Parma, Views from the 18th Century to the Present Day

Parma, with its hamlets, its streets and its monuments rich in history, has inspired many artists from different eras.

By Collezione Fondazione Cariparma

Plan of the Royal Ducal City and Castle of Parma (1767) by SARDI PIETRO E GIANANTONIO CORDERINOCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

The planimetry of the city and the surrounding countryside, known as Atlante Sardi, constitutes the first cartographic land registry commissioned by Minister Du Tillot during the Bourbon period.

The work, engraved on nine square copper plates, was intended to be an administrative tool for the government of the capital of the Bourbon Duchy

but also to promote that urban renewal, wanted by Du Tillot with the help of the architect Alexandre Ennemond Petitot, who was transforming Parma into the so-called "Athens of Italy".

The city, that still had a late medieval form, was surrounded by walls and bastions.

But next to the Farnese fortified citadel, Petitot, on the model of the French "promenades publiques", designs a pedestrian avenue that leads to the 'casinetto' del Caffè, one of the first in Italy.

The religious center of the city consists of Piazza Duomo, delimited by the Bishop's Palace, the Cathedral and the Baptistery.

We can recognize the Pilotta Palace, with the project for the new court residence never built, the heart of the ducal power, and the Guazzatoio courtyard.

Beyond Parma stream, which crosses the city from south to north, there are the Ducal Garden and the Palazzo del Giardino, which the architect Petitot was renovating in those years.

The center of the city is Piazza Grande, today Piazza Garibaldi, an area originally occupied by the Roman Forum, at the intersection between cardo and decumanus; the latter was the urban section of the Via Emilia.

Piazza Grande in Parma (1850) by MARCHESI LUIGICollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Many painters have left views of the Piazza Grande, among them Luigi Marchesi, who immortalized the south-west side in this watercolor.

At the center of the composition is the Ara Amicitiae, a white marble monument built in 1768 to a design by Petitot in order to commemorate the visit of Joseph II of Habsburg

Ara amicitiae Ara amicitiae by Ennemond Alexandre Petitot e Parmesan artisansCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

and to seal the alliance with Austria, strengthened by the marriage between Duke Ferdinand of Bourbon and Archduchess Maria Amalia of Austria, sister of the Emperor. The work was destroyed in 1859 during the Renaissance motions.

Piazza Grande in Parma (1850) by MARCHESI LUIGICollezione Fondazione Cariparma

In the background of the composition is the new facade of the church of St. Pietro Apostolo, designed by Petitot and finished in 1762. Two pairs of Corinthian columns frame the portal.

The upper part of the facade is characterized by a stucco bas relief, made by Benigno Bossi, with St. Peter’s symbols. Behind it we can see the lantern of the brick dome.

View of the Piazza Grande in Parma (XIX sec., prima metà) by BOCCACCIO GIUSEPPECollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Giuseppe Boccaccio, in the mid-19th century, described, in great detail, the colorful and bustling weekly market that had taken place in Piazza Grande for centuries.

On the left, the Palazzo del Torello delimits the south side of the square. The porticoed building was built by the Mayor Torello De Strada starting from 1221 and for a few years it was the municipal seat.

You can see the bell tower and the dome of the Church of St. Rocco, whose construction began in 1528 for a vow that the citizens made during the plague, which was afflicting Parma in that year.

The square had a pavement with terracotta and stone squares. This division was used for the correct arrangement of the market stalls.

In the direction of Strada dei Genovesi, now Via Farini, the stalls of fabrics and haberdashery were positioned. On Fridays and Saturdays fish stalls were placed there.

Close to the Town Hall, merchants from the countryside were positioned. The wide portico of the Palazzo Comunale, on the other hand, was used exclusively for the sale of wheat.

The Ara Amicitiae was surrounded by the covered stalls where cheese and butter were traded; you can also see some vendors of vegetables and fruit sitting on the ground.

Viaticum procession along the right side of the Parma Cathedral (1868) by GIACOPELLI GIUSEPPECollezione Fondazione Cariparma

The city scenes that many painters have described are an important testimony of the Parmesan traditions, and religious rites are a fundamental part of it.

A small procession starting from the Church of St. John the Evangelist, recognizable in the background, moves towards Piazza Duomo along Via del Seminario, skirting the right side of the Cathedral.

The priest, with the altar boys and a small group of people, is bringing the Viaticum, the Eucharist intended for a sick or dying person.

As the procession passed, passers-by stopped and bowed as a sign of respect and devotion.

B.go del Naviglio (1840/1845) by ALINOVI GIUSEPPECollezione Fondazione Cariparma

The popular areas were also the protagonists of the paintings of the Academy painters, including Giuseppe Alinovi.

The artwork testifies to the condition of the popular villages around the old town and to the hard work of the washerwomen, who washed the clothes in the canal in every season of the year.

The washerwomen, with a kerchief on their head and the raised skirt in order to not get wet, would go to the canal early in the morning carrying on their shoulders sacks full of dirty clothes collected in the customers' homes.

View of the Church of Santa Maria del Quartiere (1840/1841) by CARMIGNANI GIULIOCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Giulio Carmignani takes us to 'Oltretorrente' also known as “Parma Vecchia”, an ancient district of the city which had an elevated percentage of working class inhabitants. The majestic Farnese church of St. Maria del Quartiere dominates the scene.

Just behind the church you can see the "Spedale degli Incurabili" built in the adjoining convent and desired by the Duchess Marie Louise to cope with the cholera epidemic of 1836.

The houses depicted in the foreground no longer exist today: they were demolished during the 20th century to make way for the square in front of the church, today Piazzale Picelli.

The Ducal Garden in the mid-18th Century (1878/1880) by CARMIGNANI GUIDOCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

In Oltretorrente there is the most suggestive green space in the city: the Ducal Garden, commissioned in 1561 by Duke Ottavio Farnese, who also built his palace of 'delights'.

The painting shows a corner of the Ducal Garden, the Bastione dei Fiori, in its 18th-century look of a French garden full of trees and decorated with statues and marble vases, which were made during the Bourbon period by Jean-Baptiste Boudard on a design by Petitot.

The artist evoked the 18th-century atmosphere, when the Ducal Garden was open on Sundays for the stroll of elegant ladies and knights.

The Cathedral (1948) by BRUNO ZONICollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Piazza Duomo and the surrounding streets with their picturesque views continue to inspire artists even in the contemporary era. Bruno Zoni builds the shapes of the Baptistery and the Duomo through brush strokes of pure colors.

P.le Inzani (XX sec.) by BRICOLI BRUNOCollezione Fondazione Cariparma

Bruno Bricoli describes Piazzale Inzani, in Oltretorrente, wrapped in an unusual silence and under a blanket of snow where the trees appear as fairytale presences.

Credits: Story

Text by Fondazione Cariparma and Artificio Società Cooperativa

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