Vincenzo Brenna: The Travelling Architect

Dr. Dimitri Ozerkov

The Roman Vincenzo Brenna (1741–1820) is an architect that is hard to study. The list of his works is questioned and revised, the authorship is disputed in whole or in part, his archive and his grave seem to be lost, the corpus of his buildings and drawings has been dispersed. His biography is full of his rapid movements, caused by his successive change of high patrons in Italy, Poland, Russia, and Saxony. He built only in Russia and in just 15 years, and his creative message was suppressed in history by the two dominant imperial styles of architecture, Catherine's and Alexander's, relatively speaking, the "epochs" of Giacomo Quarenghi and Carlo Rossi. Both of them referred to Brenna as their teacher. In Rome, he was best known as a draftsman who worked on sketching the vaults of the Domus Aurea. In Poland, he was a decorator of country palaces. In Saxony, he declared himself as a landscape painter. How original was Brenna in his buildings? What in their composition belongs to him and what does not? What did he bring to the architecture? What kind of person was he? What did he have in his library and collections? How did moving around Europe influence the evo-lution of his creative activity?

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