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Study Day 2013

Report on the international study day „Drawings after antique architecture in the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi“, Berlin, November 7-8, 2013

At the close of the project focus of the years 2009-13 on the drawings after antique architecture in the Gabinetto Disegni e Stampe degli Uffizi (GDSU) the Census invited to a study day which took place at the Humboldt University Berlin and the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities (BBAW). Several aspects which appeared particularly interesting to the Census scholars and student assistants were presented within a larger framework, and the findings, questions and problems emerging from the project work were discussed with international experts in the field of Renaissance architectural drawings. The event was sponsored by the Kommission Internationale Beziehungen of the BBAW.

On November 7, Howard Burns (Scuola Normale Superiore Pisa, CISA Andrea Palladio Vicenza) opened the conference with the public evening lecture titled “The Study of Renaissance Architectural Drawings after the Antique – an Overview” which ranged from Renaissance studies on the remains of antique architecture in Italy depicted in contemporary drawings up to current studies on these Renaissance drawings for which according to Burns the Census database constitutes an indispensable tool.

On November 8, the study day was opened by Michael J. Waters’ (Chicago) paper (see program). On the basis of a group of newly discovered drawings of antique monuments in a manuscript of the architectural treatise by the Sienese artist Francesco di Giorgio Martini and additional, partly congruent sets of drawings, Waters attempted to reconstruct the volume of the original corpus of drawings of antique monuments by Francesco di Giorgio. According to Waters, the exceptional quality of this corpus resulted from the unique amalgamation of architectural and epigraphic information with which Francesco di Giorgio fused formerly separated lines of tradition to a new antiquarian category. Traces of this innovation are to be found in copies of the whole 16th century and still at its end in the compilations of amateurs like Giorgio Vasari il Giovane, even though other, more precise forms of the study of the antiquity soon were taking the dominant part.

A first insight in this kind of study was given by Franz Engel (Berlin, Census), who with his paper on the three temples at the Roman Forum Holitorium showed how Antonio da Sangallo the Younger attempted to bring the built monuments in accordance with the theoretical writings by Vitruvius, and, in doing so, how he, now and then against his better judgement, attached more importance to his own desire for allegiance to theoretical reflections than to archaeological evidence. By reading precisely Antonio’s comment on one of his drawings, Engel was able to propose a convincing dating of the drawing.

Paul Davies (Reading) presented his reflections about the scale keys the frequently anonymous draughtsmen added to their architectural drawings. Due to their characteristic formal features, Davis suggested to treat them as some kind of signature in order to be able to attribute larger coherent groups of drawings to the same hand.

Subsequently, Andreas Huth (Berlin, Census) presented his analysis of three drawings of an antique tumulus at the Bastione Ardeatino, a part of the Aurelian Walls of Rome rebuilt by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger. Based on the precisely measured architectural drawings by Antonio da Sangallo, Huth succeeded in reconstructing the tomb building. Although there are preserved ruinous remains of a monumental tumulus in that region today, the widely differing measurements do not allow an unambiguous identification with the drawn object. Hence, Huth raised the question of the reliability of Renaissance drawings as sources for modern archaeological research. This issue was taken up several times in the course of the study day.

Andreas Raub (Berlin, Census) also focused on Antonio da Sangallo, and, by analysing a larger group of drawings of the Mausoleum at Halikarnassos, explored the methods of the architect who in this case could only rely on antique written sources for his reconstruction. Raub illustrated the architect’s tentative attempts to draw a scheme of the building on the basis of the scarce specifications of measurements and figures he could not easily reconcile with his knowledge of Roman buildings. Conclusively he inquired after Sangallo’s motivation for this project which obviously solicited his attention.

The second part of the study day was opened by Marzia Faietti (Florence, GDSU) with a presentation of the online database of the cabinet of drawings of the Uffizi, the collection including the majority of the works which were focused on that day. She introduced the different ways of inquiries and pointed to the regular virtual exhibitions on the website of the GDSU. She also reported about the successful external fundraising for the digitisation and inventory of all works still not integrated, which opens up interesting perspectives for the future cooperation with the Census.

Paola Zampa (Rome) focused on a single antique building, the Basilica Aemilia on the Roman Forum, the remains of which were completely destroyed in the first decade of the 16th century, but nevertheless experienced an amazingly intense afterlife in drawings. The numerous documents here again aroused discussions about the different intentions of the draughtsmen, their possible models and the reliability of their depictions.

The same issues were raised by Timo Strauch (Berlin, Census) with the example of three drawings of unknown artists which display the twisted columns from Old St. Peter’s in Rome, monuments still extant today. Consequently, the originals allow an empirical verification of the meticulous measurements of the Renaissance. However, since modern measures of the columns still do not exist, Strauch first attempted to clarify on the basis of a comparative analysis of the drawings which, at a first glance, appear identical, whether they actually show the very same monument or just very similar but different columns.

Lilla Mátyók (Berlin, Census) subsequently presented several results of her research on the drawings of Giorgio Vasari the Younger. The draughtsman, who in the field of architecture was an amateur, apparently had access to numerous older drawn models of different provenance and used them in different ways for his own purposes. Even if here the documentary value of the drawing in relation to the monuments depicted is frequently negligible, Vasari’s copies are important witnesses for the longevity of several early drawings of antiquities which, due to the practice of graphic copying, even at the end of the 16th century could take effect.

In the last paper, David Hemsoll (Birmingham) delineated another case of graphic copying with the example of three drawings of the Porta dei Leoni in Verona, and thus expanded the geographical frame of the study day regarding monuments as well as protagonists, i.e. Giovanni Maria Falconetto and Andrea Palladio.

The concluding discussion again took up single aspects of the papers presented, but rather concentrated on contents and technical aspects of the Census database, whose usefulness and relevance for art historical and archaeological research was repeatedly emphasised by several participants. The project staff collected suggestions for future focus areas and expert advice. The harmonious and concentrated atmosphere at the study day was praised, and the participants unanimously welcomed the plan to repeat the event. The contributions will be published in volume 16 of Pegasus.

Participants of the Study Day:
Franz Engel, Wiebke Hölzer, Andreas Huth, Lilla Mátyòk, Arnold Nesselrath, Ulrike Peter, Andreas Raub, Birte Rubach, Philipp Schneider, Maika Stobbe, Timo Strauch (all Census)
Michael J. Waters (Chicago), Paul Davies (Reading), Marzia Faietti (Florence), Paola Zampa (Rome), David E. Hemsoll (Birmingham), Howard Burns (Pisa), Pier Nicola Pagliara (Rome), Ian Campbell (Edinburgh), Vitale Zanchettin (Venice), Peter Fane-Saunders (Durham), Georg Schelbert (Berlin)

Further guests:
Michail Chatzidakis (Berlin), Fritz-Eugen Keller (Berlin), Sebastian Storz (Dresden), Guido Beltramini (Vicenza), Carolyn Yerkes (New York), Cara Rachele (Florence), Thomas Helbig (Berlin), Kolja Thurner (Berlin)

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