No doubt certain images capture us because their charm comes directly to the inmost recesses of the soul where the mind has no access, because it has to give way to more penetrating faculties. Our admiration for the beauty of the figures that make up title pages, which stand out while the lands almost seem to humbly retire as if to give them proper relevance, the fineness of the engraving, the almost tactile perception of the land, all this comes before any technical evaluation. Our attention, therefore, is captured well before our mind starts looking for historical and biographical elements, and for the accuracy of the measurements, because let's not forget that these images represent the first geometrically reliable portrait of those territories.
The charm of some old maps lies in the balanced interweaving of technical and artistic data, because the places are not identified only by their geography, but possess a stratification of natural phenomena and human activities - not only the mechanical ones of the "homo faber" - leading to different spatial distribution as well as to the phantasmagorical images of the myth creator. Our land is full of myths. What territory other than the Neapolitan one is stratified with so many aspects of nature and culture?
These images, that seem to spring off a sole inspiring mind - so accurate as they are in every detail that it seems inconceiveble to erase or add further elements - derive from the work of men who, with their expertise and unique abilities, have individually added a tessera of this complex mosaic. The scenario that brought to the outcome of these maps, examined under the magnifying lens that only archival documents may provide, appears as an extraordinary story born far away in Paris, Padua and Bavaria, which found its climax in the neighborhoods of Naples, in a multifaceted world in turmoil, inhabited by many small men coming from distant places, who just by chance met in the streets of Naples, between Via Chiaia and Toledo. There was born and developed the cartographic adventure in years that only later on would appear carefree and productive, before the fall of the royal heads of France transformed everybody into servants, bureaucrats or spies.
Let's try to get closer to subjects and places of this aventure without heroes. Ferdinando Galiani (1728-1787), the creator and director of the entire operation, managed to convince a rather inattentive King, to say the least, to call in Naples one of the most famous Italian astronomers and cartographers of the time, Giovanni Antonio Rizzi Zannoni. It was the month of April 1781. Galiani had forgotten the insult suffered by Tanucci who in 1769 abruptly ended his stay in Paris, but still felt the electrifying air of modernity that had breathed there for over a decade. The map of the kingdom in four sheets, which he made in Paris in 1769, had established itself throughout Europe as an undisputed charting monument, but for the humble Neapolitan abbot was now only a reminder of the inefficiency and backwardness of the Bourbon administrative machinery which had to manage a territory largely unknown to the Bourbons themselves.
Galiani lived in the family palace in Vico Storto di S. Anna di Palazzo, not far from the Cellamare princely palace, with its magnificent view overlooking the beach of Chiaia.
In June 1781, Giovanni Antonio Rizzi Zannoni, after a long sea voyage from Venice - the land journey being much longer and dangerous - reached Naples and took accommodation not far from Galiani's residence. With him was his young companion, Teresa Zanoela that, perhaps due to the significant difference in age, he preferred to present as his niece. When a Paduan associate of his, Engineer Bartholomew Carboni, had to join him in Naples, in 1783, Rizzi Zannoni thus instructed him: "Once in Naples cross Toledo road, and ascend to the Speranzella up to Rosariello place; through the Vico Storto di S. Anna di Palazzo reach Mr Galiani's residence: close to it there is a tailor, whom you can ask where is the home of Zannoni mathematician of the King, with his niece (because we must not forget to tell everyone that Teresa is my niece, because for many years in Padua she has been known as my niece) ".The "tailor" is Michael Afeltro, Galiani's agent and factotum in Naples and during the stay in Paris, who was employed by Galiani not only for his tailoring ability but also - as Galiani himself wrote in a payment of 1783 - "for his handling of some of my affairs".
Also found nearby accommodation Antonio Moretti and John Otto Berger (Note 2), who had reached Naples together with Zannoni. Antonio Moretti, from Udine, acted as a kind of handyman-secretary to Rizzi Zannoni, trained to perform several tasks: "mon secretaire - so Zannoni defined him in a letter dated 1776 - que je aussi mis au faitte de tous les calcules astronimique. In Naples, he performed delicate jobs such as triangulations and figures; he mapped the whole of Calabria surveyed after the disastrous earthquake of 1783, under difficult and sometimes desperate conditions.
Berger, instead, was an Austrian officer whom Zannoni had met in Paris and had enrolled for his extraordinary gifts as a draftsman surveyor.
This small group was soon hjoined by a topographer - i.e. John Marini, born in Gattinara near Vercelli in Piedmont - by Rocco Bovi from Scylla - mathematician in charge of calculations - and by the engravers Aniello Cataneo and Joseph Guerra . These were borrowed from the Royal Printing House and removed from their routine task of correcting and reconstructing the plates of the Antiquities of Herculaneum.
