Showing posts with label Giovanni Paolo Panini. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Giovanni Paolo Panini. Show all posts

3 May 2019

Francesco Algarotti - writer and art collector

Francesco Algarotti was a man of many talents with a colorful love life
Francesco Algarotti was a man of many talents
with a colorful love life

Philosopher and polymath with a playboy lifestyle


The multi-talented writer, philosopher and art connoisseur Francesco Algarotti, one of the most prominent and colourful individuals in 18th century intellectual society, died in this day in 1764 in Pisa.

Algarotti, who wrote many essays and a number of books, was something of a polymath in his breadth of knowledge on a wide number of subjects, including architecture and music as well as art. He was also a charismatic figure who became friends with most of the leading authors of his day, including Voltaire, Jean-Baptiste de Boyer, Marquis d'Argens and Pierre-Louis de Maupertuis.

His urbane manner and suave good looks, combined with his considerable intellect, led him to acquire admirers of both sexes. Indeed, at one time he is said to have found himself at the centre of a colourful bisexual love triangle involving John Hervey, the English peer and politician, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the aristocratic travel writer, who became infatuated with Algarotti at the same time as Hervey, her one-time lover.

Algarotti was often engaged by the courts of European monarchs to acquire or commission paintings and other decorative artworks, or to advise on architectural projects, but also amassed a considerable collection of his own.  He commissioned works by Tiepolo, Pittoni, Piazzetta, Castiglione, Panini and Balestra among others, while helping to further the careers of Giuseppe Nogari, Bernardo Bellotto and Francesco Pavona.

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu is said to have become infatuated with Algarotti
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu is said to have
become infatuated with Algarotti
Giovanni Paolo Panini’s famous view of the interior of the Pantheon in Rome, painted in around 1734, was commissioned by Algarotti.

One painting thought to have been in his collection, Sebastiano Ricci’s Vision of St Bruno, sold at auction in the United States for $500,000 after turning up in a warehouse in Texas in 2008.

Algarotti was born in Venice in 1712. His father, a wealthy merchant, was an art collector and it was expected he would join his older brother, Bonomo, in the family business.

Instead, he went Rome to for a year, and then studied natural sciences and mathematics at Bologna and Florence. At age of 20, he went to Paris, where he became friendly with Voltaire and, in 1737, published Newtonianesimo per le dame, ovvero Dialoghi sopra la luce e i colori (Newtonianism for Ladies, or Dialogues on Light and Colour), a work on Newtonian optics, in which he had a particular expertise.

He spent time in London, where he met Lord Hervey, who would later become Lord Privy Seal in the government led by Robert Walpole. Hervey, who is known to have had many affairs with both men and women, was drawn towards his sophistication and physical attractiveness, but at the same time Algarotti attracted the attention of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, who became so enamoured of him that she left her husband and proposed that they live together in Italy.

Algarotti's tomb, paid for by Frederick the Great, at Campo Santo in Pisa
Algarotti's tomb, paid for by Frederick
the Great, at Campo Santo in Pisa
The relationship came to nothing, however, after Algarotti received an invitation to go to Berlin from Frederick the Great of Prussia, and stayed there for more than nine years as court chamberlain.

A member of the Royal Society, Algarotti was popular in many European courts. Frederick the Great made him a Prussian count.  Augustus III of Poland also honored him with the title of Councillor.

In 1754, he returned to Italy, living in Bologna, Venice and then Pisa, where he died from tuberculosis ten years later at the age of 51. In his memory, Frederick the Great erected a monument to him on the Campo Santo in Pisa.

Algarotti's writings include several studies on classical themes and a series of treatises on language, opera, architecture, the poet Horace, painting and on influences on national character. He is credited with introducing the genre of essay-writing into Italy.

His 1745 book Il congresso di Citera, which was published in English as The Modern Art of Love, was a lighthearted comparison of English, French, and Italian attitudes toward love.

Panini's painting of the interior of  The Pantheon in Rome
Panini's painting of the interior of
The Pantheon in Rome
Travel tip:

The Pantheon in Piazza della Rotonda in Rome is considered to be Rome’s best preserved ancient building. It was built in AD 118 on the site of a previous building dating back to 27 BC. It was consecrated as a church in the seventh century and many important people are buried there, including Victor Emmanuel II, his son, Umberto I, and his wife, Queen Margherita.  It was as much a tourist attraction in Panini’s day as it is today and Panini manipulated the proportions and perspective to include more of the interior that is actually visible from any one vantage point.


