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28 August Aug 2017 1500 23 days ago

A revealing detail on the Duomo di Milano's façade

Traces of the outline of the pilasters' Attican base from Pellegrini's design, used by architect Richino

Long ago, on the side of the Pogliaghi Gate, at the centre of the Duomo di Milano's façade, one could see a unique and interesting detail, traces of the previous project (see archival images). It was the legacy of the outline which architect Francesco Maria Richino had proposed for the Attican base of the pilasters, in keeping with the project designed by Pellegrini in the third decade of the 17th century.

This print, preserved in Milan's Achille Bertarelli Municipal Collection of Prints, is from a group of etchings designed by Francesco Maria Richino and which represent some of the architect's proposals for the Cathedral's façade, specifically here the lower plate (the upper is preserved in the Archives of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo di Milano).

The projects for the Duomo's façade developed by "architect Ricchino engineer of said Veneranda Fabbrica" are separated into two phases: the first dating from the start of the 17th century, and the second leading up to the project represented in the print from 1635. After an intense design phase in the first decade of the 17th century, Richino was elected the Fabbrica's engineer on 21 July 1631, and it appears that he was paid 150 lire in December 1635 for certain jobs classified as "the nine drawings of the façade, the Porta Maggiore, and its windows in large format". The creation of the print was entrusted to Giovanni Paolo Bianco in the same year, subsequently paid on 14 December for 200 copies.

The "Drawing of the façade of the Duomo di Milano" specifies the lower order as being "in keeping with  the recommendation of architect Pellegrino" Tibaldi (inscription located in the bottom left), but is actually based on an elaboration of Pellegrino's project and on the reflections of Fabio Mangone. In fact, Mangone incorporated into the project the idea of using slightly protruding semi-pilasters in correspondence with columns placed along the façade's wall through the use of "paraste" (similar to pilasters, but with a purely decorative function) in place of the half columns planned by Pellegrino, but not the use of the double astragal base, preferring the Attican base.

A preparatory drawing of this print is also preserved in the second volume of the Bianconi Collection. The copy in the Bianconi Collection is different from the drawing preserved by the Fabbrica del Duomo as the measurements of each part are specified and it lacks the decorated high reliefs, which are present in the Fabbrica's copy. The stippled background in the plan was interpreted in two different ways: according to Aurora Scotti (professor at the Polytechnic University of Milan) it represents the portion corresponding to the foundation, while according to Francesco Repishti (also a professor at the Polytechnic University of Milan) it may be the plan's projection of the higher order, which thus shows a pair of recessed columns at the centre.

To view the drawings of the Duomo di Milano's façade, one can schedule an appointment at the Archives of the Veneranda Fabbrica del Duomo by sending an e-mail to: archivio@duomomilano.it or by calling 0272022656 ext. 117; or they can be viewed at http://www.disegniduomomilano.it/page/home/.