Francesco Fontana

Born: unknown
Died: after 1713
Italian Rossica

Francesco Fontana is possibly one of the most enigmatic architects of this period. Virtually nothing is known of him – and what is known is often confused with another Italian architect with the same surname, possibly a relative, who also worked in Russia. This is Giovanni Mario Fontana, of whom equally little is known, and to whom Francesco’s creations are often mistakenly attributed.

Francesco Fontana is believed to have come to Russia in 1706. He first worked in Moscow, where he built the house of the governor, Prince Matvei Gagarin. From 1711 onwards, he helped to complete the Menshikov Palace on Vasilyevsky Island. Although he did not work at Oranienbaum before this date, there are clear parallels in the decor of the two residences, suggesting that both were designed by Fontana. He is also believed to have built Menshikov’s Italianate palace in Kronstadt. Fontana left Russia no later than 1713.

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