The direct reference is to the classical tradition and Vitruvius, the ancient Roman architect and inventor of this juxtaposition which has enjoyed such success in the history of art. In De Architectura he compares the human body to a construction, and from this comparison he makes a series of affirmations which over time have facilitated the understanding of terms such as proportion, symmetry and harmony.
“Giulio Romano’s I Modi and the ‘Modi’ of Carlo Scarpa and Álvaro Siza”
March 11– May 15, 2016
Fondazione Querini Stampalia
Santa Maria Formosa
Castello 5252, Venice
Inspired by Vitruvian thought, many great architects, particularly those more gifted in the art of drawing, have experienced the moment in which the pleasure of depicting the human anatomy takes on an erotic value. A drawing, the first appearance of the process which attributes a form to the substance, can indicate the establishment of a sensual relationship between the architect’s hand, the graphic support and the tools used.
The exhibition Giulio Romano’s I Modi and the ‘Modi’ of Carlo Scarpa and Álvaro Siza, curated by Francesco Dal Co, Casabella Editor, and showing at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia from 11 March to 15 May 2016, aims to investigate this aspect of architecture: the link between the depiction of the body and eroticism.
This analysis takes as its starting point the exhibition of a vast series of drawings taken from the private notebooks and studies of two of the major architects of the twentieth century: Carlo Scarpa (1906-1978) and Álvaro Siza (b. 1933).
Approximately 100 drawings by these two masters of contemporary architecture are on display which have never been exhibited before. To demonstrate that what we deduce from Scarpa and Siza’s drawings and sketches is not the result of a practice or of contingent attitudes, the exhibition also includes reproductions of Giulio Romano’s “I Modi” (1499-1546).
Giulio Romano was one of Raphael’s principal assistants, designing some significant works of the Italian Renaissance, including Palazzo Te in Mantua (1525-1534 ca.), where he also created an extraordinary cycle of frescoes (in some cases with an erotic subject) and decorations.
In 1524 Marcantonio Raimondi (1480 ca.-1534), the most important Italian engraver of the Renaissance, engraved the series of works known as I Modi (De omnibus Veneris Schematibus) from sixteen lascivious drawings by Giulio Romano. I Modi, which depict sixteen erotic positions, were variously taken up again (by Carracci and Procaccini, among others) and then published as illustrations for some equally licentious sonnets by one of the great exponents of the Renaissance, Pietro Aretino (1492-1556).
In the exhibition organised at the Fondazione Querini Stampalia it is interesting to see the book which reproduces Aretino’s sonnets alongside Raimondi’s engravings. These have been superimposed by Siza’s drawings which copy those of Giulio Romano.
In Siza, the compact, impassive balance of the Vitruvian module is freed up in space, in liquid movement, in a sinuous dance of passion. In Scarpa the figures, mainly female nudes, fill the planning papers with all of their earthy corporality and recount the irresistible seduction of meticulous and insatiable detail, and of its obstinate beauty.
These are ‘modi’ or ways of creativity, like forms of Eros: a digression of intelligence, amorous courtship, or a generative act.
Francesco Dal Co states: “Nostalgia occupies the centre of Carlo Scarpa’s work, it is the model. The background sound repeated in it is that of tradition. Instead, that which can be gathered in the works of Álvaro Siza is nostalgia for an intimate relationship with the world, which he considers definitively compromised. These are the two ‘modi’ or ways in drawings that would be virtually irreconcilable if it weren’t for the movements of the hands to establish their constitutive affinity. This affinity is made clear by the aim that the drawings of the two architects share: to demonstrate and prove that nothing can substitute the expansion of power which the drawing guarantees the observer.”