Rocznik Historii Sztuki — 30.2005

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Rocznik Historii Sztuki, tom XXX
Wydawnictwo Neriton, 2005

BARBARA ARCISZEWSKA
UNIWERSYTET WARSZAWSKI

"DESPAIRING OF SUCCESS":
GIACOMO LEONI AND ALESSANDRO GALILEI IN EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY LONDON

In his ever-inspiring scholarship Adam Miłobędzki demonstrated unequalled skill in navigating between
the multifarious problems of urban structures and spaces and the complexities of architecture, understood as
a materiał, conceptual and ideological entity. The issue of interaction between foreign architects and urban
cultures in their adoptive homelands, an important aspect of Milobedzki's work1, will be a key issue in this
paper. I will focus on two Italian architects who attempted to live and work in eighteenth-century London
and, with a varying degree of success, negotiated their way through the complex socio-economic network
of England's capital. Both Giacomo Leoni (1686-1746), a Venetian who worked at the aristocratie courts of
Germany before settling in England c. 17132 and Alessandro Galilei (1691-1737), a Florentine architect
active in England and Ireland between 1714 and 17193, left interesting, yet largely overlooked documentation
registering diverse expériences of their life in London and their changing perceptions of England's urban
culture. This essay investigates thèse sources, examining différent stratégies used by each architect to function
professionally and privately within London society, and assesses challenges posed by life in the city undergoing
at the time a major transformation into a new commercial and imperial capital of the West4.

What prompted Leoni and Galilei to travel to London in the first place? Their motivation remains
a matter of spéculation, but it appears that this choice was in part affected by the hopes linked to the impending
Hanoverian succession5. Both artists had corne from cultural centres governed by strong absolute courts
(Leoni from the Palatine court in Dusseldorf and Galilei from Florence dominated by the Medici court), and
the promise of a Continental ruler on the throne of Britain might have raised their hopes for patronage6. It

' See, for instance, the chapter Tylman van Gameren i jego krąg, [in:] A. Miłobędzki, Architektura polska XVII wieku,
PWN, Warszawa 1980, pp. 349-405, on a Dutch-born architect active in 17th-century Warsaw.

2 R. H e w 1 i n g s, James Leoni, с. 1685-1746. An Anglicized Venetian, [in:] R. Brown éd., The Architectural Outsiders,
Waterstone, London 1985, pp. 21-43 for the most thorough and insightful re-examination of Leoni's work.

3 E. К i e v e n, Alessandro Galilei, [in:] A. P 1 a с z e к (éd.), Macmillan Encyclopedia of Architects, New York 1982, vol. II,
pp. 145-149, and I. Toesca, Alessandro Galilei in Inghilterra, [in:] English Miscellany, M. Praz éd., vol. III, Rome 1952,
pp. 190-220.

4 For changes occurring in contemporary London, see for instance, J. В r e w e r, The Pleasures of the Imagination. English
Culture in the Eighteenth Century, New York 1997; G. Holmes, Augustan England: Professions, State and Society, 1680-1730,
G. Allen & Unwin, London 1982; N. McKendrick, The Birth of a Consumer Society: the Commercialization of Eighteenth-
Century England, London 1982; I. P e a r s, The Discovery of Painting. The Growth of Interest in the Arts in England, 1680-1768,
New Haven 1988; E. M с К e 11 a r, The Birth of Modem London. The Development and Design ofthe City, 1660-1720, Manchester
1999.

5 See, for instance, T. H u d s o n, A Venetian Architect in England. Giacomo Leoni (1686-1746), "Country Life", April 3,
1975, p. 830; J. R y к w e r t, The First Modems. The Architects ofthe Eighteenth Century, MIT Press, Cambridge Mass. 1980, p. 98;
cf. J. S u m m e r s о n, Palladio e gli Inglesi, "Bollettino CISA", XV, 1973, p. 16.

6 For Hanoverian succession, see О. К 1 o p p, Der Fali des Hauses Stuart und die Succession des Hauses Hannover in
Grofibritannien und Irland, Wien 1875-1888 (14 vols.), esp. vol. VIII, passim; G. S с h n a t h, Geschichte Hannovers im Zeitalter
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