On a visit to my family in Rome I went to look at the Church of Sant Carlo alla Quatro Fontane, Borromini's Baroque masterpiece.A fascinating  story of rivalry with his contemporary Bernini, who was responsible for the church a couple of hundered yards down the road the Sant Andrea al Quirinale.

 Bernini in common with many of us didn't always do great work. He famously disgraced himself  by building a couple of towers that fell down. Unlike most of our cock ups his was on the Saint Peter's in Rome, not leaving a few trowel marks on a ceiling in Peckham. 

Anyway I was visiting the beautiful Borromini church with my mother in law (another Roman Ruin) The church was breathtaking. It always amazes me the skill and precision of the masons ,carpenters and plasterers all without machines c.a.d. or calculators, if you didn't see it for yourself you could hardly believe it could be done.

In the crypt of the sadly empty church, I came across an exquisite example of Scagliola. This is a technique using plaster, pigment and glue, essentially to imitate marble .Although good practitioners could imitate any marble great Scagliola has a beauty of its own the example in Sant Carlo is such a case. A solid block of black plaster with floral designs cut and back filled with various coloured Scagliola and polished, absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately there was no information as to who had made it, another example of the working peoples' lost heritage.

On my return to England I visited the National maritime museum in Greenwich. Here in the wonderfully informative museum I found an example of a nineteenth  century Scagliola column displayed in cross section to show the structure and construction process a rare example of  a truly informative exhibit. 

I suppose that with today's technologies acrylics, laser cutting and resins it is quite easy to imitate anything or to create beautiful stand alone designs.However having quite a bit of experience with Scagliola I would say it is a great material and process inexpensive and natural and the creations are up to you. 

If you want anymore information please contact me 

Borromini's Dome Sant Carlo

Roman Baroque almost incredible workmanship 

alter with fresco and Scagliola panel

floral Scagliola inlay

close up of the panel beautiful

earth pigments to colour panel at San Carlo

Scagliola column note the lath framework
Greenwich maritime museum

wonderful example of museum exhibition

structure of hollow scagliola colunm

Pigmented Scagliola imitation of Siena marble


1 comment:

  1. Hi there! This is a great piece Phil, it touches on some important points regards decorative Art. One being that "lesser" works seem never to get attributed to the Artisan/ Artist in Italy yet many famous Artists of the time offered their services in the decorative Arts. I just don't get it!
    ps Borromini was the true revolutionist...Bernini just had a bigger ego!
    Thanks for this!