Alberto Sanarica

179 sanarica dAlberto Sanarica was a Neapolitan architect, educator and painter who made significant contributions to the documentation of Vittorio Spinazzola’s excavations of the “Nuovi Scavi” in Pompeii between 1911 and 1923.  His extensive work for the project included orthographic elevation drawings documenting building facades and numerous reconstruction watercolors and charcoal drawings depicting hypothetical perspective illustrations of how the original structures may have appeared.

In 1928 he was awarded a Diploma of Merit from the Associazione Artistica Napoletana fra i Cultori di Architettura for his design work, and in 1932 was commissioned to design pavilions for a renovation of the Astronomical Observatory of Capodimonte in Naples.  During his career he was in charge of the Scuola Superiore di Architettura and a teacher at the Liceo Artistico.   He later became a Professor of Design, Geometrics, Perspective and Architecture at the Istituto di Belle Arti di Napoli and the Vice-director and then the Director of the Istituto.  He died in Naples in 1965.  (Compiled from documents, a newspaper clipping and photographs kindly provided by Sig. Paulo Sanarica, Alberto Sanarica’s son.)

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Condition Assessment Analysis Overview

730_condition_analysisVisitors to Pompeii can be impressed by how much remains of a city that flourished nearly two thousand years ago:

  • Streets, curbstones, steppingstones and fountains fashioned from volcanic rock.
  • Thousands of exterior and interior walls and doorways.
  • Architectural features such as steps, columns, statue plinths, impluvia and mosaic floors.

Upon closer examination, it can also be noted that a number of elements are missing or damaged:

  • Upper stories and roofs of buildings that were destroyed by the volcanic eruption in AD 79.
  • Organic materials (human remains, wood, fabrics) that have decomposed during their long burial (although a few casts of bodies and wooden objects are displayed in a few locations).
  • Furnishings, tools, shop inventories and other everyday objects that were discovered and removed by the original excavators (many now in storerooms, museums and private collections).
  • Exterior and interior wall decorations can be seen in a number of locations, but their condition many times makes them hard to identify and understand.

All of these factors contribute to the challenge of determining the original appearance of the structures before their destruction, establishing the condition of the remains of the buildings after they were discovered and evaluating the changes that have occurred since their excavation.  The structures and their decorations are deteriorating over time, but this damage is not easy to identify and quantify.

A number of the engravings, watercolors, drawings and excavation photographs collected during the research phase of this project document the state of structures soon after their excavation.  Some of these documents also present hypothetical reconstructions of buildings along the street as they may have appeared before their destruction.

It was determined that the recently created via dell’Abbondanza photomosaics could be compared with corresponding historical records in order to identify and quantify changes in the condition of the structures since they were unearthed.

The historical research materials used for this condition assessment study include:

  • Excavation photographs and illustrations.
  • Orthographic elevation drawings.
  • Hypothetical reconstruction drawings of buildings, insulae and architectural details.
  • Plans and photographs of WW II bombing.
  • Inscriptions (dipinti and graffiti) recorded during excavations.
  • Photographs of the 1879 model of Pompeii in the National Archaeological Museum in Naples.

Much of this information comes from Vittorio Spinazzola’s excavations in Pompeii between 1911 and 1923 that were posthumously published in 1953 as Pompei alla luce degli Scavi Nuovi di Via dell’Abbondanza (anni 1910-1923) (see Spinazzola research).  In addition to the black and white photographs in the two volumes of text, the third volume is a collection of 98 plates, many of which are in color.  This volume contains:

  • 24 plates - photographs, mostly in color (two of building exteriors and 22 of wall paintings)
  • 20 plates - orthographic elevation drawings of exterior facades of all excavated city blocks
  • 12 plates - watercolors showing hypothetical restorations of building exteriors
  • 6 plates - charcoal drawings showing perspectives of hypothetical restorations of building exteriors
  • 5 plates - drawings of architectural details (balconies, railings, etc.)
  • 4 plates - drawings/watercolors of mosaic floors
  • 6 plates - watercolors of interior wall paintings
  • 3 plates - watercolors of reconstructed building interiors and a garden
  • 4 plates - orthographic elevation drawings of interior walls
  • 8 plates - drawings of building sections with hypothetical restorations
  • 2 plates - isometric drawings of buildings with hypothetical restorations
  • 6 plates - photographs of oil paintings of interior wall paintings

None of the 24 photographs were signed or credited.  Of the balance of the plates, 71 were created by Alberto Sanarica, two by Gennaro Luciano, two by Raffaele Oliva and one by Nino Finamore.

Although these 98 plates document the excavated structures along via dell’Abbondanza, some do have limitations.  The photographs accurately depict the condition of various walls at the time they were excavated, but most are of interior wall paintings rather than exterior facades.  Most of the watercolors, charcoals, sections, isometrics and detail drawings are hypothetical reconstructions of the appearance of the buildings before their destruction.  These illustrations depict the artists’ opinion of how the structures may have looked.  Although this is interesting information, they do not document the damaged structures in the condition in which they were found.

The twenty elevation drawings do provide excellent information about the condition of all of the structures along every city block that was excavated.  It certainly required a significant amount of effort to measure the facades, record the dimensions and create the drawings.  However, even these drawings must be carefully reviewed.  In addition to recording the excavated structures, the draftsmen also included hypothetical lines suggesting where doors, second stories and roofs may have been before the eruption of Vesuvius.  The excavated ruins were drawn in darker hatched lines, and the hypothetical additions in single thin lines.

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Another source of material for the condition assessment analysis was the original Spinazzola excavation photographs.  Ninety photographic prints of the excavations (made from the original glass plate negatives) were located in the Photographic Archives of the Soprintendenza Archeologica di Pompei and digitally recorded in 2005 and 2007.

Much of this historical data shows the condition of the structures about 100 years ago. The via dell’Abbondanza photomosaics have been used to visually explore and analyze the current condition of the structures, and to organize and summarize the historical data for twenty of the insulae listed in the menu on the left side of this page. Changes that have occurred to the structures since their excavation can thereby be identified and quantified.

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