Folio (20 6/8 x 17 inches). Engraved vignette of the Foro Bonaparte on the title-page, 14 MAGNIFICENT double-page sepia aquatints plates by Antolinini, Sanquirico and others, and 10 uncoloured double-page engraved plans and aquatints. Contemporary marbled paper boards (rebacked with blue cloth in the 19th-century, worn).
Provenance: acquired from Marlborough Rare Books, 1973 by Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow, their sale, Christie's 19th June 2014, lot 113.
First edition, issued by subscription. A superb collection of Antolini's designs for the Foro Bonaparte, a grandiose plan to modernise the Castello Sforza, Piazza del Castello, Piazza d'Armi during Napoleon's occupation of Italy. Napoleon had first entered Milan on May 15 1796, by the end of June, the ancient Castello Sforza was under French rule. Napoleon decided to restore and improve the old fortress in spite of local Milanese opposition who wished to see the remains of old tyranny destroyed. In April 1799, Milan was back under Austrian and Russian rule, but on June 14 1800, Napoleon defeated the Austrian army in Marengo, and Milan was proclaimed capital of the Cisalpine Republic. Again, "the castle was used as a barracks and was further damaged. The Ducal Chapel was transformed into a stable, the Ducal Apartments used as a dormitory and the frescos painted during the Sforza period were covered in lime. At the beginning of the 19th century, the population exulted as the old Spanish ramparts were demolished. Great architects such as Luigi Canonica and Giovanni Antolini were called in to redesign the big area in front of the deteriorated Sforza Castle. Antolini designed a circular square with a diameter of about 570 meters. In it were classic-design public buildings (e.g. the Pantheon, the National Museum). Around it were arcades with warehouses, stores and private buildings. This square was named Foro Bonaparte. In the middle of the Foro survived the Sforza Castle, which became the residence of the Government. On one side, the Foro Bonaparte faced the city. The other side opened on a big square in the way to Parco Sempione and Paris. However, after April 1801, the project was set aside and the whole area underwent gradual changes, which led to transform it into a vast square (700x700 meters) called Piazza d'Armi" (Castello Sforzesco online).
The extraordinary aquatints include images of the entire square, the Foro Bonaparte, the Faciata Princepale, Barriera Sempione, Faciata del Terme, Spaccato dei Bagni, Spaccato delle Sala delle Terme, the Facciata del Pantheon, Teatro, Borsa, et Museo, the Spaccato del Pantheon, Spaccato per is lungo del Teatro, Spaccato dell Borsa - Facciata posteriore, Spaccato del Musea, Spaccato della Logaria, Facciata, e Spaccato di una delle S. Sale di Publica Istruzione, and the "Monumento decretato dalla commissione provisoria di Governo li 5. Messidoro an.o 8° era francese, per eternare la memoria dell'eroe Bonaparte ; scelto dalla commissione degli artisti istituita per il giudicio del concorso ; e destinato da erigersi nel Foro-Bonaparte in Milano". Antolini is best remembered for his work in the Piazza San Marco, Venice. Berlin Kat. 2649.
The first of the large double-page aquatints is an early example of the work of Allessandro Sanquirico, architect, decorator, restorer, inventor, and practiced artist of perspective and lighting, and the chief scenic artist and stage designer at La Scala from 1817 to 1832. While there he instigated a new aesthetic of stage design that was to become indissolubly associated with the art of 19th-century grand opera, and which continued to influence operatic set dressing well into the 20th-century. Sanquirico recorded all of his major stage designs in a series of meticulous aquatint engravings and disseminated them throughout Europe. They were often copied, and so were a major vehicle of his influence, which extended even to fashions in furniture, interior decoration, and clothing.