French principles

At the end of 1812, Montalivet decided to send two French architects to Rome in order to report on the situation. One of them was Guy de Gisors (1762-1835), a member of the

Conseil des batimens of Paris, and the other was Louis-Martin Berthault (-1823), a recognized landscape architect and disciple of Percier who had designed the gardens of Malmaison and Compiegne. The two architects arrived in Rome in February 1813 and stayed until May of the same year. Berthault was commissioned to work especially on the two public promenades; Gisors had to examine the other projects under the responsibility of the Commission for Embellishments, and to study the methods of excavation, consolidation and restoration of ancient monuments.

Berthault felt that all earlier projects had concentrated too heavily on single monuments; they had attempted to make 'a frame for each painting' instead of trying to link the monuments in a more general comprehensive plan. Of the two projects, he considered the Garden of the Capitol the more important. Berthault's intention was to make the Forum Romanum the focal point of the whole project, thus linking the Capitol and the existing ancient monuments with the Colosseum. On the Palatine, he planned a formal garden; a similar plan was also foreseen for the Pincio. Around the Palatine, he envisioned a system of promenades that extended from the Forum and the Colosseum to the Circus Maximus, the Arch of Janus and the two temples in front of S. Maria in Cosmedin on the banks of the Tiber. Ancient monuments were to be restored as a part of this master plan, providing both a reference to the history of Rome and a framework for the emperor's imperial ambitions.

Gisors's task was more complex; he had to check all demolition programmes and the planning of squares and public facilities, as well as to report on the conservation methods for ancient monuments. One of the members of the Commission, Martial Daru, had criticized the lack of a systematic method in the restorations, and Gisors echoed him. He condemned the brick buttress to consolidate the Colosseum, as well as various other restorations executed before his arrival. According to Gisors, in fact, an ancient monument ought to be integrated (made complete again) in the same way as the Laocoon group in the sixteenth century, and he considered Bernini's reintegration of the portico of the Pantheon an ideal example to follow in future restorations.

Figure 4.5 Arch of Titus in ruins in an engraving by Piranesi in Vedute di Roma

Daru had earlier proposed the demolition of the two bell towers,24 actually carried out after the unification of Italy at the end of the century. Gisors' principles for the restoration of ancient monuments were well expressed in a letter to Daru of August 1813:

I think, that instead of making shutters, shores and props, in wrapping them in bandages - if I may use these expressions - all the collapsing parts of historic buildings should be reconstructed at least enough to give an exact idea of their original form and proportions, doing it either in stone or in brick, but in such a way that the reconstruction exactly outlines the parts that it is supposed to define.25

The Arch of Titus, which had been 'shamefully' left near the point of collapse, was in a convenient position in the planned Garden of the Capitol and, consequently, would have made an excellent example for a restoration according to these principles. In fact, Gisors proposed carefully dismantling the original elements and then reassembling them in position, rebuilding the missing parts to give an idea of the original whole. Reference was made to his proposals in a report of the Conseil des batimens of Paris in August 1813, and also in a letter of Montalivet to the Prefect of Rome in September; in the latter, the

Roman authorities were urged to apply these principles in all future restorations. The French left Rome too soon for any immediate effect to be apparent, but many later works were conceived along these lines, such as the proposed restoration of the Arch of Titus and the second major consolidation of the Colosseum.

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