebrated shrines of old ("ò à fabricare nuovi Tempij, ò à riedifare, abbellire con pitture, e ornare con statue i più celebri santuarij"). Clement XI was generally interested in the publication of valuable old texts, both in architecture and in science, which had lain long unpublished.188 But publications on this scale were enormously expensive, and so when Clement XI died in 1721, leaving some major book projects in the lurch, Giannini immediately sought other patronage.189
Volume II on the Oratory, published in 1725, was dedicated to Cardinal Giuseppe Renato Imperiali (1651-1737), "La stimabilissima Persona dell'E.V., che intendentissima delle belle arti largamente le favorisce, e protegge." This is not mere flattery, since Imperiali was indeed a great administrator of public works.190 Born in Genoa and educated for a clerical career at the Collegio Germanico-Hungarico in Rome, he was created cardinal by Alexander VIII in 1690. After serving as legate to Ferrara, he returned to Rome after 1696 as prefect of the Congregazione del Buon Governo. In effect, for forty years he was the man responsible for the administration of the Papal State. The album of architectural drawings from the family collection published by Gambardella covers public works of every sort as well as civic buildings and churches throughout papal territory. He worked especially closely with the architect Filippo Barigioni, but also with G.B. Contini, Carlo Buratti, Filippo Leti, Gabriele Valvassori, and Felice Facci. He was the dedicatee of a sketchbook done in 1705 by an architect in the orbit of Filippo Juvarra,191 and of a series of prints etched in 1725 by Paolo Anesi.192 After a long and fruitful career, he died on 15 January 1737, and was buried in a grand tomb by Pietro Bracci in S. Agostino.193
Imperiali had a fabulous library. It was already famous at the time of his legation to Ferrara and it grew rapidly in the first decades of the eighteenth century.194 It was installed in his residence at Piazza Colonna,195 but as his death approached he grew concerned about its future. Documents in the Augustinian Archives discuss a possible gift of the library to the Biblioteca Angelica in 1737, complete with shelves and furniture. A bust of the cardinal would have had to be displayed and the name changed to the Biblioteca Imperiali Angelica. A spacious apartment would have to be provided within the convent for the reigning prelate of the family, with facilities for servants and horses. A huge expansion of the library, "una gran spesa di nuovo vaso," was forseen.196
In the end the proposed gift did not work out and the library went to Imperiali's heir, Cardinal Spinelli, who was bound by the will to find a suitable palace to house the library and the librarian, which would be open to the public. After unsuccessfully negotiating for Palazzo De Carolis on the Corso, Spinelli bought Palazzo Bonelli in Piazza SS. Apostoli and hired a librarian. The palace became a meeting ground of an erudite society with Jansenist, anti-Jesuit leanings who clustered around Spinelli, men like Celestino Galiani, Daniele Concina and Giovanni Bottari. Winckelmann sojourned here in 1758 and 1762. When Spinelli died in 1763 the palace (not including the library) was rented to Cardinal Rezzonico, Piranesi's patron, who resided there until 1776. The final increment came with the acquisition of books from the great library of Cardinal Slusius by Imperiali's nephew and heir.197 But by the end of the eighteenth century the library was largely dispersed. It was recatalogued in 1793 and sold at auction in 1796, when the palace passed to the hands of the banker Vincenzo Valentini.198
Cardinal Imperiali must have had many contacts with the Oratorians, and this lover of libraries must often have ascended the steps of the Casa dei Filippini to visit the Biblioteca Vallicelliana. He was indeed the perfect patron for a monograph on the building.
10b. Giannini's Editorial Practice
Giannini was an active editor who altered what he found and added material of his own. The first ten plates in Giannini's first volume, for example, which show small picturesque views of S. Ivo, appear to be different in scale and spirit from the rest of the book. They would seem, at first sight, to be an older core of seventeenth-century material, to be, in fact, the prints that Borromini commissioned from Barrière. In contrast, the large-scale plates that follow would seem to be Giannini's own invention. This general division is correct. But on closer inspection even the Barrière group turns out to be partly of Giannini's making. Since we have the Barrière proofs from the Dal Pozzo library we can see how Giannini altered some of Barrière's plates and forged others.
