The research for this book, and formulating its results, have taken a very long time. At least in part this was caused by the manifold activities undertaken by its protagonist, the Renaissance antiquary Jacopo Strada. Though sometimes described as such, he was hardly the prototype of the Renaissance ‘universal man’: he appears to have had little interest in literature as an art, no interest in music, hardly any interest in anything pertaining to the natural world. His central passion was the history and the culture of the ancient world—in particular its visual culture—and its application to the artistic endeavour of his own time. But he did pursue this passion in many different ways: as an artist, a designer, an architect; as an antiquary, a scholar and encyclopaedic writer; as a publisher and bookseller; as a collector of, and dealer in antiquities and contemporary works of art; as an agent and a scholarly and artistic advisor of powerful patrons; and—last but not least—as a courtier. Moreover he engaged in all or most of these activities in several parts of Europe: in Italy, in Central and Southern Germany, in Lyon, and finally at the Imperial court, in Austria and Bohemia. As a consequence of this, his career has only been studied piecemeal: certain aspect of his activities—such as his connection with Titian, whose portrait of Strada remains his chief claim to fame, his numismatic studies, or his role in the creation of the Antiquarium of the Munich Residenz and the Munich collection of antiquities—have received the attention of local historians or scholars engaged in specific sub-disciplines of history and art history. From the beginning, my purpose has been to bring together these various strands into what I hoped and intended to be a consistent whole; but how to do this was not easy to decide, one of the obvious reasons being that one cannot be a specialist in all the various fields in which Strada has left some mark. In fact the book as it now appears is the result of a process of organic growth, rather than of meticulous architectural planning. But since that may reflect Strada’s own career, this may be less of a disadvantage than might appear at first sight.
The book is intended as an empirical study into Strada’s life and activities: his career is of sufficient interest, and touches so many different cultural environments, that finding and presenting an ample quantity of biographical information seemed indispensable to understand its development. Though as an artist and as an intellectual Strada is of some interest, certainly he does not count among the great artists of the sixteenth century, and his intellectual endeavour is to a large extent reproductive, rather than creative. He concentrated on collecting and disseminating information he thought could be of use, and to propagate the ideas and ‘inventions’ of others he admired. His careful
This study is not only empirical but also contextual in intention. Strada owed so much of what he knew, what he did, what he disseminated, to the example of others, and he so explicitly tried to propagate his ideas and convictions in the environments he found himself in, that these environments themselves, their character and preoccupations, are of great importance to understand his ambitions and eventual actions. For that reason I have paid much attention to sketch these environments, not all of which will be equally familiar to every individual reader. I have not treated every phase of Strada’s career in equal depth. In particular his role in the development of the Munich collections of antiquities, which has been treated by others in much detail, I have only summarily discussed—except for his designs for the building conceived to house these, the Antiquarium, which are of paramount importance for an evaluation of his qualities as an architect.
Though to some limited extent reflecting the chronology of Strada’s life, the book is structured in four parts: the first part sketches Strada’s background and his early career, including his connection with Hans Jakob Fugger, with Emperor Maximilian II probably the most important of Strada’s patrons, and certainly the one who had the greatest impact on Strada’s ideas and on his career. Its last chapter sketches his arrival at the Imperial court, and summarizes the concrete information we have about his functions as Antiquary and Architect to the Emperors Ferdinand I, Maximilian II and Rudolf II.
The second part attempts to define Strada’s role as an architect, the part of his function in Vienna which has been least studied, and which has been greatly underestimated. It discusses not only his role in the architectural infrastructure at court and his contribution to Ferdinand’s and Maximilian’s projects, but also his designs for the Munich Antiquarium and his own house in Vienna, and his possible impact on the projects of other patrons.
Strada’s activities as an architect and as an architectural advisor were greatly facilitated by the huge collection of visual documentation in this field he had
The first chapter of the concluding section attempts to interpret the information collected, in order to understand what Strada actually meant when he used the term ‘Antiquary’ to indicate what he explicitly considered his profession. It focuses largely on Strada’s method as a student of Classical Antiquity, and the various uses he made of his results. The last chapter weaves together the various strains spun in the earlier parts of the book, to try and define Strada’s influence as an agent of change, and his role in the transmission of the ideas and the formal language of the Italian Renaissance beyond the Alps.
The present book is based on my doctoral dissertation, defended at Leiden University in 2015. The revision has integrated information from a few publications I had missed earlier, or which appeared too late to incorporate in my earlier version, in particular the important study on the history of the Hofburg in Vienna by Herbert Kärner, Renate Holzschuh-Hofer and others, published by the Austrian Academy of Sciences in 2014. The responsibilities of my share in the research project at the Gotha Research Centre of Erfurt University, dedicated to Strada’s corpus of numismatic drawings in the Forschungsbibliothek Gotha, made it impossible to integrate literature published after 2015. It seemed wiser, moreover, not to anticipate possible but preliminary shifts in insight and interpretation that may result from the findings of this project.
Gotha, 5 March 2018