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Longhena, Baldassare

Longhena, Baldassare (1596–1682). The most distinguished Venetian architect of the Baroque period. He is said to have trained under Scamozzi. Early in his career he designed the Palazzo Giustinian-Lolin on the Grand Canal (1620–3), which was a taste of things to come in its lively invention. In 1630 Longhena won the competition to design the splendid votive Church of Santa Maria della Salute on which he was to work for the remainder of his life. Its plan is an octagonal domed space surrounded by lower aisles off which are six rectangular chapels illuminated by Diocletian windows, with a domed chancel on either side of which are apses. The clerestorey carrying the dome is linked to the radiating chapels by means of vast buttresses in the form of scrolls, and a triumphal-arch motif is used on the entrance-façade. The Church is sited at the entrance to the Grand Canal opposite the Piazzetta and Doge's Palace and on the axes of Palladio's Churches of San Giorgio Maggiore and Il Redentore. The connection with scenography is continued inside with telescoping views from the great central space, creating an architectural experience at once powerful and satisfying. Almost identical in plan is the Philippine Church, Gostyń, Poland (from 1679), for which Longhena provided drawings, realized by Andrea and Giorgio Catenazzi and completed by Pompeo Ferrari (c.1660–1736) in 1728. Longhena's mastery of theatrical effects was also demonstrated in the influential double staircase he designed for the Benedictine Monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore (1643–5).

His domestic designs were many, but his finest achievements in the field were the Palazzo Pésaro (1649/52–82—completed by his disciple, Antonio Gaspari (c.1658–1738)), with its diamond-rusticated plinth, two superimposed Orders, and an arrangement of arched windows carried on subsidiary Orders. It is arguably one of the most carefully composed of all Venetian palazzi, with a deeply layered façade, the main Orders standing in front of the ‘real’ structural wall. He also began the Palazzo Bon (later Rezzonico) in 1666, with a façade (completed by Giorgio Massari, 1759) regularly arranged as wall and pier over a plinth derived from Sanmicheli's Porta Palio, Verona (1548–9), the upper part evolved from Sansovino's Biblioteca Marciana (1536–60), and a total composition with a precedent in Sansovino's Palazzo Corner della Ca' Grande (begun 1537). His façade of the Chapel of the Ospedaletto (1670–4) was elaborately embellished, a precursor of late-Baroque tendencies. Apart from the scenographic triumph of Santa Maria della Salute, his greatest town-planning achievement was the completion of Scamozzi's Procuratie Nuove, Piazza di San Marco (1640–63).


Cristinelli (1978);
D. Howard (1980);
Karpowicz (1991);
D. Lewis (1979);
Placzek (ed.) (1982);
Puppi et al. (eds.) (1982);
Jane Turner (1996);
van Vynckt (ed.) (1993);
Wittkower (1982)

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