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Borromini, Francesco (1599-1667)

Opera del Cavaliere Borromini cavata da suo originale cioè la chiesa e fabrica della Sapienza di Roma. Roma, Sebastiano Giannini, 1720. (legato con:) Id. Opus Architectonicum. Roma, Sebastiano Giannini, 1725

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La più bella edizione di architettura mai apparsa a stampa
Borromini, Francesco (1599-1667). Opera del Cavaliere Borromini cavata da suo originale cioè la chiesa e fabrica della Sapienza di Roma. Roma, Sebastiano Giannini, 1720. (legato con:) Id. Opus Architectonicum.. Roma, Sebastiano Giannini, 1725

Due opere legate in un volume in folio (mm 561x420). I. 46, [4] tavole. Antiporta calcografica. Dedica a papa Clemente XI. II. 67 tavole, 5 delle quli ripiegate. Antiporta calcografica, dedica con stemma del cardinale Giuseppe Renato Imperiali. Iniziali, testatine e finalini silografici e calcografici. Testo inquadrato da doppio filetto inciso su legno. Cartonato settecentesco recentemente rimontato. Esemplare in ottimo stato di conservazione, qualche fioritura, sporadiche lievi tracce di polvere.

Prima edizione dell'opera del celebre architetto pioniere del Barocco Francesco Borromini: la più bella edizione di architettura mai apparsa a stampa.

Nato a Bissone, in Svizzera, Borromini si trasferì dapprima a Milano, dove studiò arte muraria e scultura, poi a Roma dove iniziò la sua carriera diventando uno dei più influenti e rinomati architetti del Seicento. Le sue fonti di ispirazione spaziarono da Michelangelo all'antichità classica, dalla natura alla matematica, ma ciò che maggiormente impegnò l'artista fu il reinventare ognuno dei suoi modelli al fine di creare i più ingegnosi e straordinari esempi di architettura alto barocca. Borromini fu anche un eccellente disegnatore e, contrariamente ai suoi contemporanei, predilesse l'utilizzo della grafite che gli permetteva di realizzare rappresentazioni di rara precisione.

Tra il 1659 e il 1660 l'artista decise di far stampare numerosi dei suoi disegni, affidandone l'incisione a Domenico Barriére (ca. 1615-1678), già allievo di Claude Lorraine. Il progetto non si realizzò a causa della tragica morte di Borromini, che si tolse la vita nel 1667, dopo aver bruciato molte delle sue opere. I disegni superstiti furono ereditati dal nipote Bernardo, e alla morte di questi, avvenuta nel 1709, acquisiti dallo stampatore Sebastiano Giannini, che terminò il lavoro iniziato dall'autore e ne curò la stampa.

La prima opera qui presentata è dedicata alla chiesa di Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, realizzata tra il 1643 e il 1644, capolavoro assoluto del Borromini architetto per la complessità e l'iconicità del disegno. Giannini decise di rappresentarla con 46 incisioni, alcune delle quali – come ad esempio la tavola VI – impresse dalle originarie lastre di rame acquistate dal Barrière. Per arricchire l'edizione Giannini commissionò ad alcuni artisti la realizzazione di incisioni su disegno di Borromini o del suo assistente Francesco Righi.

La seconda opera legata nel volume – l'Opus Architectonicum – è dedicata ad un'altra celebre realizzazione borrominiana, l'Oratorio dei Filippini, illustrato attraverso 67 incisioni e un testo di 31 pagine basato sul manoscritto redatto tra il 1646 e il 1647 da Borromini e dal padre oratoriano Virgilio Spada (1596-1662).

Questo scritto, introdotto dal titolo Piena relatione della fabbrica, offre una dettagliata relazione della progettazione e delle fasi di costruzione di ogni ambiente, oltre a approfondire sia il processo creativo dell'architettura di Borromini sia il rapporto tra l'architetto e i suoi commissionari.

A. Blunt, Borromini, London 1979; J. Connors, Borromini and the Roman Oratory, New York 1980, in part. pp. 263-269 (cat. 89-90); 281-282 (cat. 104); 285-288 (cat. 110); J. B. Scott, S. Ivo alla Sapienza and Borromini's Symbolic Language, “Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians”, 41 (1982), pp. 294-317 (in part. pp. 298-299); J. Connors, Sebastiano Giannini: Opus Architectonicum, in In Urbe Architectus: modelli disegni misure: La professione dell'architetto in Rome 1680-1750, a cura di B. Contardi e G. Curcio, Roma 1991, in part. pp. 207-209; Idem, S. Ivo Alla Sapienza: The First Three Minutes, “Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians”, 55 (1996), pp. 38-57; F. Borromini, Opus architectonicum, ed. J. Connors, Milano 1998; J. Connors, Francesco Borromini. La vita (1599–1667), in Borromini e l'universo barocco, a cura di R. . Bösel e C. L. Frommel, Milano 1999, pp. 7-21; J. M. Smyth-Pinney, Borromini's Plans for Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, “Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians”, 59 (2000), pp. 312-337; K. Downes, Borromini's Book, the ‘Full Relation of the Building' of the Roman Oratory, Wetherby 2009.

