Showing posts with label Palazzo Grassi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Palazzo Grassi. Show all posts

13 October 2022

Giorgio Massari - architect

Work in 18th century Venice had echoes of Palladio

The Chiesa dei Gesuati is seen by many as Massari's masterpiece
The Chiesa dei Gesuati is seen by
many as Massari's masterpiece 
The architect Giorgio Massari, who designed a number of significant churches and palaces in Venice in the 18th century, was born on this day in 1687.

Massari’s legacy in Venice includes the imposing Palazzo Grassi on the Grand Canal and the church of Santa Maria del Rosario, commonly known as the Gesuati, on the Giudecca Canal, which is acknowledged as his masterpiece.

He redesigned Santa Maria della Visitazione - known as the Pietà - the church on the Riva degli Schiavoni famous for its association with the great Baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi, who wrote some of his most famous music while working as a violin teacher at the adjoining orphanage.

Outside Venice, Massari designed villas and churches around Brescia, Treviso and Udine. 

His designs, especially his churches and villas, were often influenced by the work of the 16th century Classical architect Andrea Palladio and by Massari’s fellow Venetian, the Baroque sculptor and architect Baldassare Longhena.

Massari was born in the San Luca parish of the San Marco sestiere. His father, Stefano, was a carpenter from a village near Brescia in Lombardy. 

Little is known of his early life, although it is thought he may have studied under the supervision of Antonio Gaspari, who may himself have learned from Longhena.

Although it is likely that he had worked on other projects, the first to have been attributed to Massari is a house now known as the Villa Lattes at Istrana in the province of Treviso, which he designed in around 1712 for a wealthy merchant, Paolo Tamagnin.

Massari's Palazzo Grassi, on the Grand Canal, has many features of Classical design
Massari's Palazzo Grassi, on the Grand Canal,
has many features of the Classical design style
His reputation grew through his successes in both civil and religious architecture, which included the Palladian-style Villa Corner at Cavasagra, also in Treviso province, and the Oratory of Santa Maria della Salute in Badia Polesine, near Rovigo, which combined elements of Palladian, Rococo and neoclassical.

He began work on the Gesuiti church after the original architect had died. The project was only in its infancy and the Dominican friars who commissioned the building were so impressed with Massari’s plans that they ditched the drawings left behind by the first architect.

Situated on Fondamenta Zattere in the Dorsoduro sestiere, looking out over the broad Giudecca Canal, the Gesuati pays homage in its design to Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore, the landmark church on the small island at the eastern tip of the Giudecca, with its facade of Corinthian columns topped by a triangular pediment.

With its dome and twin adjoining bell towers, meanwhile, it compliments Palladio’s Chiesa del Santissimo Redentore, which overlooks the Giudecca Canal from the opposite bank.

Also in Dorsoduro, Massari worked extensively on Ca’ Rezzonico, a monumental Baroque palace on the Grand Canal that had been designed by Baldassarre Longhena in 1649 but abandoned after the family who commissioned it fell on hard times. Massari was invited to complete the project more than 100 years later after it was bought by Giambattista Rezzonico, whose family were from the Como area of Lombardy.

It was while he was finishing the Ca’ Rezzonico that Massari was hired to design a new Palazzo Grassi on behalf of the Grassi family, who had acquired the building in 1655. The new palace based on Massari’s designs was constructed between 1748 and 1772. Designed along academic classical lines, it was the last grand palazzo built on the Grand Canal before the fall of the Venetian Republic.

Massari's villas often mimicked the style of Andrea Palladio, who influenced much of his work
Massari's villas, such as the Villa Giovanelli near
Padua, often echoed the style of Andrea Palladio
Massari’s involvement with the church of Santa Maria della Visitazione, known as La Pietà, which is situated only a short distance from Piazza San Marco and the Doge’s Palace, apparently began after he won a competition to redesign it, in 1736. It is thought that he spoke to Vivaldi, who was the choirmaster, about the acoustics, although work did not begin until four years after the composer’s death.

The facade, which again has echoes of Palladio in its Corinthian columns and triangular pediment, was not actually finished until the early 20th century, although it is faithful for the most part to Massari’s design.

Other works in Venice attributed to Massari include the church of San Marcuola on the Grand Canal in Cannaregio and the facade of what is now the Academy of Fine Arts in Dorsoduro.