The view of S. Ivo from the courtyard (pl. VI) originally had Chigi monti on top of the exedra. Giannini transformed these into round bases with stars, and clumsily scratched lines representing an inscription under the Chigi arms. The section through S. Ivo (pl. VIII) originally showed a baldachin over the high altar, but Giannini burnished it out, probably because this removeable fixture was no longer in place in his day.
To this core of authentic if altered prints Giannini then added three new imitation Barrière prints, all much cruder than the originals: the view of the Sapienza along the via delle Catene, where the spiral of S. Ivo is carelessly reversed (pl. IV); the view of the Sapienza cortile facing west, where the shadows fall from the wrong direction (pl. VII); and the crude section through the church showing the west entrance.
Giannini's pl. III, however, may be a Barrière etching known from no other source. It shows the west (or Piazza Navona) facade of the Sapienza, proposing two new campanili, two great portals with emblematic herms, and a revetment of drafted masonry on the ground floor similar to Palazzo Falconieri.199 The heraldry is Pamphilj. This is probably the ornament that Giannini is urging Clement XI to complete: "non senza qualche speranza, che questi fogli possino un giorno servire d'invito, o d'incitamento alla terminazione di un lavoro così cospicuo."200 It seems that Giannini is reproducing an authentic Borromini design. He then proceeds on pl. XI to give an enlarged detail of a portal from the west facade, and on pls. XII-XII enlarged details of the campanile, but it does not seem that these are based on fresh Borromini drawings.201 It in fact was typical of Giannini to enlarge details on the plates in front of him without relying on new drawings.202
Giannini included two plans of S. Ivo. One is the strange plate X with a bee in the central hexagon. If it really is "secondo la prima Idea, e Disegno del detto Cavalier Boromino" the original is lost. But many features argue for an early date, such as the doors connecting the church directly with the side corridors and the passages from the high altar to the sacristies. The other plan comes at the end of the book (following pl. XLV but unnumbered). This was drawn by Giannini on the basis of Alb. 499 and Alb. 500, Borromini's plans with flaps indicating three levels of the church.
But in this last plan Giannini introduces a new and foreign geometry not found in any Borromini drawing, the double triangle. A single triangle is indeed essential to draw the plan of S. Ivo, but the second triangle predicts no useful points on the plan and is Giannini's invention. This is a case where Giannini's alterations of the material immediately influenced the way people saw the church. For example, in an inventory of 1727 it is said that the pavement is based on a double triangle:
lascricato di marmo bianco e turchino à scacchi, che ogni due pezzi formano un'esagona, essendo la pianta di essa [chiesa] due triangoli, uno dentro l'altro.203
Since Giannini many scholars have persuaded themselves that the star of Solomon is the key to the iconography of the church, and indeed nothing has fed the myth of Borromini as a magus immersed deep in arcane symbolism more than this eighteenth-century invention.
To the nucleus of Barrière and false-Barrière plates Giannini added a large number of more exact and orthogonal plates, typical of the early eighteenth century. Several of these can be pasted together to form a very large elevation of S. Ivo, and others form an equally large section.204 These are strict orthogonal renderings which show the church as it stood in 1720, complete with the stucco apostles in the niches and the high altar by Giovanni Battista Contini.205 Although they give the impression of absolute accuracy, they curiously show every architectural detail, including the spiral, in reverse.
When De Rossi brought out the last volume of his Studio in 1721 he now had his eye on Giannini. He too tried to join in the hunt for original drawings. He included Bernini's unexecuted project for the apse of S. Maria Maggiore206 and also four projects by Borromini for the high altar of the Lateran: "Pensieri del Cavalier Boromini non posti in opera."207 With news of Giannini's next volume in the air De Rossi introduced an exact plan of the Casa dei Filippini, one of the most accurate ever published.208 Impressed by the huge composite section and elevation of S. Ivo he added to volume III a large print of Domenico Fontana's Palazzo Reale in Naples made up from three plates.209 He seems to have been taken off guard by the competition from Giannini but to have tried to respond it.