These were the first members of the initial topographic workshop that rose in the area close to Rosario di Palazzo, where the prestigious Royal Printing House was moved during Murat's government. The workshop consisted of few luminous rooms, certainly on a high floor, with some drawing tables, some desks for the calculations, cupboards to contain charts and books with astronomical observations and survey data, and topographic and astronomical instruments which represented the assets of the small laboratory.
Rizzi Zannoni kept there his entire collection of geographical papers and astronomical observations, and his collection of manuscript and printed charts from all over the world - sought-after by the French during their occupation of Naples in 1799 - representing places he visited or wished to visit because of their fame, often resting on documents of uncertain provenance. It was said that he had been in French Louisiana on a secret mission but nothing was certain, even though his charts of those seas and some reports of his seemed to confirm that hypothesis. He himself indulged in dramatizing his life which he described as being "entrêmelée de bizarres vicissitudes" and worthy of a "Roman" as he defined it. This resulted in increasing his attractiveness and the prestige he enjoyed with his aides.
Likewise he kept in his workshop his scientific instruments including the famous quadrant by Jesse Ramsden, the most famous British manufacturer of instruments. He had bought it in France, brought it with him in his various destinations in Europe, and used it in Bavaria to survey the upper course of the Danube, and finally brought it to Naples. The instrument is reproduced with great evidence on the Plan of Naples dated 1790, where an intriguing cherub uses it to look at an eclipse of the Sun, which was actually observed in Naples October 17, 1781.
This hetergeneous group as concerned status, place of origin and language - who knows to what extent and in what idiom communicated Rizzi Zannoni, whose correspondence is entirely in French, and G. Guerra from Afragola, Marini from Piedmont, Berger from Austria; Moretti from Friuli, and Rocco Bovi (1) from Calabria, who only had in common the definition of "map makers " - was joined, in 1784, by the court artist Alexander D'Anna, and by the draftsman Gaetano Montefuscolo (2 ).
That was for them a period of great closeness. The enthusiasm of Galiani had infected all and himself he had often crossed the plains of Campania Felix with his geographer, while his King walked the same land in the same time, but only to give vent to his hunting interests.
The group inspired envy and resentment, because it was wedged in a culturally liberated territory, on which nevertheless many had advanced their ambitions. Galiani, by his very nature was unwilling to compromise and called people and things with their name, which did not generate sympathy around his person. Rizzi Zannoni, with his pomposity and instinctive reluctance to share with anyone his life - let alone scientific activities - was his ideal mate. Moreover, he was surrounded by people coming from outside the Kingdom or, even if native, not belonging to any local academic organization, and snubbing the official institutions. Therefore Rizzi Zannoni was never mentioned by Felice Sabatelli, State astronomer, who in his books blatantly ignored the very important and original astronomical observations made in those years in Naples. Likewise Giuseppe Maria Galanti, geographer, famous for his statistical and political studies on the kingdom, took the liberty to slate - but it was a kind of cultural suicide - the map of Calabria as being "full of mistakes" where "the position of places is set at whim, out of anger against Galiani, who was not always benevolent towards his work for the Court). Equal ill feelings were extended to the other members of the group.
We worked untimed and the Commissioner - that was the title that had managed to get Galiani as head of the map - was generous with "flowers" for overtime work that the team was required to do.
In 1783, Berger received 12 ducats for extraordinary gratification for forced labor made in handling the paper maritime co 'soundings of the Gulf of Naples. Yes! It is the beautiful Bay of Naples sheet engraved by Giusepe War between October 1784 and July 1785, at a total cost of 130 ducats. The copper plate was prepared and "blued" in July of 1785 and its weight was the result of 48 pounds, 20 pounds. The preparation of copper plates was entrusted to the corporation of ramar Console, a powerful corporation that ran a very wide market in which they were involved all classes and all activities of the capital.
Were built "telar" to filter the light that burst from the windows on the tables of engravers and designers, making it cumbersome and painful their specific occupations.The geodesists, and surveyors worked during the spring and summer months - the "season" as they say to us - noting measuring and drawing the territory, by following step by step (if stupid and evil were the comments of the opposing evidence of Galanti papers found on the ground assumptions of "local"!) leaving short winter days the task of putting order in their waste books and actions taken.However, their work was constantly hampered by the people, local authorities and the robbers who infested the streets of the kingdom.From the outset, in addition to actual licenses granted to move freely in the kingdom, the geographers was also assigned an armed escort, in May 1783 the Minister Acton had to forward an "order convenient to the Captain General that they be given two Swiss soldiers, or of another regiment, which are tested and honored to escort Mr..Rizzi Zannoni, and 's in their trip to his aid-de S.Lorenzo di Padula akin to continue its geographical operations, and we are only a few miles from the capital but so little land known as unsafe.
