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Giuseppe Valadier: a precocious talent for architecture and restoration

Biography

Giuseppe Valadier: a precocious talent for architecture and restoration

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Giuseppe Valadier was a child prodigy in the architectural scene of Neoclassical Rome. His training is unusual, because even if he showed right away a great talent and a vocation for the architectural field, during his studies he worked with his father, well-known Roman goldsmith, and so he learned his craft.
He was just thirteen when he won a much sought-after priz,e being awarded with the Gold Medal in the Concorso Clementino announced by the Accademia di San Luca, which dealt exactly with valorisation of young talents in various art fields.
His training with his father however let him approach to other artistic forms too, and so Valadier experienced painting, but also less noble arts like carpentry, and he even worked as a stonecutter and a bricklayer.
This training allowed him to fully understand the different aspects an architectural work is composed by, from the invention to the realization. Valadier was therefore incredibly talented, but in addition he had a clear and precise knowledge of the world of such a particular art.
He was born in Rome in 1762, and there he worked and lived throughout his entire life.
The scene in which he gravitated was linked to the figure of his father, and it is in fact thanks to him, close friend of Pius VI, that he obtained in 1781 the title of architect of the Papal States (he wasn’t twenty years old yet).
Valadier was mostly based in Rome, as we said, but for his training he also travelled around northern Italy, where he saw, he broadened his knowledge and brought everything back to Rome in his fund.
Many are his works, even in the field of architectural restoration. The most famous ones are his interventions on the Arch of Titus and on the Colosseum. The role of Valadier is in fact particularly significant in this field.
Architectural restoration was at that time an emerging discipline. Critical intervention on assets from the past was not yet defined and, in just a few years, Valadier together with another Roman architect, Stern, found himself working on one of the emblematic monuments of the classical antiquity, marking the starting point of the disciplinary debate in Italy. Between the years 1806 and 1815, in fact, they took care of two interventions quite different from each other.
On one side, Raffaele Stern realized a brick spur where a portion was about to collapse, and consolidated it with deformed patterns and with a different material. Valadier, on the other hand, arranged both for the Colosseum and for the Arch of Titus a intervention method based on the reconstruction by analogy of some portion of monuments.
This practice, yet, didn’t always obtain a positive response: it incurred for instance Stendhal’s hatred, who, speaking about it, complained about the fact that with that restoration only a copy of the arch was handed down to posterity, and not the original one.
Valadier also worked as a goldsmith after his father’s death, and many are the projects he managed in the city, including town planning schemes and the creation of gardens.
In short, a very talented figure, who concluded his career as Architecture Teacher at the Accademia di San Luca, precisely the first association to honour his genius. Sometimes in life everything comes full circle.

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