(Wynne, Giustiniana, Comtesse de Rosenberg)

Alticchiero. Par Made. J.W.C.D.R.

Padua, 1787.

Reference: 12664
Price: £2,950 [convert currency]

Full Description

4to. Engraved title leaf, (8) + 80pp, engraved folding plan, 29 engraved plates (of which one large folding, one folding). Nineteenth century quarter calf, marbled boards (a French binding probably of the 1830s or 1840s, lettered on its spine “Alticchiero par une Dame Anglaise”). Title leaf a little spotted and soiled, but otherwise a good, clean, fresh copy.

A good copy of this vivid description in French of the house, garden and outdoor sculpture collection belonging to the Venetian intellectual Angelo Quirini (1721-1796), at Alticchiero, near Padua. The house was modest, although furnished and decorated in the best contemporary taste (the interior featured busts by Houdon of Voltaire and Rousseau, “the two great matadors of modern literature”), but the surrounding garden was altogether more ambitious. Quirini’s layout, documented both in the text and in an accompanying engraved plan, incorporated parterres, garden temples, a “coffee house”, a Chinese pavilion, and a “Bois de Young”, an area of semi-wild woodland inspired by the English poet Edward Young’s Night Thoughts. More importantly, it incorporated a highly personalised collection of outdoor sculptures, some of them antique, others commissioned by Quirini himself to symbolise enlightenment ideals or to commemorate personal friendships, and all carefully positioned as part of the garden’s overall design ; thus, the visitor could walk through a “petit bois aux antiques”, stop off at the Chinese pavilion and a Temple of Venus, and proceed via a display of granite and porphyry sculptures from ancient Egypt to another formal area centering round a sculptured altar from the Greek island of Delos, acquired by Quirini from the heirs of the antiquary Scipione Maffei. All the sculptures are carefully illustrated on the volume’s engraved plates. The text for the volume, written in the form of a letter to the Geneva-based painter Jean Huber, a friend both of Quirini and of Voltaire, was supplied by the beautiful and charismatic Anglo-Italian heiress Giustiniana Wynne (1737-1791). By 1787 she was the widow of Count Orsini Rosenberg, Austrian ambassador to the Republic of Venice, but as a girl and young woman she had been the mistress both of Andrea Memmo (diplomat, patron of literature and the arts, and the principal propagandist for the rationalist architectural teachings of Carlo Lodoli) and of the celebrated adventurer Giacomo Girolamo Casanova. As is explained in an introduction supplied by the present volume’s editor, Comte Bartolommeo Benincasa, Huber had originally had Giustiniana’s letter printed at Geneva in a small edition for private circulation, but she subsequently decided to have it published at Padua in this enlarged and illustrated edition, dedicated to William Petty,Marquis of Lansdowne (better known under his previous title of Earl of Shelburne, and British Prime Minister for a few months in 1782-3). Her decision was a fortunate one for posterity, for Quirini’s garden soon fell into neglect and the collection of sculptures were dispersed, with the result that the book’s text and plates are the best tangible record of what was the most significant Italian garden of the enlightenment period. Cicognara 4083 ; not in Berlin Cat.