Born on this day – June 9th – was Italian architect Marchese Luigi Cagnola, in 1762. Based in Milan, Cagnola was well known for his geometrical Neo-classical buildings. His simple architectural style was greatly influenced by Palladio, whom he had the opportunity of studying whilst taking refuge in Venice during France’s invasion of his hometown of Milan in 1796.
One of Cagnola’s first major commissions, when he returned to Milan, was the 1806 Arco della Pace, erected to celebrate the marriage of Viceroy Eugène de Beauharnais to Augusta of Bavaria. Echoing the famous contemporary Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (1806), Paris, by Charles Percier and Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine, Cagnola’s arch is notable for its statues, low reliefs and decorative details carried out by Milan’s leading artists, including Camillo Pacetti (1758–1826), Pompeo Marchesiand Benedetto Cacciatori (1794–1871). The first iteration of this arch was actually made out of wood. It was so admired, however, that plans to rebuild it were made in 1807. It’s new location was to be the entrance to the Foro Bonaparte on the Strada del Sempione.
Cagnola was also involved in Milan’s urban planning initiatives at a time when the city was beginning to feel the effects of early industrialization and growth. Among his proposals were a plan for a Temple of Fame (1809–14), involving a spacious arcaded complex connected to the city walls, which would have replaced the cemetery of the Ospedale Maggiore, and a project for a botanic garden, intended to occupy a vast area outside the Porta Nuova. Neither of these two projects were fully realized.
Several of Cagnola’s most successful buildings were conceived and erected in the last 20 years of his life, including the campanile at Urgnano and his own villa at Inverigo, near Como. The ground-plan of the Urgnano campanile (1824–9) is circular, with a series of superimposed orders rising from a podium and crowned with a small tempietto-like structure, and with caryatids supporting a small hemispherical dome. The villa at Inverigo (1813–33) stands on a hill and certainly inspired by Palladio’s Villa Rotonda. The colonnaded portico of white stucco, the rear façade with atlantids sculpted by Pompeo Marchesi, the arcades imitating Roman aqueducts, the ‘Egyptian’ hall and portal, and the triumphal arch entrances all create a succession of remarkable contrasting views and spaces.
Cagnola died in Inverigo in 1833, five years before the Arco della Pace was completed. The architect’s influence on the next generation of architects, including Nicola Dordoni ( fl c. 1840) and Pietro Bianchi (ii), was quite remarkable.
Benedetto Cacciatori, Monument to the architect Luigi Cagnola, 1849, marble, currently installed in the courtyard of the Palace of Brera, Milan
Luigi Cagnola, Arco della Pace, 1807-1838, piazza Sempione, Milan
Luigi Cagnola, Study for a villa with a circular footprint, c. 1820, Milan
Luigi Cagnola, Campanile, 1824-29, Urgnano
Federico e Carolina Lose, Villa Cagnola presso Inverigo, 1823, lithograph
R. Gironi: ‘Necrologia del marchese Luigi Cagnola’, Bib. It. G. Lett. Sci. & A., lxxi (1833), pp. 127–43P. Mezzanotte: Le architetture di Luigi Cagnola, Quaderni di architettura del sindicato fascista architetti di Milano, i (Milan, 1930)P. Mezzanotte: ‘L’architettura dal 1796 alla caduta del regno italico’, Stor. Milano, xiii (1959), pp. 478–522L’età neoclassica in Lombardia (exh. cat., ed. A. Ottino Della Chiesa; Como, Villa Olmo, 1959), pp. 30, 63P. Mezzanotte: ‘L’edilizia milanese dalla caduta del regno italico alla prima guerra mondiale’, Stor. Milano, xv(1962), pp. 322–35C. L. V. Meeks: Italian Architecture, 1750–1914 (New Haven and London, 1966), p. 112G. Mezzanotte: Architettura neoclassica in Lombardia (Naples, 1966), pp. 317–70The Age of Neoclassicism (exh. cat., London, RA and V&A, 1972), pp. 964–6Mostra dei maestri di Brera (exh. cat., Milan, Pal. Permanente, 1975), pp. 74–6