In 1725 Giannini published the second volume in the Opera devoted to the Oratory of the Filippini. The first volume had very little text, all of it engraved directly on the copperplates, but now he engaged the services of a typographer to print a very long text as well as the title page and dedications in letterpress.210 Expanding out from his original treasure trove Giannini had gone hunting in archives and discovered the Piena relatione still owned by the Oratorians. Giannini worked hurriedly transcribing the manuscript and made many small mistakes. At one point he misread an abbreviation and changed "Dell'ornamento in generale" to "Dell'Oratorio in generale," which makes a nonsensical title for Chapter 5. He omitted countless short phrases and one longer passage on the Palazzo Pamphilj. He changed the text wherever it referred to illustrations, adding new plate numbers and interpolations that emphasize his own particular interest in modinature. He removed the future tense in all those places where it was no longer appropriate.
Finally he introduced a date to his edition, May 10, 1656, which does not appear in the manuscript or any other source. This date is a mystery. It does not correspond with any significant date in the building history, and it is over five years after the death of the Marchese di Castel Rodrigo. Neither Borromini nor Spada was so impractical as to dedicate a book to a dead patron. But the date should not mislead us into thinking that Giannini used some other manuscript with different drawings.211
For his plates Giannini actively edited the mass of graphic material in front of him.212 He had a Barrière plate of the Oratory facade like the proof now in London, but he slightly altered it by introducing spiral columns around the main portal (pl. V). Either he had glimpsed the spiral columns on the Windsor drawing, or he had found an authentic Borromini study for the portal (pl. X). But the grand fancy of the isolated Oratory facade troubled his realist eye, and so he added two more prints of the facade, one an elevation as it stood in his day (pl. VI), and the other a bizarre compromise between realism and idealization (pl. IV). While some of his details of the facade are taken from the building others are based on the drawings by Anonymous C in the manuscript, including the one that copies an original Borromini drawing of the main portal.213
Giannini's plan (pl. II) of the Casa dei Filippini with the old houses and streets underneath was created by superimposing two drawings from the manuscript, plates 7 and 8, one by Maruscelli and the other after Borromini. Giannini took the captions from the Maruscelli drawing but changed the tense where appropriate. He tried to update the plan of the building but introduced many new errors and so his plate, though famous, has no independent value as a record of what the building looked like in 1725.
To understand Giannini's prints it is sometimes helpful to distinguish between his conceptual model and his factual sources. For the long fold-out elevation of the west facade (pl. XXVII) his conceptual model was the original Maruscelli project or Borromini's copy of it. But he skillfully updated his model to show the side of the Oratory and the Torre dell'Orologio as they looked in his day. The same may be said of his long sections through the casa on pls. LVI and LVIII, which owe a conceptual debt to Maruscelli's sections but are thoroughly updated. Similarly his sections through the oratory and library are updated versions of the sections by Anonymous B in the manuscript. Amidst this farrago of material two prints of the clocktower stand out, with their original ironwork and twelve-hour clockfaces, as rescued Borromini drawings (pls. XXX and XXXI).
Giannini planned at least two more volumes. When Opera I was discussed in the Giornale de' letterati d'Italia in 1722 the reviewer announced Giannini's intention to publish three more volumes for a total of four.214 Opera III was to be S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. It exists as a fragment in a single copy bound together with Opera I and II in the Vallicella Archives.215 Six plates were prepared, but there was no text, title page or captions. A plate shows Cardinal Imperiali's arms, just as in Opera II, but the dedication was never engraved. Four plates were taken directly from the building, but there is a valuable plan that combines the geometry of Borromini's own late drawings (Alb. 173) with an accurate survey of the church and convent as they stood in 1725. Borromini had never quite reconciled himself to revealing the geometry of S. Carlino, and since this print was never published the secret remained buried until the twentieth century.
