At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Giovanni Battista Falda - engraver

Printmaker who found market among Grand Tourists


An engraving by Giovanni Battista Falda of Gian Lorenzo Bernini's tour de force, the Piazza San Pietro in Rome
An engraving by Giovanni Battista Falda of Gian Lorenzo
Bernini's tour de force, the Piazza San Pietro in Rome 
The engraver and printmaker Giovanni Battista Falda, who turned his artistic talent into commercial success as 17th century Rome welcomed the first waves of Europe’s Grand Tourists, was born on this day in 1643 in Valduggia in Piedmont.

Falda created engravings depicting the great buildings, gardens and fountains of Rome, as well as maps and representations of ceremonial events, which soon became popular with visitors keen to take back pictorial souvenirs of their stay, to remind them of what they had seen and to show their friends.

He took commissions to make illustrations of favourite views and of specific buildings and squares, and because the early Grand Tourists were mainly young men from wealthy families in Britain and other parts of Europe he was able to charge premium prices.

Giovanni Battista Falda's depiction of the church of Santa Maria della Rotonda, popularly known as the Pantheon
Giovanni Battista Falda's depiction of the church of Santa
Maria della Rotonda, popularly known as the Pantheon
Falda showed artistic talent at an early age and was apprenticed to the painter Francesco Ferrari as a child, before moving to Rome when he was 14 to be mentored by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, the sculptor and architect who had such a huge influence on the look of Rome.

His early draughtsmanship caught the eye of the printmaker and publisher Giovan Giacomo De Rossi, who took Falda on as an apprentice at his print shop.

The De Rossi family were the principal publishers of prints in Rome during the 17th century, and almost all of Falda’s work was published by them.

Falda was taught all the technical skills of engraving and etching, while also perfecting his own style of drawing, which was focused on realistic representation of his subjects.

A section of Falda's incredibly detailed map of Rome
A section of Falda's incredibly detailed map of Rome
He made the acquaintance of emerging figures of the Roman art world, such as Francesco Borromini and Pietro da Cortona, and when he finished his training at the age of 20 began a career as a printmaker.

His specialisation was the urban landscape of Rome, and he is best known for his vedute - views - of architecture throughout the city, especially the renovation projects backed by Pope Alexander VII. In 1665, the De Rossi printshop published a book of prints by Falda depicting views of the construction and restoration projects sponsored by the Pope.

Gardens and fountains interested Falda in particular. Two of his most famous series collected in book form are Giardini di Roma (1670) and Fontane di Roma (1675).

An illustration from the collection of garden views created by Giovanni Battista Falda, entitled Giardini di Roma
An illustration from the collection of garden views created
by Giovanni Battista Falda, entitled Giardini di Roma
Falda was a significant influence on the work of later Roman printmakers, such as Giovanni Francesco Ventunni, Alessandro Specchi, and Giuseppe Vasi.

With more than 300 architectural views attributed to him, Falda also had much to do with Rome’s renown in the 17th century for the veduta as a genre and helped change the perception of the city, shifting the focus away from its ancient history and underlining its new status as a modern, progressive and expanding metropolis.

In 1676, he produced a 12-sheet map of Rome depicting the city in minute detail at the height of its Baroque splendor.

The first of the Grand Tourists, who arrived in Rome in the mid-17th century, bought so much of Falda’s work that he soon grew prosperous, although he did not live long to enjoy his wealth. He passed away at the age of just 34 in 1678.

Today, his works are still collectible. When they come up at auction, they usually sell for between £2,500 and £3,500 (€2,800 - €3,900), although some have realised up to £20,000 (€22,500).

Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in Rome's historic Piazza Navona
Gian Lorenzo Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in
Rome's historic Piazza Navona
Travel tip:

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who was born in 1598 and lived for more than 81 years, is the architect and sculptor behind many of Rome’s most famous landmarks, particular the fountains that Giovanni Battista Falda depicted with such success in his engravings. The Fontana della Barcaccia in Piazza di Spagna, the Fontana del Tritone in Piazza Barberini, and the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi and Fontana del Moro in Piazza Navona are all by Bernini, although he is more famous even for his work at St Peter’s Basilica, which included numerous beautiful sculptures within the church and the architectural masterpiece that is Piazza San Pietro - St Peter’s Square - with its majestic sweep of statue-topped colonnades.

Look for Rome hotels with Hotels.com

The Isola San Giulio in the middle of the beautiful Lago di Orta in Piedmont, not far from where Falda was born
The Isola San Giulio in the middle of the beautiful Lago
di Orta in Piedmont, not far from where Falda was born
Travel tip:

Valduggia, the small town in northern Piedmont where Falda was born, is just 15km (9 miles) from Lago di Orta, a smaller and less well known lake than Maggiore, Como, Garda and Iseo, yet one that is no less beautiful and has the benefit of being less crowded than its more high-profile neighbours. The small town of Orta San Giulio, at the south-eastern edge of the lake, is the most important town on the shores of Lake Orta, boasting an attractive historical centre with narrow cobbled streets and many bars and ice cream shops.  Boats leave the harbour to cross to Isola San Giulio, the charming island in the centre of the lake where visitors can find the ruins of a 12th century basilica and follow a path that follows the circumference of the island.

Find a hotel on Lago di Orta with tripadvisor

More reading:

Gian Lorenzo Bernini - the greatest sculptor of the 17th century

How Pietro da Cortona became the leading Baroque painter of his time

Visentini engravings took Venice to the wider world

Also on this day:

The Feast of St Ambrose in Milan

1302: The birth of Milanese ruler Azzione Visconti

1598: The birth of Gian Lorenzo Bernini


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