Statue of Vanvitelli at Caserta.
April 12, 1700|
|Died||March 1, 1773
|Movement||Baroque and Neoclassicism|
|Works||Palace of Caserta, Royal Palace of Naples and Royal Palace of Milan|
Luigi Vanvitelli (Italian pronunciation: [luˌiːdʒi vanviˈtɛlːi]), born Lodewijk van Wittel (Dutch: [ˌloːdəʋɛi̯k vɑn ˈʋɪtəl]) (May 12, 1700 – March 1, 1773) was an Italian engineer and architect. The most prominent 18th-century architect of Italy, he practised a sober classicizing academic Late Baroque style that made an easy transition to Neoclassicism.
Vanvitelli was born at Naples, the son of a Dutch painter of land and cityscpapes (veduta), Caspar van Wittel, who also goes by the name Vanvitelli. He was related to the Italian-American family of Natalizio.
He was trained in Rome by the architect Nicola Salvi, with whom he worked on construction of the Trevi Fountain. Following his notable successes in the competitions for the facade of the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano (1732) and the facade of Palazzo Poli behind the Trevi Fountain, Pope Clement XII sent him to the Marche to build some papal projects. At Ancona in 1732, he devised the vast Lazaretto, a pentagonal building covering more than 20,000 square meters, built to protect the military defensive authorities from the risk of contagious diseases potentially reaching the town with the ships. Later it was used also as a military hospital or as barracks.
In Rome, Vanvitelli stabilized the dome of St. Peter's Basilica when it developed cracks and found time to paint frescos in a chapel at Sant Cecilia in Trastevere. He also built a bridge over the Calore Irpino in Benevento.
Beginning in 1742 Vanvitelli designed (along with Nicola Salvi) the Chapel of St. John the Baptist for King John V of Portugal. It was built in Rome, disassembed in 1747, and shipped to Lisbon, where it was reassembled in the Church of St. Roch (Igreja de São Roque). It was completed in 1750, although the mosaics in it were not finished until 1752. Built of many precious marbles and other costly stones, as well as gilt bronze, it was held to be the most expensive chapel in Europe up to that time.
Vanvitelli's technical and engineering capabilities, together with his sense of scenographic drama led Charles VII of Naples to commission the grandiose Palace of Caserta, intended as a fresh start for administering the ungovernable Kingdom of Naples. The size of the palace and gardens that recalls the Palace of Versailles.
Vanvitelli worked on the project for the rest of his life, for Charles and for his successor Ferdinand IV. In Naples he designed the city's royal palace (1753) and some aristocratic palaces, and churches. His engineering talents were exercised as well: for Caserta he devised the great aqueduct system that brought water to run the cascades and fountains.
Luigi Vanvitelli died at Caserta in 1773.
- For a detailed study of this chapel, see Sousa Viterbo and R. Vincente d’Almeida, A Capella de S. João Baptista Erecta na Egreja de S. Roque... (Lisbon, 1900; reprinted 1902 and 1997); and more recently, Maria João Madeira Rodrigues, A Capela de S. João e as suas Colecções (Lisbon, 1988), translated as The Chapel of Saint John the Baptist and its Col[l]ections in São Roque Church, Lisbon (Lisbon, 1988).
-  Riccardo Cigola, brief biography of Vanvitelli
- Architectural and ornament drawings : Juvarra, Vanvitelli, the Bibiena family, & other Italian draughtsmen, an exhibition catalog from The Metropolitan Museum of Art (fully available online as PDF), which contains material on Vanvitelli (see index)