Eighteenth-century architect Nicolò Pacassi died on 11 November 1790 in Vienna, Austria. He was also born in Austria, in Wiener Neustad, on 5 March 1716. However, his father Giovanni, also an architect, was an Italian of Greek descent, and Nicolò trained around Gorizia, a city then under Habsburg rule but now in Italy.
Little is known of Nicolò’s youth and training, probably supported by Count Sigismondo d’Attems, a leading figure in the intellectual milieu of the contemporary city. The Attems’ family commissioned Niccolò’s first works, among which the well-preserved Attems-Petzsenstein palace in the center of Gorizia. Another notable work is the Attems-Petzsenstein’s suburban villa at Piedimonte, completed in 1748 and sadly destroyed during the first World War.
In this period Nicolò also contributed to the wide-ranging restorations of the Schönbrunn and Hetzendorf castles near Vienna. He thus gained recognition at the Hapsburg court, and was eventually nominated first architect to the Empress Maria Teresa. This period corresponded to an important development in the architect’s style, as he embraced French rococo and harmonized the new style’s innovations with the Palladian classicism typical of his father’s works.
Niccolò’s versatility was well rewarded by the Empress, who soon nominated him court architect (Hofarchitekt) and even K.K. Oberhofarchitekt, namely general superintendent to all the imperial constructions. In this role he authored many projects, for example the restoration of the castle of Bratislava for the Empress’ daughter Archduchess Maria Christina, the church of St Theresa in Lichtenwörth, and the construction of a royal palace for Archduchess Maria Anna in Klagenfurt, a building exemplary of the architect’s style.
In 1772, the premature decay of some buildings forced Nicolò to resign from his official position at the imperial court. Fortunately, the event did not tarnish his reputation, and by 1764 he was nominated a member of the Roman Accademia di San Luca, an event he celebrated by designing a fountain for Gorizia’s Corno Square. Carved by Marco Chierighin and decorated with the architect’s coat-of-arms, the fountain is now in the gardens of the city’s provincial museum.
Reference: Massimo de Grassi, ‘PACASSI, Nicolò,’ Dizionario biografico degli Italiani, vol. 80 (2014).
Palazzo Attems Petzenstein, Gorizia. Photo: Turismo Friuli Venezia Giulia.
Grand Staircase of Bratislava Castle, Bratislava. Photo: Martin Hlauka on Wikimedia Commons.
Church of St Theresa, Lichtenwörth. Photo: Herzi Pinki on Wikimedia Commons.
Mariannegasse (palace of the Archduchess Maria Anna), Klagenfurt. Photo: Johann Jaritz on Wikimedia Commons.