Borromini, Francesco (1599-1667). Opera del Cav. Francesco Boromino Cavata da suoi Originali cioe? La Chiesa, e Fabrica della Sapienza di Roma Con le Vedute in Prospettiua e con lo Studio delle Proporz.ni Geometriche, Piante, Alzate Profili, e Spaccati Dedicata alla Santita? di N.S. Papa Clemente XI. Rome, Sebastiano Giannini, 1720. (bound with:)

Idem. Opus Architectonicum Equitis Francisci Boromini ex ejusdem exemplaribus petitum; Oratorium nempe?, Aedisque Romanae RR. PP. Congregationis Oratorii S. Philippi Nerii, additis Scenographia, Geometricis proportionibus, Ichnographia, prospectibus integris, obliquis, interioribus, at extremis partibus lineamentis. Accedit Totius Aedificii Descriptio, ac ratio auctore eodem Equite Boromino nunc primum edita, Dicatum Eminentissimo, et Reverendissimo Principi Josepho Renato S.R.E. Card. Imperiali. Rome, Sebastiano Giannini, 1725.

Two works bound in one volume, folio (561x420 mm). Complete.

I. Fifty-one numbered engraved plates at all: engraved title-page with title and imprint inscribed on a monument, at the background the Trajan's Column, the Pantheon, and the Coliseum; 19-line printer's dedication to Clemens XI, surmounted by large papal arms; engraved printer's address to the reader (head-piece: ‘AL LETTORE'); engraved two-column list of plates (head-piece: ‘INDICE DI TVTTA L'OPERA'); the first unnumbered plate bearing Borromini's portrait; further forty-four engraved plates numbered [II-XLV] and all displaying designs for the church St Ivo alla Sapienza engraved after Borromini's own drawings, the last unnumbered plate showing a ground plan of St Ivo in two halves, “clearly intended to be joined up to form a single double-page, counted in the list of contents as ‘TAVOLA XLVI' (RIBA, no. 326). In the present copy the following plates are pasted together as double-page: XV-XVI, XVIII-XIX, XXI-XXII, XXIII-XIV, XXX-XXXII, XXXV-XXXVI. Plate XXXI is bound before plate XXX.

II. [6], 31, [1] pages. Engraved title-page; typographic title-page with large woodcut ornament; printer's Italian dedication to Cardinal Giuseppe Renato Imperiali, with his large engraved arms and engraved pictorial initial; printer's Latin dedication to Cardinal Imperiali, with woodcut decorated initial; fols. A1r-B1v: list of plates in two columns, parallel Italian and Latin (‘INDICE DI TUTTA L'OPERA', ‘INDEX TOTIUS OPERIS'); fols. C1r-Q1r: text in two columns of ‘Relazione Della presente Opera, composta dal medesimo Cavalier Francesco Boromini per commando del Signor Marchese di Castel Rodriguez, e copiata dal suo originale inedito' (parallel Italian and Latin), fol. Q1v blank. Sixty-seven numbered engraved plates at all: one unnumbered engraved plate showing Borromini's portrait, identical to that included in the Opera of 1720; sixty-six engraved plates, numbered II-LXVI, [LXVII] top right, and all devoted to the Oratorio of S. Filippo Neri; plate III, XXVII, LVI, LVIII, and the last unnumbered plates are unfolded, made up of three sheets joined together. in this copy, pls. XLI and XLII are bound between pls. LX and LXIII, and pls. LXI and LXII are bound between pls. XXXX and XLIII. Woodcut decorated initial and tailpieces.

Eighteenth-century boards, recently recased. Very good condition; a few spots, and occasional, pale dusting. Some leaves originally remargined with paper strips to ensure uniformity throughout the volume.

The first and only two installments of the Roman publisher Giannini's intended series on the complete works of the pioneering Baroque architect, a publication project initiated by Borromini himself but left unfinished at the time of his death and realized in two of the most beautiful architecture books ever printed.

Born Francesco Castelli in the village of Bissone, in the southernmost canton of Switzerland, Borromini moved first to Milan, where he studied masonry and sculpture, and then to Rome, where he made his career as one of the most important architects of the seventeenth century. His influences ranged from Michelangelo to classical antiquity, nature and mathematics, but he was above all committed to originality and re-envisioned each of these sources, along with many others, to create some of the most ingenious and breathtaking examples of High Baroque architecture.