The Campo Santo is part of the Piazza dei Miracoli complex, the most famous landmark of which is the Leaning Tower
The Campo Santo is part of the Piazza dei Miracoli complex,
the most famous landmark of which is the Leaning Tower
Travel tip:

The Campo Santo, also known as Camposanto Monumentale, is a huge oblong Gothic cloister at the northern edge of the Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa. Designed by Giovanni di Simone, who began work on it in 1278, it was the fourth and final structure erected in the piazza, following the cathedral, the baptistery and the campanile - the leaning tower. It is thought the building was not meant to be a cemetery, but a church called Santissima Trinità (Most Holy Trinity), but the project changed during construction.  It is called Campo Santo, which literally means ‘holy field’, because it is said to have been built on sacred soil from Calvary, or Golgotha, the site outside the walls of Jerusalem where the Gospels say Christ was crucified, which had been brought back to Pisa from the Third Crusade by Ubaldo Lanfranchi, archbishop of Pisa.


More reading:

Panini's eye for capturing scenes of Rome

Tiepolo's legacy to Venice

How 18th century Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni reinvigorated commedia dell'arte

Also on this day:

1461: The birth of patron of the arts Cardinal Raffaele Riario

1469: The birth of statesman and diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli

1815: Austria defeats Napoleon's troops at the Battle of Tolentino


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17 June 2017

Giovanni Paolo Panini – artist

Painter who preserved scenes of Rome


Giovanni Paolo Panini, in a portrait by  Louis Gabriel Blanchet
Giovanni Paolo Panini, in a portrait by
Louis Gabriel Blanchet 
Giovanni Paolo Panini, an artist mainly known for his views of Rome, was born on this day in 1691 in Piacenza.

He is particularly remembered for his view of the interior of the Pantheon, commissioned by the Venetian collector, Francesco Algarotti, in around 1734.

The Pantheon was as much a tourist attraction in Panini’s day as it is today and Panini manipulated the proportions and perspective to include more of the interior that is actually visible from any one vantage point.

Indeed, many of his works, especially those of ruins, have slightly unreal embellishment. He sought to meet the needs of visitors for painted postcards depicting scenes of Italy and his clients were often happy with minor distortions of reality if it meant they could show off a unique picture. 

As a young man, Panini trained in his native town of Piacenza. He moved to Rome where he studied drawing. His work was to influence other painters, such as Canaletto, who resolved to do for Venice what Panini had done for Rome and, of course, enjoyed enormous fame and success.

Panini's view of the inside of the Pantheon  typified his use of manipulated perspective
Panini's view of the inside of the Pantheon
typified his use of manipulated perspective 
Much in demand, Panini also became famous as the decorator of Roman palaces. He was hailed for his frescoes at the Villa Patrizi, painted between 1719–1725. He was also noted for his work at the Palazzo de Carolis (1720), and the Seminario Romano (1721–1722).

He also painted some portraits, including one of Pope Benedict XIV.

Panini taught in Rome at the Accademia di San Luca and the Académie de France. From 1754, he served as the principal of the Accademia di San Luca.

His use of perspective was later the inspiration for the Panini projection, which was instrumental in displaying panoramic views.  He was professor of perspective at the Académie de France.

He died in Rome on 21 October 1765 at the age of 74.

Travel tip:

The Pantheon in Piazza della Rotonda in Rome is considered to be Rome’s best preserved ancient building. It was built in AD 118 on the site of a previous building dating back to 27 BC. It was consecrated as a church in the seventh century and many important people are buried there, including Victor Emmanuel II, his son, Umberto I, and his wife, Queen Margherita.

Canaletto's Grande Veduta of the Grand Canal is on display at Ca' Rezzonico
Canaletto's Grande Veduta of the Grand Canal is
on display at Ca' Rezzonico
Travel tip:

Many of Canaletto’s paintings of Venice are in museums and private collections around the world, particularly in England and the United States, A small number are on display in Ca’ Rezzonico in Venice, a palace on the Grand Canal, open to tourists.