Vincenzo Brenna: The Travelling Architect

Dr. Dimitri Ozerkov

The Roman architect Vincenzo Brenna (1741–1820) is hard to study. His list of works has been questioned and revised, their authorship is often disputed in whole or in part, his archive and his grave seem to be lost, and the corpus of his buildings and drawings has been dispersed. His biography charts rapid movements caused by successive changes in high patrons from Italy, Poland, Russia, and Saxony. He built only in Russia over a period of fifteen years, and his creative message was suppressed by the two dominant imperial styles of architecture, Catherine's and Alexander's, the "epochs" of Giacomo Quarenghi and Carlo Rossi respectively. 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 a landscape painter. But many questions remain: How original was Brenna in his buildings? What in their composition belongs to him and what does not? What did he bring to architecture? What kind of person was he? What did he have in his library and collections? How did moving around Europe influence the evolution of his creative activity? This project attempts to answer these questions in the hope of forming a fuller picture of Brenna.

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