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Alfieri, Benedetto Innocentelocked

(b Rome, 1699; d Turin, Dec 9, 1767).
  • Peter Stein

Extract

Italian architect. Descended from an impoverished ducal family of Asti, Piedmont, Alfieri spent his first 16 years in Rome. A papal stipend enabled him to study law at the Collegio dei Nobili in Turin, after which he settled as a lawyer in Asti. Even as a successful architect in public office, he continued to make use of his legal knowledge, and in Asti and later Turin he served as mayor intermittently. Alfieri was extraordinarily versatile, with no single personal style. He worked simultaneously in three separate styles: Roman high and late Baroque; French Rococo (for decoration); and early classicism. His attitude to these styles was functional rather than historical, and his choice of which one to use usually depended on the nature of the project and the wishes of his client. Thus Alfieri built Catholic churches in Roman Baroque and Protestant churches in a puristic classicism. Piedmontese State commissions were executed in the severe manner of the Turin State style as practised by Amadeo di Castellamonte and Filippo Juvarra before him. For the royal court and the aristocracy French Rococo was appropriate. Façades of palaces were decorated in the idiom of a restrained Baroque classicism, like that which Gianlorenzo Bernini and Carlo Fontana had developed in Rome. Whatever the style, Alfieri worked with facility and elegance, blending disparate elements into ingenious, harmonious creations. He was not a great innovator, but his work anticipates in certain respects the purpose-built functional architecture of the 20th century. With his flexible use of existing architectural vocabulary, he was a first-class architect of the second rank....

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