The designers and engravers, however, and worked tirelessly throughout the year in the same rooms indoors, they can cover those areas with less risk but only with a pencil and the graver. Only Alessandro D'Anna, the most successful, but perhaps luck is its natural ability to paint landscapes, and traveled there often in the company of detectors to portray the mountains. Sometimes alone, sometimes with Louis Marquis , who taught Alexander the use of temperature for the coloring of the landscapes and maps while he found out that attitude all to read topographical landscape with a glance down and imagine , as seen from a balloon.
Alessandro D'Anna is the design of the spectacular cone of Vesuvius portrait nell'Agro Napoletano. In August 1792, we know that he walked the slopes of Mount Louis Marquis "to complete and refine the configuration of Vesuvius, while Joseph War was already struggling with the engraving on copper.
The element "graphic" soon took precedence over other aspects of the formation of the cards, being the most costly in terms of time and money. Joseph Guerra shall alone but incision of the branches seemed to express the need to create a school of students who could assist and then replace it when the sight, which was losing in etching of narrow streets of the villages in coastal cliffs and gardens Vomero, it would have completely abandoned.
And so, with Royal prescribed the first of July 1786 he was awarded the funds of the Royal freehold - the Commission could not pay with his paltry funds - a pension of 20 ducats a month as a "master of engraving school character." The school, incidentally, was allotted still there, at the intersection of Vico Storto, S. Strada S. Anna di Palazzo and Anna Palace, perhaps in the same building that housed the now grown in laboratory Zannoni, in 1788, was given a goalkeeper Antonio Falcone.
When boundaries and forms of nature visited by geographers became a portrait of the territory in the hands of the able Berger, must have seemed a miracle. At that point, framing and glass composition prepared to show at Royal Highnesses those inventions and art, which had passed the scrutiny of the scientific director of the company, Rizzi Zannoni, and had also obtained the placet of the brothers Hackert, which had been entrusted with the artistic supervision of the paper since January 1788. The two brothers were involved in, first to assess the quality of recordings for other choices of cartouches and title pages and the whole apparatus of graphic cards. Georg, the engraver, also evaluated the adequacy of price and Philip, the painter, considered the figurative aspects. To Sunday World was required for the composition of his own title Atlas Maritime. The design, delivered in March 1789, was perhaps too rigid and academic, did not please the Hackert brothers and was discarded.
The same work was then offered to Christoph Heinrich Kniep (1755-1825) in October 1790.
Kniep, who had arrived in Naples in 1783 within the "coterie" accompanying Goethe in his travel to southern Italy, started in 1787 together with another German artist, Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein. The title was then recorded and brought to fruition by War in 1792 and located at the top Atlas Maritime, which ended the previous year.
Similarly Kniep was commissioned in January 1790, "Design of a cover of its composition, to affect the copper de 'Side Naples. The design, perhaps not quite in the style of the artist, here tufts of vegetation visible in the detailed posts on the edge of the composition rather than the built landscape as a composite blend of architectural elements and natural Campania.
For the shores of Naples, thematic map is intended to describe "the most remarkable ancient sites," the task of writing a cover fell on a young Neapolitan painter Pensionary in Rome, Joseph Cammarano. The map of "coast" was made entirely in one year (1791) and was commissioned to Rizzi Zannoni for ponersi the head of the work of Herculaneum. " The design of the frontispiece, commissioned in October 1792, was already in the hands of Saverio Mattei, new Commissioner for the map after the death of Galiani in 1788 and Spinelli in 1791. The allegory of the design is made with the usual symbols of classical rhetoric: Time to History shows a winged lekythos, while in the background one can see the remains of an ancient city which lies on the smoking Vesuvius. To celebrate this chart, the young son of Mattei, Gregory, illustrious victim of 1799, composed a sonnet.
In this respect the Bourbon court was aimed really at best and many Neapolitan intellectuals were still confident in a possible renewal, the events of those years France had not arrived to traumatize the Neapolitan Court, which still could distract the attention of the arts, although already years the economic situation was not quite Florida against the earthquake in Calabria, which had not been able to heal even with the confiscation of Church property, he had added the expensive trip to Livorno and northern Italy in 1785.
By 1794 the end of the activities "civilians" of the laboratory and the military begin to take over the administrative direction and choice of programs and activities of the laboratory. It 's been just over a decade since the Rizzi Zannoni Speranzella climbed the road to join his new residence and last (he died in Naples in 1814) and the products made in Naples vicarielli already fascinated by the courts of Europe and even After 200 years, we can admire them.
Who knows what was the curiosity aroused in the people who saw those passing through steep and narrow streets of Naples astronomical instruments, telescopes, clocks, copper plates of disproportionate size, which had never even seen the Royal Printing that had to be specially equipped for circulation of those branches, large reams of England and Holland. And then, painters, designers, mathematicians who talked of an incredible joint, the new map of the Kingdom.
For biographical and bibliographical references and citation of the text, see: Vladimiro Valerio , Cartographic Society Men and Institutions in Southern Italy, Florence, Military Geographical Institute, 1994.