Outside Venice, he designed churches in Brescia and its province, in Scorzè near Treviso, and in Udine. He also contributed to the renovation of the cathedrals in Udine and Padua.

When Paolo Tamagnin died in 1734, Massari married his widow, Pisana Bianconi, and settled with her in a house in the Castello sestiere that had been owned by her late husband.

Widowed in 1751 without children, Massari died in 1766 at the age of 79. His body was buried in the Tamagnin tomb in the church of San Giovanni in Bragora in Castello.

Massari finished the Ca' Rezzonico palace in accordance with Baldassare Longhena's designs
Massari finished the Ca' Rezzonico palace in
accordance with Baldassare Longhena's designs
Travel tip:

Ca’ Rezzonico, which Massari finished according to the designs of Baldassare Longhena, displays paintings by the leading Venetian painters of the 18th century, including Francesco Guardi and Giambattista Tiepolo. The latter was commissioned to paint the ceilings of two salons in 1758, to celebrate the election of Carlo, the younger brother of Giambattista Rezzonico, as Pope Clement XIII, and the marriage of Ludovico Rezzonico to Faustina Savorgnan, uniting the two richest families in Venice. The last of the Rezzonico family to live in the palace died in 1810, since when it has been bought and sold many times. The English poet Robert Browning died in the Ca’ Rezzonico in 1889 at the time it was owned by his son, Robert Barrett Browning. For a period in the 20th century it was the home of Cole Porter, the American composer and songwriter, who rented it for $4,000 a month. Nowadays, it houses the Museum of 18th Century Venice, hosting many precious examples of the furniture and decorations of the period, it has a wealth of Venetian paintings, including works by Tiepolo, Canaletto and Guardi.

The interior of San Luca Evangelista
The interior of San
Luca Evangelista
Travel tip:

The church of San Luca Evangelista in the San Marco sestiere, where Giorgio Massari was baptised, can be found on Rio de San Luca, a side canal off the Grand Canal behind Palazzo Grimani di San Luca. The church itself, which dates back to the 11th century, when it was the family place of worship for the Dandalo and Pizzamano families.  It has a simple facade but a richly decorated interior that features frescoes by Sebastiani Santi and altarpieces by Paolo Veronese and Palma il Giovane. 

Also on this day:

54: The death of Roman emperor Claudius

1815: The execution of Joachim Murat, former King of Naples

1884: The birth of anarchist Mario Buda

1899: The birth of sportsman and entrepreneur Piero Dusio

1985: The death of silent movie star Francesca Bertini


4 December 2017

Gae Aulenti – architect

Designer who made mark in Italy and abroad

Gae Aulenti forged a career in design when female architects were rare
Gae Aulenti forged a career in design
when female architects were rare
The architect Gae Aulenti, who blazed a trail for women in the design world in post-War Italy and went on to enjoy a career lasting more than half a century, was born on this day in 1927 in Palazzolo dello Stella, a small town about midway between Venice and Trieste.

In a broad and varied career, among a long list of clients Aulenti designed showrooms for Fiat and Olivetti, furniture for Zanotta, department stores for La Rinascente, a railway station in Milan, stage sets for theatre and opera director Luca Ronconi and villas for wealthy private clients.

She lectured at the Venice and Milan Schools of Architecture and was on the editorial staff of the design magazine, Casabella.

Yet she is best remembered for her part in transforming redundant buildings facing possible demolition into museums and galleries, her most memorable project being the interior of the Beaux Arts-style Gare d'Orsay railway station in Paris, where she turned the cavernous central hall, a magnificent shed lit by arching rooflights, into a minimalist exhibition space for impressionist art.

Aulenti also created galleries at the Pompidou Centre in Paris and the Palau Nacional in Barcelona as well as turning San Francisco’s Beaux Art Main Library into a Museum of Asian Art.

The frontage of Milan's Cadorna railway station was restored in 1999 to a design by Gae Aulenti
The frontage of Milan's Cadorna railway station was
restored in 1999 to a design by Gae Aulenti
She restored Milan’s Cadorna railway station and the adjoining square, oversaw the expansion of Perugia Airport and designed six stores for the American fashion designer Adrienne Vittadini, including one on Rodeo Drive in Los Angeles.