Of Giannini's fourth volume and its contents we have no clue. Of all the contenders among Borromini's buildings, perhaps the Lateran presents the strongest claim. Giannini had praised Clement XI for his zeal in encouraging architects who build new temples or restore the celebrated shrines of old. The 1720s saw several attempts to finish the Lateran facade and extraordinarily high prices were being paid for any relevant Borromini drawings. All of this momentum came to a head in the competition of 1732. In this time of ferment before Galilei's triumph, a volume on the Lateran would have been in great demand.216
10. The Portrait
Giannini published a famous engraved portrait of Borromini which has become the standard image of the architect.217 It shows him dressed in black and wearing the crosses of two chivalric orders. The features are imbued with a dark and melancholy look that modern viewers tend to read retrospectively in terms of his suicide.218 The architect's robe spills out of the oval stone frame into the foreground of the picture, while scattered below the frame are the tools of the architect's trade and books showing geometrical symbols.219 This image was fabricated by Giannini out of two distinct sources, one for the face and one for the frame. The features seem to have been copied from a posthumous portrait of Borromini surviving in the Hospital of S. Giovanni dei Fiorentini, the church where the architect is buried; the inscription ("Francesco Boromino Benefatt. MDCLXVII") commemorates a bequest in his will.220 The portrait was apparently done soon after the architect's death and may preserve a good likeness of him. It shows a dignified and impassive face, darkened by time and fading varnish but not by melancholy.
Giannini put the portrait into an oval stone frame, chipped with age. Although there are some distant Dutch and Italian precedents,221 the closest model is the portrait of Palladio, dated 1716, that Giacomo Leoni placed at the beginning of his English translation of the Quattro Libri.222 In fact, Giannini's whole enterprise might be seen not only as a response to the first volumes of De Rossi's Studio, but also as a response to the Palladian publications that were beginning to appear in London.
Leoni's announcement of an English Palladio in April 1715 and the appearance of the first volume a few months later caused a stir in the world of British architectural books. A rival publisher whose survey of British architecture, Vitruvius Britannicus, was just about to appear felt compelled to give his book an entirely different focus. Vitruvius Britannicus was to have been a miscellaneous collection of prints of recent architecture, mostly baroque, with no text. But in response to Leoni it was changed to a manifesto for the emergent Palladian movement. Colen Campbell was invited to assume the status of author and fifteen of his Palladian designs were included in the first volume, which appeared in 1715. There was an intense competition between Leoni and Campbell for designs and notes by Inigo Jones, since each architect aspired to be seen as the heir to the first English Palladian. Their heroes lay in the past, only enemies lurked in the present. Campbell wrote an introduction to Vitruvius Britannicus which condemned recent Italian design, including Bernini and Fontana but especially Borromini, "who has endeavored to debauch Mankind with his odd and chimerical Beauties."223
It was time for a rejoinder from the heartland of the baroque, where publishers were competing to find lost Borromini drawings with the same intensity as their British counterparts were searching for material by Inigo Jones. Giannini took up the challenge. He would publish "l'intero studio" of Borromini's drawings and the longest text the architect had ever composed. And he would fabricate a portrait in direct competition with Leoni's portrait of Palladio.
Of course, Leoni's portrait was, in Wittkower's words, a "cunning fake." Leoni said it was done after a portrait by Veronese, when most likely the model had been painted in England expressly for Leoni by Sebastiano Ricci.224 The Palladio it shows is no longer the Paduan stonemason or even the Vicentine gentleman, but an eighteenth-century milord. His waistcoat is unbuttoned with studied nonchalance, and his greatcoat tumbles out of the frame with great fanfare. Giannini makes Borromini's cloak behave in the same way, and gives him similar accoutrements. Borromini is established as a counterimage to the English Palladio. But it was not the final volley in the war of the portraits.
