Giacomo Quarenghi (Italian, 1817)


Although trained as a painter, first in Bergamo and then in the studios of Anton Raphael Mengs and Stefano Pozzi in Rome, Giacomo Quarenghi was profoundly inspired by the writings of Andrea Palladio and decided to devote himself to architecture. He travelled extensively throughout the Veneto and elsewhere in Italy before returning to Rome, where in 1771 he received a commission to rebuild the church of Santa Scolastica in Subiaco. In 1779 Quarenghi was summoned to St. Petersburg to take up a post as architect at the court of the Empress Catherine the Great. Although he had only planned to stay in Russia a few years, he was to spend the remainder of his career there, apart from a few visits back to his native Italy. More than almost any other architect, Quarenghi may be said to have shaped the appearance of St. Petersburg today, particularly with the buildings he designed along the banks of the River Neva. His first major architectural commission in the city was for the Hermitage Theatre, completed in 1787, and he went on to design a large number of public and private buildings - churches, palaces, country houses and their parks, pavilions, commercial and public buildings, monuments and much more - in St. Petersburg, Moscow, Peterhof, Tsarskoye Selò and elsewhere. He was also responsible for the interior decoration of many of his buildings, as well as designing items of furniture. After the death of Catherine the Great, Quarenghi continued to work as court architect for the Czars Paul I and Alexander I.
A prolific and gifted draughtsman, Quarenghi sent many drawings from Russia back to Italy. He made numerous drawings and watercolours of buildings and monuments, often unrelated to known or documented projects, which may be regarded simply as the product of his fertile imagination. The largest groups of drawings by the artist are today in Bergamo, Venice and in Russia.