Pietro di Gottardo Gonzaga

Born: 1751, Longarone (Italy)
Died: 1831, St Petersburg

Italian theatrical designer, architect, draughtsman, writer on art. Born to Francisco di Gottardo Gonzaga (theatrical painter and interior decorator) and Anna Grini (noblewoman from Belluno) in the town of Longarone near Venice (1751). Studied under his father and Carlo Galli-Bibiena (1765–69), under Giuseppe Moretti and Antonio Visentini in Venice (1769–71) and under the Galliari brothers (Bernardino, Fabrizio and Giovanni Antonio) in Milan (1772–78). Designed sets for productions at Teatro alla Scala in Milan (1778–81), Teatro d’Alibert in Rome (1781), Teatro Pubblico in Alessandria (1782), Teatro Farnese in Parma (1782–83), Teatro Ducale in Monza (1783–84), Teatro Ducale in Mantova (1784), Teatro Pubblico in Crema (1786), Teatro Sant’Agostino in Genoa (1788), Teatro della Pergola in Florence (1789) and Teatro La Fenice in Venice (1792). Honorary member of the Accademia di San Luca in Rome (1780), Accademia di Belle Arti in Parma (1782) and the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence (1789). Married Carlotta Vanini in Milan (1786) and had a son called Paolo (1794). Invited by Prince Nikolai Yussupov to St Petersburg (1792), where he replaced Francisco Gradizzi as principal decorator of the Imperial Theatres (1792–1828). Painted the exterior of Prince Nikolai Yussupov’s palace at 111 River Fontanka Embankment (1792). Helped to lay out the imperial park at Pavlovsk (from 1792), where he also decorated pavilions and palace interiors, including the Throne Room (1798–99) and the Gonzaga Gallery (1822–23). Designed the sets for a production of Charles Le Picq’s ballet Amore and Psiche in honour of the engagement of the future Tsar Alexander I to Princess Luise Marie Auguste of Baden (1793). Honorary fellow of the Imperial Academy of Arts (1794). Opened a studio at the Hermitage Theatre (1794). Worked in St Petersburg at the Bolshoi (Stone) Theatre (from 1795), Hermitage Theatre (from 1795) and the court theatres in Gatchina, Pavlovsk and Tsarskoe Selo (from 1797) and in Moscow at Michael Maddox’s Petrovsky Theatre (from 1799), Bolshoi Theatre (from 1819) and Count Nikolai Sheremetev’s serf theatres at his estates in Kuskovo and Ostankino, including a performance of André-Ernest-Modeste Grétry’s comic opera Les mariages samnites in the presence of Paul I (1797). Decorated the coronations of Paul I (1797), Tsar Alexander I (1801) and Nicholas I (1826), funerals of Catherine the Great (1796), Peter III (1796), Paul I (1801) and Alexander I (1825), victory celebrations at Pavlovsk marking the return of Alexander I from France after the defeat of Napoleon (1814) and the festivities surrounding the wedding of Grand Duchess Anna Pavlovna and Crown Prince William of Orange at the Tauride Palace and Pavlovsk (1816–17). Attempted to take up architecture, but lost the competition to design the Kazan Cathedral to Andrei Voronikhin (1799–1800) and the commission to design an opera theatre at St Michael’s Castle after the murder of Paul I (1801). Wrote and published such works on theatrical design as La musique des yeux et l’optique théâtrale. Opuscules tirés d’un plus grand ouvrage sur le sens commun par sir Thomas Witth (St Petersburg, 1800), Idée d’une église du rite grec, conçue d’après le programme, donné en 1799, pour la construction de la nouvelle cathédrale de St Pétersbourg (Rome, 1805), Projets manqués de l’invention de Pierre Gonzague et gravés au lieu d’être mis à execution (Rome, 1805), Information à mon chef ou éclaircissement convenable du décorateur théâtral Pierre Gothard Gonzague sur l’exercice de sa profession (St Petersburg, 1807), Opinion du décorateur théâtral Gonzague sur l’économie des spectacles (St Petersburg, 1815) and Remarques sur la construction des théâtres par un décorateur théâtral (St Petersburg, 1817). Designed and decorated the Gonzaga Theatre for Prince Nikolai Yussupov at his estate of Arkhangelskoe near Moscow (1817–18), inaugurated in the presence of Alexander I and King Frederick William III of Prussia (1818). Awarded the honorary title of architect of the Imperial Theatres (1827). Died of cholera in St Petersburg and buried at the Volkovo Lutheran Cemetery (1831).

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