Borromini was also an outstanding draughtsman and unusual for his time in preferring fine, sharply pointed graphite pencils for his drawings, which allowed him to create remarkably clear renderings. Around 1659/1660 he decided to present several of his drawings in a publication and to this end had them engraved by Domenico Barrie?re (ca. 1615-1678), a former student of Claude Lorraine. The project was left unfinished at Borromini's suicide in 1667, shortly before which he had burned many of the drawings and prints. A number of them did, however, survive and were passed onto his nephew Bernardo Borromini; after Bernardo's death in 1709, they were then acquired by Giannini, who set out to finish what Borromini had started and publish his work for a broader audience to appreciate and enjoy.

The first of Giannini's two publications, the Opera, is devoted to San'Ivo alla Sapienza (1643-1664), the chapel of the Roman university and arguably Borromini's most iconic and complex design, which Giannini represents in 46 plates. Some of these come from the acquired copper plates etched by Barrie?re, as with pl. vi, showing the building's myriad juxtapositions of convex and concave forms – a hallmark of Borromini's architecture – and fantastic lantern and spiral, added by the architect under the pontificate of Innocent X. Barrie?re's work may also be behind, among others, the well-known pl. x, presenting the chapel as organized around the shape of a bee, the famous heraldic device of Matteo Barberini, i.e. Pope Urban VIII, who was originally responsible for appointing Borromini to the project.

To round out the publication, Giannini also commissioned engravings from contemporary artists, some after Borromini's drawings and drawings by his assistant Francesco Righi (likewise acquired through the Borromini estate) and others of the building as it stood in 1720. A notable example of a later plate is the final (unnumbered), double-page engraving of the groundplan constructed on the basis of two superimposed equilateral triangles. This is a departure from Borromini's single-triangle plan and a superfluous addition (in terms of construction detail) but one that proved extremely influential to subsequent understandings of the chapel's design, and is indeed still often taken as representative of Borromini's original concept (see J. Connors, “S. Ivo Alla Sapienza: The First Three Minutes”, p. 50).

The Opus Architectonicum, the second work presented here, is devoted to the Oratorio dei Filippini, the oratory and residence of the Congregation of St. Philip Neri. In contrast to the Opera, which has no text apart from the publisher's short preface and plate captions, this volume couples 67 engravings and etchings (again a combination of earlier and later work) with an important 31-page text based on a manuscript written by Borromini and the Oratorian father Virgilio Spada (1596-1662) in 1646-1647 (Archivio della Congregazione dell'Oratorio, at S. Maria in Vallicella, Archivio Vallicelliano, MS C.II.6). Titled ‘Piena relatione della fabbrica', the text provides an account of the design and construction of each room and is enriched with insight into Borromini's creative process and the relationship between patron and architect. Spada amassed 37 drawings for the monograph but was never able to realize its publication (see F. Borromini, Opus architectonicum, ed. J. Connors, pp. lxxxii-lxxxv). Giannini presents it here and includes a Latin translation to accompany the Italian text, thus providing the basis for the ‘new' title, Opus Architectonicum.

Giannini's publications are of fundamental importance to Borromini studies, often pointing up the great historical complexity of the material they enclose. They might also be considered a response to the broader European context of the publisher's time. On this point, the inclusion, in both works, of the famous engraved portrait of Borromini with the Supreme Order of Christ – one of few images of the architect – is particularly noteworthy. Highly similar to the fictive portrait of Palladio in Giacomo Leoni's 1716 translation of the Quattro Libri, it may represent, as Connors convincingly

argues, a rebuttal to contemporary Neo-palladian condemnation of Borromini as expressed in, among others, Colen Campbell's attack on the architect as having “endeavoured to debauch Mankind with his odd and chimerical Beauties” (C. Campbell, Introduction to Vitruvius Britannicus, 1715).

In both works, the plates are unsigned, and the name of the engraver/s is still unknown. They were engraved from Borromini's original drawings.

BAL RIBA 326 327; Berlin Kat. 2689; A. Blunt, Borromini, London 1979; J. Connors, Borromini and the Roman Oratory, New York 1980, esp. pp. 263-269 (cat. 89-90); 281-282 (cat. 104); 285-288 (cat. 110); J. B. Scott, “S. Ivo alla Sapienza and Borromini's Symbolic Language”, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 41 (1982), pp. 294-317 (esp. pp. 298-299); J. Connors, “Sebastiano Giannini: Opus Architectonicum”, B. Contardi – G. Curcio (eds.), In Urbe Architectus: modelli disegni misure: La professione dell'architetto in Rome 1680-1750, Rome 1991, esp. pp. 207-209; Idem, “S. Ivo Alla Sapienza: The First Three Minutes”, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 55 (1996), pp.38-57; F. Borromini, Opus architectonicum, ed. J. Connors, Milan 1998; J. Connors, “Francesco Borromini. La vita (1599–1667)”, R. Bo?sel – C. L. Frommel (eds.) Borromini e l'universo barocco, Milan 1999, pp. 7-21; J. M. Smyth-Pinney, “Borromini's Plans for Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 59 (2000), pp. 312-337; K. Downes, Borromini's Book, the ‘Full Relation of the Building' of the Roman Oratory, Wetherby 2009.

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