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Title: Aristocracy and transformation : the eighteenth-century towns of south-eastern Sicily
Author: Nixon, Martin
ISNI:       0000 0004 6421 9423
Awarding Body: University of York
Current Institution: University of York
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis focuses on the rebuilding of the Val di Noto towns in south-eastern Sicily after the earthquake of 1693. Academic literature usually presents this architecture in terms of ideal cities and putative baroque harmony. I question the link between geometric urbanism and rationalism by analysing how the rebuilding enabled and maintained the power of certain aristocratic families. I investigate how architecture is implicated in power relations. I argue that rebuilding after the earthquake provided an opportunity for aristocrats to remake their territory through new locations and new forms of urbanism. The new towns and palaces were essential for the work of aristocracy. The straight streets, geometrically regular piazzas and new palaces placed the aristocrat within a putative world of rationality, modernity and refinement. Four case studies analyse aristocratic patronage and geometry, territorialisation, distinction and ornament. The case studies allow for architectural analysis at different spatial scales, from the scale of an entire town in Avola and Grammichele, to the facades of palaces in Noto and Scicli and the ballroom of the Palazzo Biscari in Catania. These spatial cuts also allow a focus on aristocratic families of different economic and social levels, from the high-ranking Aragona Pignatelli, Carafa Branciforte and Paternò Castello, to the local aristocrats of Noto and Scicli. The dissertation also investigates palace facades and ornament. Instead of seeing ornament as an addition or a dressing to the building’s putative structure or body, I argue that it is central to the Sicilian facades’ material affect. I read the richness and strangeness of the Sicilian decoration in terms of transformation, subversion and fear. The new towns involved transformation. Transformation of towns and landscapes through new urbanism, transformation of family fortunes, transformation of bodies through aristocratic refinement and dance. The dissertation investigates urbanism, facades and ornament, architectural and military treatises and dance manuals to investigate how these architectural transformations interact with the maintenance and transformation of aristocratic power.
Supervisor: Hills, Helen Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available