It is one of the most important artistic styles in the world and represents a big part of Italy’s artistic-historical identity. Swide examines Sicilian Baroque (Barocco Siciliano) bit by bit inspiring you with travel getaways. The first in the series discovers beginning of the Barocco in Sicily…
Characterised by a burning decorative sense and lively colours, the Italian Baroque started officially in the VIII Century in Sicily, but the truth is that this date refers to each masterpiece created after the huge earthquake that devastated the city of Noto in 1693. Actually, long before that, Anthony Blunt, famous art historian but also a spy of the Soviet Union during Cold War, was the pioneer who identified three different stages from early emergence of the style up until the Sicilian Baroque reached its peak. The essential characteristic of Sicilian Baroque, in Blunt’s opinion, was the fact that it combined the tradition of craftsmanship with cultured architecture. He legitimated the style through a book, 'Barocco Siciliano', with these words: “charming or repulsive, this style is the characteristic manifestation of Sicilian exuberance, and it is to be taken into account as one of the most important styles...”
Sicilian Baroque at its beginning (so before 1693) was present in Sicily through architects that in the XVII Century took inspiration from Baroque architecture in Rome. Here in Sicily the local architects – who were educated in Rome - were inspired by the Eternal City and found space in the territory for their ideas, creating beautiful, new concepts about perspectives and geometries, with key territories like Messina or Palermo who perceived all the grandeur of Rome and were able to replicate it and interpret it there.
In the second half of the XVII Century, in fact, the most important Sicilian Baroque sculptor, Giacomo Serpotta, started to produce and to decorate the Churches of the Island.
One example of it – considered the first Sicilian Baroque on the Island – is the palace of Quattro Canti in Palermo, realised by Giulio Lasso e Mariano Smiriglio between 1609 and 1620. Another innovation towards the Baroque style was the Teatro Marittimo by Simone Gullì, built facing the sea. Other architects who realised works that can be included in the beginning of the Baroque are Natale Masuccio and Antonio Muttone. Also the Santuario dell’Annunziata (1531-1537) in Trapani by Antonello Gagini and the Chiesa del Gesù di Palermo (1564–1633) all helped initiate the movement of Sicilian Baroque.
Palermo, Quattro Canti Building
Trapani, Santuario dell’Annunziata (cupola della Madonna)
Guarino Guarini is the other name that left a mark on Sicilian architecture a bit later, when Sicilian Baroque was already distinguishing itself from that of the rest of the country. Although not Sicilian himself (Modena, 17 January 1624 - Milano, March 1683), the architect moved to Sicily, Messina – we don't know for how long - and planned there the Santissima Annunziata Church, the Collegio dei Teatini and the San Filippo Neri Church. He was the one who introduced officially the Baroque, although unfortunately all of these buildings were destroyed by the earthquake. Among the architects whose influence was key is Angelo Italia, a Jesuit monk.
Among his most important works there is the Santa Maria della Neve Church (1685-1693) in Mazzarino, commissioned by Carlo Carafa Branciforte prince of Butera, which was left unfinished.
Mazzarino, Santa Maria della Neve
This was the artistic setting present in Sicily before the terrible earthquake destroyed (almost) everything…
Written by: Elisa della Barba