Aulenti was born Gaetana Aulenti in Palazzolo dello Stella, in the region of Fruili-Venezia Giulia, a town through which the Stella river passes a few kilometres north of the Laguna di Marano.  At home, she read and learned the piano and it was because her parents had no ambitions for her beyond finding an eligible husband that she was determined to forge her own path in life.  She went to Milan and enrolled at the Milan School of Architecture at the Polytechnic University.

When she graduated, one of only two women in a class of 20, she set up a private practice in Milan and joined the staff of Casabella magazine.

She became part of a Neo-Liberty movement, reacting against the growing dominance of modernism and arguing for a revival of local building traditions and individual expression.

Piazza Gae Aulenti is part of Porta Nuova Garibaldi renovation project near Milan's main railway station
Piazza Gae Aulenti is part of Porta Nuova Garibaldi
renovation project in central Milan
Aulenti's distinctive outlook soon attracted clients, among them Gianni Agnelli, chairman of the Fiat empire, for which she designed showrooms in Turin, Zurich and Brussels. Agnelli became a close friend and when Fiat bought the rundown Palazzo Grassi on the Grand Canal in Venice, he commissioned her to renovate the building as an exhibition space. She also built a ski lodge for Agnelli in St Moritz.

For Olivetti she created shop windows for showrooms in Paris and Buenos Aires, where with the skilful use of mirrored steps she produced a display of typewriters that wrapped around a street corner and appeared to multiply infinitely.

During the 1960s and 70s, Aulenti designed furniture for many of Milan's major design houses, including Knoll, Zanotta and Kartell, as well as lighting for Artemide, Stilnovo and Martinelli Luce. Her folding chair made from stainless steel and a coffee table made from a thick square of glass supported on four black casters have found their way into museums of modern art.

Her major breakthrough came in 1980, when she was chosen to design the new interior of the Gare d’Orsay, where she tore out the majority of the building’s interior features, in their place creating airy galleries that preserved the original Beaux-Arts features of the old railway station while offering a modern environment in which to give the collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces maximum impact.

The main hall of the Orsay Museum in Paris
The main hall of the Orsay Museum in Paris
In 1997, Aulenti refurbished the dilapidated Scuderie del Quirinale in Rome, transforming the former stables into an exhibition space.

She left her mark on Milan, which became her adopted home city, with the restoration of the Cadorna railway station in 1999. 

Aulenti died in 2012, a few weeks short of what would have been her 85th birthday, having been in failing health for some time.

Two months later, a modern circular piazza at the heart of the Porta Nuova Garibaldi development next to the Porta Garibaldi railway station, featuring a continuous flowing circle of seating surrounding a vast reflecting pool, 60 metres in diameter, was named Gae Aulenti Piazza in her memory.

The Scuderie del Quirinale was restored by Aulenti in 1999
The Scuderie del Quirinale was restored by Aulenti in 1999
Travel tip:

The Scuderie del Quirinale is a palace in Rome situated in front of the Palazzo del Quirinale, official residence of the President of the Republic. It was built between 1722 and 1732, commissioned by Pope Innocent XIII. It maintained its original function as a stable until 1938, when it was adapted to a garage. In the 1980s it was transformed into a museum of carriages. It was restored by Gae Aulenti in time for the 2000 Jubilee and inaugurated by President Azeglio Ciampi.

Aulenti was commissioned by her friend Gianni Agnelli to restore Palazzo Grassi after it was acquired by Fiat
Aulenti was commissioned by her friend Gianni Agnelli
to restore Palazzo Grassi after it was acquired by Fiat
Travel tip:

The Palazzo Grassi – sometimes known as the Palazzo Grassi-Stucky – was designed by Giorgio Massari in the Venetian Classical style and built between 1748 and 1772. It is located on the Grand Canal, between the Palazzo Moro Lin and the Campo San Samuele.  It has a formal palace façade, constructed of white marble, but lacks the lower mercantile openings typical of many Venetian palaces.  After it was sold by the Grassi family in 1840, the ownership passed through many individuals until it was bought by the Fiat Group in 1983, at a time when there was talk of it being demolished. Restored by Gae Aulenti, it is now owned by the French entrepreneur François Pinault, who exhibits his personal art collection there.