state and continuing Clement XIs work formulate a program ofcorrective

State and continuing clement xis work formulate a

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state and, continuing Clement XI’s work, formulate a program of corrective reconstruction. In 1756, during the papacy of Benedict XIV, the doors of the Pantheon were shut, and behind them dust rose as marble fragments from the attic were thrown down.What may have started as a maintenance project resulted in the elimination of the troublesome attic altogether.The work was carried out in secret; even the pope’s claim of authority over the Pantheon, traditionally the city’s domain, was not made public until after completion. Francesco Algarotti, intellectual gadfly of the enlightened age, happened upon the work in progress and wrote with surprise and irony that “they have dared to spoil that magnificent, august construction of the Pantheon .... They have even destroyed the old attic from which the cupola springs and they’ve put up in its place some modern gentilities.”As with the twin bell towers erected on the temple’s exterior in the seventeenth century,Algarotti did not know who was behind the present work. The new attic was complete by 1757. Plaster panels and pedimented windows replaced the old attic pilaster order, accentuating lines of horizontality.The new panels were made commensurate in measure to the dome’s coffers and the fourteen “windows” were reshaped as statue niches with cutout figures of statues set up to test the effect.The architect responsible for the attic’s redesign, it was later revealed, was Paolo Posi who, as a functionary only recently hired to Benedict XIV’s Vatican architectural team, was probably brought in after the ancient attic was dismantled. Posi’s training in the baroque heritage guaranteed a certain facility of formal invention. Francesco Milizia, the eighteenth century’s most widely respected architectural critic, described Posi as a decorative talent, not an architectural mind.Whatever one might think of the design, public rancor arose over the wholesale liquidation of the materials from the old attic. Capitals, marble slabs, and ancient stamped bricks were dispersed on the international market for antiquities. Posi’s work at the Pantheon was sharply criticized, often with libelous aspersion that revealed a prevailing sour attitude toward contemporary architecture in Rome and obfuscated Posi’s memory.They found the new attic suddenly an affront to the venerated place. 17 the challenge of tradition, 1750–1900
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Reconsidering Posi’s attic soon became an exercise in the development of eighteenth-century architects in Rome. Giovanni Battista Piranesi, the catalytic architectural mind who provided us with the evocative engraving of the Pantheon’s exterior, drew up alternative ideas of a rich, three-dimensional attic of clustered pilasters and a meandering frieze that knit the openings and elements together in a bold sculptural treatment. Piranesi, as we will see in a review of this architect’s work, reveled in liberties promised in the idiosyncrasies of the original attic and joyously contributed some of his own. Piranesi had access to Posi’s work site and had
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  • Spring '17
  • Archt. De Veyra

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