The choice of Bologna as European Cultural Capital in 2000 proved more productive, although indirectly. I and Alessandro Zucchini of the Istituto per i Beni artistici e culturali of Emilia-Romagna County Council were chosen by the director of the Archiginnasio, Pierangelo Bellettini, to conduct a new census of the building's inscriptions and coats of arms. Our personal aims made it easy to work together. The head of the library favoured photographing the decorations systematically and my own work on student populations convinced me that such an exhaustive series of photographs would provide great support in terms of documentation. This led to the project entitled “La storia sui muri” (“History On The Walls”) and its intial results have for some years now been one of the services provided on line by the library16, enabling greater use and appreciation of this cultural resource. Our attention was drawn to the large amount of restoration work carried out after 1803 when the University moved to the premises of the Science Institute in Palazzo Poggi and the building was subsequently put to various uses. First it housed schools - the public schools (Scuole Pie) - which, with hundreds of children and adolescents attending, cannot have been of much help to conservation. Then the Archiginnasio became home to the library, which shared it with the Medical Association, the Farming Association and other minor institutions. We know that it took seven years to convert the building to a public library and the building work, such as creating communicating doors between the various rooms to make borrowing books easier, was accompanied by extensive restoration of the decorations, some of which had been damaged by weather, vandalism and neglect. Restoration work went on continually from March 1838 to August 1855, involving the outer facade, the many monuments to readers, carvings with missing parts and many stone coats of arms which had been destroyed. These were reconstructed, although of course the heraldic symbols and names of the owners remained missing. Further restorations followed but overall “they gave rise in not a few cases to errors in transcription and misunderstandings which in some manner have damaged the value of these wall decorations as a historical source”17. Giuseppe Plessi was even harsher, stressing that “the results of so much work, carried out over such a long time, are anything but satisfactory: the epigraphs have alterations to the words and unfortunately names, places and nations are often mangled; the coats of arms have their emblems deformed, their paints inverted, worse shades of colour, with several retouches added which might be said to be in keeping with the goliard notion of a jest but which are nonetheless an alteration”18. That assessment was also made in relation to the huge amount of restoration work after the building was seriously damaged in a bombing raid in 1944. In line with those considerations, I proposed a drastic modification of the methods hitherto used, as suggested by early results from research on students at Bologna University between 1500 and 1800, which would enable completion of the names and surnames or places of origin of the owners of the coats of arms. It was quite evident that the approach of previous studies was wrong, i.e. uncritical transcription of inscriptions and coats of arms without questioning the corruptions occurring repeatedly over time and, above all, ignoring documentation able to prove or correct that data. The documentation had to be the source for the identity of those who had commissioned the decorations. Before each check was made on the decorations, systematic research was done on the entire student population of the period under consideration.

Imago universitatis. Celebrazioni e autorappresentazioni di maestri e studenti nella decorazione parietale dell'Archiginnasio

BRIZZI, GIAN PAOLO
2011

Abstract

The choice of Bologna as European Cultural Capital in 2000 proved more productive, although indirectly. I and Alessandro Zucchini of the Istituto per i Beni artistici e culturali of Emilia-Romagna County Council were chosen by the director of the Archiginnasio, Pierangelo Bellettini, to conduct a new census of the building's inscriptions and coats of arms. Our personal aims made it easy to work together. The head of the library favoured photographing the decorations systematically and my own work on student populations convinced me that such an exhaustive series of photographs would provide great support in terms of documentation. This led to the project entitled “La storia sui muri” (“History On The Walls”) and its intial results have for some years now been one of the services provided on line by the library16, enabling greater use and appreciation of this cultural resource. Our attention was drawn to the large amount of restoration work carried out after 1803 when the University moved to the premises of the Science Institute in Palazzo Poggi and the building was subsequently put to various uses. First it housed schools - the public schools (Scuole Pie) - which, with hundreds of children and adolescents attending, cannot have been of much help to conservation. Then the Archiginnasio became home to the library, which shared it with the Medical Association, the Farming Association and other minor institutions. We know that it took seven years to convert the building to a public library and the building work, such as creating communicating doors between the various rooms to make borrowing books easier, was accompanied by extensive restoration of the decorations, some of which had been damaged by weather, vandalism and neglect. Restoration work went on continually from March 1838 to August 1855, involving the outer facade, the many monuments to readers, carvings with missing parts and many stone coats of arms which had been destroyed. These were reconstructed, although of course the heraldic symbols and names of the owners remained missing. Further restorations followed but overall “they gave rise in not a few cases to errors in transcription and misunderstandings which in some manner have damaged the value of these wall decorations as a historical source”17. Giuseppe Plessi was even harsher, stressing that “the results of so much work, carried out over such a long time, are anything but satisfactory: the epigraphs have alterations to the words and unfortunately names, places and nations are often mangled; the coats of arms have their emblems deformed, their paints inverted, worse shades of colour, with several retouches added which might be said to be in keeping with the goliard notion of a jest but which are nonetheless an alteration”18. That assessment was also made in relation to the huge amount of restoration work after the building was seriously damaged in a bombing raid in 1944. In line with those considerations, I proposed a drastic modification of the methods hitherto used, as suggested by early results from research on students at Bologna University between 1500 and 1800, which would enable completion of the names and surnames or places of origin of the owners of the coats of arms. It was quite evident that the approach of previous studies was wrong, i.e. uncritical transcription of inscriptions and coats of arms without questioning the corruptions occurring repeatedly over time and, above all, ignoring documentation able to prove or correct that data. The documentation had to be the source for the identity of those who had commissioned the decorations. Before each check was made on the decorations, systematic research was done on the entire student population of the period under consideration.
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G.P. Brizzi
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11585/105136
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