Huillard-Bréholles e lo studio dei monumenti della Puglia normanna e sveva

Author: Elisabetta Scungio

Huillard-Bréholles and the study of the monuments of Norman-Swabian Apulia

Jean-Louis-Alphonse Huiillard-Bréholles (Paris, 1817-1871) was the author of the literary work entitled Recherches sur les monuments et l’histoire des Normands et de la maison de Souabe dans l’Italie méridionale (172 pages, 35 plates), which was released in Paris in 1844. The writing of the book was commissioned to him by the eighth duke de Luynes (1802-1867), who was a wealthy and generous patron for humanistic sciences and a scholar himself. The beautiful engravings attached to the text were realized on the basis of a series of drawings made by architect Victor Baltard (1805-1874). He was chosen by the duke following the suggestion of Auguste-Dominique Ingres, who was the director of the Académie de France in Rome in the years 1834-1840. By that time, young Baltard used to be one of the pensionnaires of the academy, and enthusiastically accepted to travel to Southern Italy in order to depict Norman, Swabian and Angevine monuments and several views of cities according to the detailed instructions given by the nobleman. The journey took place between May and June 1836, but the drawings could arrive in Paris only in October 1837. In 1840, the engraving representing Castel del Monte by Pierre Eugène Aubert – later on published in the Recherches – was on display at the Musée Royale. When the book was published, the illustrations were reviewed as the most relevant part of the work; on the other hand, the historic essay by Huillard-Bréholles was referred to as a mere compilation, based on previous bibliography, antiquarian sources and local publications. The French historian dealt with the history of Southern Italy from the Norman conquest to the Angevine dynasty, by dividing it into three main sections. Even though – considering the title of the book – he should have focused on history and monuments at the same way, he wrote little about the last ones, limiting himself to the description of them, often referring to Baltard’s drawings and notes, and copying from other well-known authors.