Italy: Bologna: Church of San Petronio: copies of unexecuted designs for the west facade by Peruzzi, Vignola and Palladio and for completion by Rainaldi, copied 29 September 1779 (8)
Dedicated to the patron saint of Bologna, the church of San Petronio has a prominent position on the north-west side of the Piazza Maggiore. It was begun in 1390 to the designs of Antonio di Vincenzo and by the time of his death in 1402 only two bays of the enormous church had been completed. Construction continued fitfully throughout the fifteenth century. The decorative marble finishing of the lower part of the west front, designed by di Vincenzo, was carried out in 1393-4. The main portal, designed by Jacopo della Quercia was begun in 1425 but left incomplete on the sculptor's death in 1438. There then followed a series of projects by various architects for completing the west facade that range from an anonymoous design of 1510-11 to Mauro Tesi's design of 1749; designs by a dozen or so architects are kept in the church's building archive. None were executed and the west front remains as it was in 1438, the lower part clad in marble and the upper storeys with bare brickwork. Though the Roman architect, Girolamo Rainaldi prepared a design in 1626 for the west facade, it was his plans for completing the church (see drawings 7-8) that Soane copied. Soane's interest in the collection of unexecuted designs in the archive of San Petronio, probably lay in the possibility of a publication on his return to England. The only mention of Bologna in Soane's surviving sketch/note books is that he arrived there on Sunday 30 April 1780 and left the next day (SM volume 162/161 v and r). His earlier visit of 29 September 1799 is recorded on drawings 5 and 6. They were drawn in haste in a feint pencil, except for two out of three of Palladio's drawings (Nos 5-6) which are in pen over pencil. All are 'part' drawings that were meant to be fully drawn out at a later time.
One of the drawings copied by Soane was of Giulio Romano's elevation for the west front. This copy found its way to the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A 3436.236 reproduced P.du Prey, John Soane: the making of an architect, 1982, fig. 8.18. Catalogued in P.du Prey, Sir John Soane ,1985, in series of 'Catalogues of architectural drawings in the Victoria and Albert Museum', catalogue 1.
Literature. du Prey, op.cit.,1982, pp.164-7: M. Faietti and M.Medica (eds),'La Basilica incompiuta. Progetti antichi per la facciata di San Petronio a Bologna'. Catalogue of an exhibition, Museo Civico Medievale, Bologna, 2001