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Francesco Paciotti: Architetto urbinate (1521-1591).

Nadia Ragni. Francesco Paciotti: Architetto urbinate (1521-1591).

Urbino: Accademia Raffaello, 2001. 200 pp. + 35 b/w pls. index. append. illus. bibl. $48. ISBN: 88-87573-08-5.

Alessandra Coppa. Francesco Paciotti: Architetto militare.

Milan: Edizioni Unicopli, 2002. 229 pp. append. illus. bibl. $14.50. ISBN: 88-400-0728-8.

For years the late George Kubler hinted at the remarkable fact that historians had totally ignored the architect Francesco Paciotti, who worked for more kings, popes and dukes than any other architect of the second half of the sixteenth century. Referring to the Escorial in Spain, for example, Kubler dryly remarked how "[Father] Siguenza ... who knew the people, the documents, the drawings, and the models as chronicler and librarian in 1600, always referred to the church as Paciotti's." Kubler would be pleased that the obscure architect now has two monographs to his credit. Both Italian works are the published versions of university theses, and because of their origin as exhaustively researched archival dissertation[s] and the accidents of timing, are remarkably alike. Coppa ostensibly announces a narrower focus on military architecture--Paciotti's acknowledged specialty--but actually produces a much longer book. Ragni, in turn, publishes military facts not produced by Coppa. Because of slight differences in otherwise repetitive treatments, both must be read concurrently to treat any particular project associated with Paciotti.

Nineteenth-century archival work by Carlo Promis has left a good starting point for work on Paciotti, at least in the specialized subfield of military architecture. The basic facts are clear. Paciotti studied mathematics in Urbino and learned architecture--importantly slanted to military matters in the service of the soldier-duke Guidobaldo II della Rovere--from Girolamo Genga. He spent time in the Vitruvian academy of Tolomei in Rome, and went on to fabulous success working for the Farnese in Parma and Piacenza, for Duke Emanuele Filiberto in Torino, for Philip II in Spain (along the way producing designs for the Escorial), for Spanish interests in Flanders and Milan, and finally in the papal territories, where he served as First Engineer of the Papal States. Ragni treats Paciotti chronologically, Coppa thematically. As noted, for military commissions like the forts of Torino, Antwerp, and Ancona, one must read both, for the documentation is so rich. Coppa's references are exhaustive, even for the Flemish literature. However, Ragni provides photographs of the model for Ancona's citadel and reprints in full Paciotti's "Studi sulle fortificazioni di Francesco Paciotti" from the Biblioteca Universitaria in Urbino. An additional Parisian manuscript mentioned by both awaits transcription and in depth study.

Paciotti's two big triumphs were the citadels of Torino and Antwerp. After Paciotti had distinguished himself with military service to the Farnese and was called by Philip II, he went first to Nice to work for the Savoy. His new for Torino, newly-restored from the French, was his first big success, a pentagonal structure with angled bastions and an ample walled city attached. After this, Paciotti fulfilled his duty in the Spanish Netherlands, where his military services were urgently needed. At Antwerp, Paciotti designed a similar pentagonal bastioned fortress with an even larger encompassing wall, which was carried out by his assistant Bernardino Facciotto. In both cases, the authors state little that is controversial, and there is little disagreement between the two, just the accumulated weight of documentary facts.

The richness of the documentation collected between these works is staggering. While much of it was known before, more was not, and various archives have been combed for both letters and drawings. These are truly exhaustive works. After all this labor, then, it seems a shame that we still seems to know so little about the architect. Naturally, Coppa says nothing about Paciotti's domestic architecture. But, here, at least a cursory look at Paciotti's proposed palaces and churches would be instructive and point to issues of reputation. He worked substantially on the Cittadella of Piacenza, but has been completely historically eclipsed by his successor Vignola, and also (as noted by Kubler) largely designed the Escorial so that Siguenza could still call it the Urbinate's. Ragni addresses these monuments but only very briefly, certainly not enough to challenge the issues that Kubler raised.

Further archival investigation will probably not satisfy our search for the reasons for Paciotti's neglect. Here a historiographical investigation of authors like Giorgio Vasari, on the order attempted by other historians to explain the early writer's ignorance of some rivalrous contemporaries seems in order. For where we would most expect mention of Paciotti, in Vasari's life of his countryman Taddeo Zuccaro, is precisely where Vignola appears. The deeper we dig, the more distinguished Paciotti becomes, both for his nobility as a count, and for his deep knowledge of Latin and mathematics, which was mentioned by several authors. Paciotti, a landed count, had a famous familiar tone with the highest of potentates. Could his querulous nature and aloofness have soured him in the eyes of the courtier Vasari?

For that matter dynastic issues seem sorely unanalyzed. Paciotti's life is sketched by both Coppa and Ragni as the wanderings of an ambitious journeyman. Since the architect's mother was a natural daughter of Leonardo della Rovere and tied historically to ducal line, it seems more economical to assume he acted in some semiofficial capacity for the court of Urbino, even as his own brother Felice remained at the court. Military architects were in possession of precious knowledge that was not lent easily, so when Paciotti consults for the free republic of Lucca (as several generations of Urbinate military architects did), this says something about Urbino foreign relations, particularly with Lucca's nemesis Florence. Paciotti worked for the Farnese, linked to the Della Rovere through Duke Guidobaldo II's marriage to Virginia Farnese, and then the Savoy, long-friendly with the Piedmont Della Roveres. The work for Philip II was not just the inevitable honor to a great talent but coincided with Guidobaldo della Rovere's dramatic diplomatic turn toward the Spanish crown after leaving the service of the pope (the Farnese and Savoy had both also turned toward Spain, after seeing disappointment with the French). Finally, the late work for the church took place when threats by the Turks grew and factions between Spain and the pope were at a minimum, and Paciotti received the added bonus of working not too far from his hometown of Urbino in Ancona. The investigation of the political element will represent the next stage of Paciotti scholarship, to which we can only hope that Coppa and Ragni both dedicate themselves, seeing as they have done so much of the preliminary work that will make it possible.


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Title Annotation:Reviews
Author:Verstegen, Ian
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 2004
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