Preludio al Voyage pittoresque di Millin: l’arte della Puglia medievale nelle pubblicazioni erudite (secoli XVII-XVIII)

Author: Giovanni Gasbarri

A Prelude to Millin’s Voyage pittoresque: the Reception of Medieval Art in Apulia in the Seventeenth and the Eighteenth Centuries

In 1812 the French archaeologist Aubin-Louis Millin (1759-1818) commenced a long trip to Italy with the purpose of collecting updated information on the most important examples of the country’s artistic heritage. Although, his project of creating a catalogue of antiquités italiennes was never realized, the substantial body of his archival materials, currently in the Bibliothéque nationale de France, stands out for the presence of several drawings of monuments and works of art from the Middle Ages. It also includes the earliest attempt to build a systematic, though embryonic, corpus of medieval art and architecture in Apulia, a region that Millin visited in late 1812-early 1813.
However, even though Apulia’s artistic heritage had never been analytically investigated before Millin’s trip, it was certainly not an unexplored land and the most notable traces of its medieval legacy had already caught the attention of antiquarians, travelers, and historians. From the late sixteenth century onward monuments such as Castel del Monte, the basilica of S. Nicola in Bari, and the mausoleum of Bohemond in Canosa, as well as the numerous icons preserved in churches and monasteries, were not only fundamental components of the social and religious identity of the local communities, but also part of a complex ‘regional’ narrative endorsed by authors from different backgrounds and with very different agendas.
By taking into account a wide variety of publications – including urban history, hagiography, diaries, pamphlets, etc. – this contribution analyzes this narrative and provides the first diachronic reconstruction of the reception of medieval art in Apulia from the seventeenth to the early nineteenth century.