The story of Giacomo Quarenghi is an extraordinary one; he was born in Carpiatone,a little town closed to Rota Imagna, but he was able to win over the love of the Russians during the Tsar erq. The life of Quarenghi is one of the most legendary biography of Bergamo.
His passion for architecture
He was born in a mountain area from a family of old lineage: the father was a notary and he would have wanted the son to take over his activity or to take vows. But Giacomo had another inalienable talent: he loved arts and, in particular, architecture. He was so determined that he was able to persuade his dad to pay for his enrollment a dedicated architecture training in Rome. Without any budget constraints,he continued studying for 18 years, while travelling all around Italy in order to study and discover architecture. He got few works done, but enough to make him famous for his capacity of building with a peculiar style inspired by his unique reference: Palladio.
Saint Petersburg, a marvel
. At that time, architecture was
a synonym for Italy. When Catherine II of Russia - known as Catherine the Great -
decided to revolutionize for real the city of Saint Petersburg,
she made a call to Paris in order to speak to her best counselor, the baron Grimm. Catherine was looking for some Italian architects, since she was bored of the French professionals. The baron contacted Friederich Von Reiffenstein in Rome, asking for two talented Italian architects. The choice was made: Giacomo Trombara and Giacomo Quarenghi. It was 1779 and for Quarenghi an incredible adventure lasting 38 years was about to begin, whereas Trombara did not have success with the queen and he was obliged to go back to Italy after few years. Quarenghi decided to move to Russia with his family, after the marriage with Maria
Fortunata Mazzoleni, who gave birth his 14 children. Once arrived to the court, the feeling with Catherine was so instantaneous that the queen herself admitted that â€œthe guy from Bergamo was working like a horse. He had a classical touch in his buildings because he knew that Catherinaâ€™s dream was to make her own city looking like Rome (indeed, he worked even in Rome).
Of course, he never disappointed her; it is enough to see how the Hermitage Palace looks like the Olympic Palace of Vicenza or how the enormous square of the Science Academy facing the river Neva with a sequence of columns simply resembles a Roman theatre.
In addition, he was as well a brilliant interior designer, who was able to transform those buildings full of little rooms into glorious spaces, crossed by immense galleries. His creativity was not letting him down: he built a lot for Catherine and her royal court, but he made as well lots of projects, never carried on, which remains today to testify his own creativity. At the death of Catherine, in 1796, his activity slowed down until the rise of Catherineâ€™s grandson to the power, Alessandro I: for him, Quarenghi built a palace which is described as one of his more impressive workqrt ever.
"Quarenghi did not lose his strong ties with his original
town, in particular he was always in touch with the friends Giuseppe Beltramelli, Paolina Secco Suardo, Sebastiano Muletti. He was always in contact as well with Luigi Marchesi.Finally, he even came back to find a second wife, after the death of Maria Fortunata in 1793. The choice felt on Maria Bianca Sottocasa, who followed him to Russa. The marriage lasted only a couple of years because Giacomo was unable to bear the - so called - light attitudes his young wife used to have with men. Once, during his way back to Saint Petersburg, he even reported for the promiscuous behaviour towards his wife of his son Giulio, who was travelling as well with them.
All the times he came back to Bergamo he was treated as a prince, receiving lots of public welcoming of great prestige. But he could not come back for dying. Indeed, his life ended in Saint Petersburg, where he was buried and transferred in the cityâ€™s Lutheran cemetery without an official ceremony; his traces were lost. Until 1967, when after 150 from his death, the Russians activated a series of researches in order to track down his grave and body: they found and transferred him in the cemetery of artist, the monastery of Aleksandr Nevskij.