Insubrica Historica is responsible for describing not only the local history, but also for looking at what happened outside our region, but with a direct implication with the region of Insubrica. It is an exercise we have already done for Rome, retracing the greatest works of art by artists from Ticino. This time it’s England’s turn and particularly London’s, since we recently stayed there for a few days.
Contrary to what happened in the rest of Europe, the artistic contribution of Ticino in England and Ireland, particularly London, is more limited. Nevertheless, there are some names that are worth knowing in depth.
The first is Giovanni Battista Bagutti (1681-after 1730). Originally from Rovio. Among other things, the entire village of Rovio is part of the Inventory of Swiss Heritage Sites, whilst the oratory of S. Vigilio is listed as a Swiss heritage site of national significance and is worth a visit. Bagutti operated as a plasterer, worked almost exclusively in England. The second Ticinese, who was also Bagutti’s main collaborator, was Giuseppe Artari (1697-1771 Bonn), he who also from Arogno. Artari like his father, was a plasterer and sculptor. After his studies in Rome he was active mainly in Belgium, Germany and Holland. He arrived in England following Bagutti.
Bagutti and Artari worked for the greatest English architects of the period: Giacomo Leoni (1686-1746, originally from Venice), Francis Smith of Warwick (1672-1738), Colen Campbell (1676-1726, considered the founder of the Georgian style) and James Gibbs (1682-1754). There are many works made by this pair, they also tried to participate in the reconstruction of the Cathedral of St Pauls in London (1706), but without success.
Above all, James Gibbs was impressed by the quality of the work of the Bagutti-Artari duo, so much so that in his Book of Architecture (1728) he described Bagutti and Artari as the best ornamentists ever to arrive in England.
The list of artistic contributions, especially as plasterers, would not be complete without the Lafranchini brothers of Bironico. The Lafranchini brothers – a total of 15 brothers, are famed today for their work in rococo style stucco, chiefly in the great palladian houses of Ireland. Paolo Lafranchini (1695-1776) worked for James Gibbs in England. In 1736 he went to Ireland where he worked for the architect Richard Cassels. In 1739 he was joined in Ireland by his brother Filippo (1702-1779). Instead, his younger brother, Pietro Natale (1705-1788), remained mainly in England, and is remembered above all for his stucco work in the Saloon ceiling of Wallington Hall in Northumberland. Pietro Natale was also active in Durhan County.
The non-exhaustive list of their works as plasterers of the binomial Bagutti-Arturi includes:
- Ceiling design in the Gibbs Collection of the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford
- Howard Castle (Yorkshire)
- Octagon Room in the Orleans House in Twickenham (1720)
- St. Martin’s Cathedral-in-the-Fields (1722-26) in London
- St. Peter’s Church in Vere Street (1723-24)
- Clandon Park House near Guildford in Surrey, not far from London (1730)
- Sutton Scarsdale Hall, near Chesterfield, Derbyshire. Today unfortunately a ruin
- Mereworth Castle in Mereworth, Kent (1723)
- Cannons House, a now demolished stately home in Little Stanmore, Middlesex (1713-1724)
- Hall of Barnsley Park, Gloucestershire
- Christine Casey, Making Magnificence: Architects, Fillers, and the Eighteenth-Century Interior Hardcover – 2 May 2017 (Link)
- Carlo Palumbo-Fossati, Gli Stuccatori Ticinesi Lafranchini in England and Ireland in the 18th Century (Fondazione Ticino Nostro, Lugano, 1982