By Alexis Culotta

Late Baroque architect Gabriele Valvassóri was born 21 August 1689 in Rome. The son of a carpenter from Bergamo, Valvassóri developed his own talents as an architectural craftsman very early. So innately talented was he that he was accepted into the Academy of Saint Luke at the age of 15. By the early 1700s he was winning awards for his designs, and by the 1710s Valvassori was working on prominent commissions. His first major project, for example, was for the Church of San Giuseppe alla Fornaci in Foligno as the assistant to lead architect Filippo Barigioni.  

As Valvassóri began working independently, his own architectural voice emerged. His style blended a simple straightforwardness of classical design with an air of playful energy that fed from the spirit of the Baroque era and that drew illustrious clientele into his studio. Later that decade, in fact, Valvassóri returned to Rome to begin working for the Pamhilj family. Serving as the family’s chief architect from roughly 1720 to 1739, Valvassóri was an integral influence on the remarkable facade of the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj on Rome’s via del Corso; he also later worked on elements of the family’s Roman villa as well. 

As Valvassóri’s acclaim grew, so did his accolades. In addition to increasingly substantial commissions, such as those for the churches of Santa Maria dell’Orto (1738-1756) and San Quirico e Giuditta (1750-1754), Valvassóri was lauded with increasing status with the Academy of Saint Luke. He was elected Professor within the revered association in 1758, and he died three years later, on 7 July 1761. 

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, facade facing the via del Corso, Rome. 

Chiesa di Santa Maria della Luce, Rome (restoration 1730). 

Chiesa dei Santi Quirico e Giulitta, Rome (restoration of the church and construction of the sacristy, 1750-1753).

Villa Doria-Pamphili, Rome, with view of the entrance to the Casino del Bel Respiro. (realized by  A. Algardi and G. F. Grimaldi between 1644-48,). 

Main gates (right: designed by Valvassóri, 1720-1739). Villa Doria-Pamphlij, Rome.

Fountain of the Tiber (designed by Valvassóri, 1720-1739). Villa Doria-Pamphlij, Rome.

Further Reading: Rudolf Wittkower, Jennifer Montagu, and Joseph Connors. Art and Architecture in Italy 1600-1750, Vol. 1: Early Baroque. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999.

John Varriano. Italian Baroque and Rococo Architecture. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986.

Anthony Blunt. Roman Baroque. London: Pallas Athene, 2004.

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