Ten years later another architect was portrayed with polemical intent in the same kind of frame, namely Michele Sanmicheli, in the 1735 edition of his works.225 This book was a counterattack on the barocchetto and called for a return to the good Italian architecture of the classical centuries. Borromini and Bernini are denounced for corrupting younger minds. In this ongoing exchange the oval stone frame that was made up to glorify Palladio for the English, and then appropriated for Borromini and the Roman revivers of his style, was finally taken back into the classical camp in the portrait of Sanmicheli.226
The publication of Palladio's works by Leoni opened a chapter in the British neo-Palladian movement. Giannini's Opera, on the other hand, came after the wave of interest in Borromini's architecture had already crested. It is a product rather than a cause of the Borromini revival in Rome in the first two decades of the eighteenth century. It did not inspire an architecture that was particularly new or fresh.227 Publishers certainly took note. Together with De Rossi's Studio it called forth a rival book on Florentine architecture.228 But compared to the immense influence that publications of Palladio's works had in England, the immediate influence of the Opera was relatively slight.
However, it was a beautiful book and connoisseurs were proud to have it. It turns up in the libraries of several influential architects in the mid-eighteenth century, often in company with the stately volumes of De Rossi's Studio. Nicola Giobbe owned copies of both books, and when his library was inventoried in 1748 Giannini's Opera was worth 6 scudi while the first two volumes of the Studio were worth 15 scudi. Presumably Piranesi, who was later to become a profound student of Borromini's architecture and decoration, got his first taste of Borromini while browsing through Giobbe's copy of the Opera.229
Bernardo Vittone also owned both the Opera and the Studio, which were valued at 18 and 40 lire respectively. These books really meant something to him. Possibly they spurred him on to publish Guarini's treatise in 1737, which like Borromini's manuscript lay hidden in a convent archive. When Vittone published his own first book in 1760, the Istruzione elementari, its frontispiece of Roman ruins derived directly from Giannini's frontispiece in Opera I. And in his architecture as well Vittone demonstrated an intimate knowledge of Borromini gained from the leisurely study of these volumes. His first project for the church of S. Chiara in Turin is based on the plan of S. Ivo, and and his project for a church for the Chierici Regolari Ministri degli Infermi is heavily indebted to the S. Ivo he found in Giannini.230
We do not know why Giannini suspended publication after two volumes. Since his patron, Cardinal Imperiali, lived on until 1737 one might suspect that Giannini himself died in about 1730 as Opera III was in preparation, and that Borromini's "intero studio" of drawings passed into the Baron Stosch's hands at this time. The competing firm of De Rossi was liquidated at this time as well. Both Domenico de Rossi and Alessandro Specchi died in 1729. The heir Lorenzo Filippo de Rossi had no interest in continuing the family tradition.231 He attempted to sell the firm's stock, which was finally acquired by the Camera Apostolica in 1738 as the core of the Calcografia Camerale.
Borromini had been well served in the immense burst of energy released by competitive publishers in the first three decades of the Settecento, but after that his reputation was not such that patrons or publishers wished to invest large sums of capital in propagating his work. By the end of the century the stately volumes of the Studio and the Opera had all declined in value. When Imperiali's library was sold in 1793-96 Giannini and De Rossi were worth only two-thirds what they were half a century before.
In Filarete's words the architect was the mother of a building, the patron the father, and the final product depended on the spiritual union of both.232 Architectural publications, however, tend to rupture this delicate equilibrium. They take the building away from the patron and give it almost entirely to the architect, often as part of a complete works or as a chapter in a biography. Borromini himself began the process of expropriating his work from patrons whom he found unsympathetic or insufficiently committed. He used Barrière's plates to show his buildings in an idealized state, while Martinelli justified his unconventional ideas to the world.
Borromini never got the chance to finish his own opera omnia, and his secrets went into hiding. Neither the precocious Falda nor the lynx-eyed Cruyl could find them out, nor could two generations of great De Rossi printers, however much they paid him homage. Like Christopher Wren, whose son inherited a mass of drawings but grew old and died without ever bringing a publication to fruition, Borromini had reason to be disappointed in his nephew and his nephew's heirs.233 But in the unknown Giannini he found a worthy editor and in the Opera a vessel which would carry some of his achievement through the cold times that followed.