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"Architects of Lombardy in XV-XIX century Russia" Report by Andrea Spiriti

On October 30, 2019, as part of the seminar "West and East: Universalism of Culture" of the IL for the Study of Russian and European Intellectual Dialogue, Andrea Spiriti, an ordinary professor at the University of Insubria, Varese – Como made a report

Professor Spiriti told about the artists from the region of Lombardy lakes (intelvesi, valsoldesi and porlezzini, campionesi, sottenerini, ceresini). Their lifetime in Russia coincides, on the one hand, with the establishment of relations between the states of the Italian peninsula and Moscow, and, on the other hand, with the political evolution of the Grand Duchy of Moscow into the “Tsarist Empire”. At the court of Ivan III, Vasily III, and Ivan IV, worked personalities such as Anton "Fryazin" (perhaps under this name there was two architects), Aristotle Fioravanti (a native of Bologna, but long lived in Milan, the capital of the Duchy, to which the "lake artists" belonged), Pietro Antonio Solari (representative of one of the largest clans in the region, mainly the Karon and Verna zones), Luigi Carcano, the mysterious Peter “Fryazin ”and Aleviz Novy from Lanzo. The quality of the projects of Italian architects built between 1475 and the first decades of the 16th century, starting with the Kremlin, significantly changed the image of Moscow as a capital. Among the buildings of the Italians there were monasteries, fortification systems, and palace residences. The system of international relations, which was inherent to the “lake artists”, guaranteed the immediate receipt of information on new trends in Italy and Europe: examples are the Faceted Chamber in the Kremlin, similar to the Palazzo dei Diamanti at the court of the Dukes d'Este in Ferrara.
Between the middle of the 16th and the beginning of the 18th centuries, the amount of Lombard architects in Russia was less, but numerous masons, marble craftsmen, and plasterers worked instead of them. It is enough to cite as an example the decoration of St. Basil’s Cathedral on Red Square, where the ornament plays a huge role.
In the XVIII century, when everything was concentrated on the construction of a new capital, St. Petersburg, the rise of Domenico Trezzini (a native of Astano, at that time part of Switzerland) and Antonio Rinaldi (a native of Trento, but belonging to the creative “family of lakes”), as well as his rival, the Florentine Rastrelli and later the Neapolitan Rossi, while Quarenghi from Bergamo assumes the role of brilliant mediation, characteristic of a native of the land, closely associated with the artists of the lakes. Even in the nineteenth century there is no shortage of Italian masters: it is enough to recall the masters of the Scotti family from Laino Intelvi, who worked fruitfully as architects, sculptors, artists and stage designers between St. Petersburg and Moscow. This massive presence of Lombard masters, more or less outstanding, was noticeable right up to the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917. Due to its special features - a system of family relations with clear co-optation, the creation of an artel capable of managing both construction and decoration, mutual assistance, the introduction of know-how - Lombard masters have long and hard to build up their presence in Russia, skillfully adapting to the features of the Russian state at different stages of its history.

Andrea Spiriti is an ordinary professor at the Faculty of Humanities and Innovation at the University of Insubria, Varese Como, Italy.

Alexey Kara-Murza, a chief research fellow of the Laboratory, was a seminar leading. Special guest - Anna Vyazemtseva.
The event was held jointly with the Research Institute of Theory and History of Architecture and Urban Planning.

You can watch the lecture here (in Italian with Russian translation).