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Orientalisms at the Origin of Venetian Architecture

Vincenzo Fontana    



Between 1964 and 1968 Carlo Scarpa designs the small, precious «patio» of the Fondazione Que- rini Stampalia, in which both Mondrian and Mies van de Rohe, and ancient China and Japan, as well as Venice and the Alhambra, are finally re-read through modern eyes. An orientalist reading of the origins of Venetian architecture is exposed by Leopoldo Cicognara in «Le fabbriche più cospicue di Venezia» (1815-1820) in a posi- tive and appreciative way. The works of Pietro Selvatico similarly show his adherence to both the romantic and the positivist movements: he had been a student of Giuseppe Iappelli, who in the Moorish greenhouse of the gardens of Villa Torlonia in Rome in 1840 translated into architectural form some engravings of Murphy’s Alhambra. The apse of the Murano cathedral in his «Sulla architettura e sulla scultura in Venezia dal Medioevo» (1847) becomes extremely important for John Ruskin. Indeed, through a much deeper analysis of this work, it is seen to become for Ruskin the key of Venetian ornament law until the early Renaissance architecture. Ruskin lays down this law of ornament scientifically and poetically: it is made not only of geometric lines and colors, but of matter and patinas. Thus, Venice offers a pattern to contemporary Victorian architecture and to the future «organic architecture». Camillo Boito traces the Christian character of Murano’s architecture back to its Byzantine and Lombard origins, and compares it with Syrian, Armenian and Coptic churches illustrated by Melchior de Vogüe in «Syrie Central» (1865-1872). These in turn influence the mausoleum erected by Ponti in the center of the cemetery in Gallarate (1865-1869). «Degli stili nell’architettura», ii, 1897, and the «Atlas» of Luigi Archinti (Chirtani) borrow from the works of the French diplomat detailed surveys of churches and mon- asteries of Syria indicated by Boito as models for future architects. The eastern route is continued in Milan and Rome by Monneret de Villard, which passes from hydroelectric industry to Coptic and Armenian archeology.

July 25, 2012
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