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Francesco Algarotti

Francesco Algarotti
Born 11 December 1712 (1712-12-11)
Died Did not recognize date. Try slightly modifying the date in the first parameter. (aged 51)
Nationality Venetian
Occupation Philosopher

Count Francesco Algarotti (11 December 1712 – 3 May 1764) was a Venetian Thomas Hollis, Metastasio, Benedict XIV and Heinrich von Brühl were among his correspondents[1]


  • Life 1
    • Algarotti and the other arts 1.1
  • Works 2
  • Gallery 3
  • References 4
  • Sources 5
  • External links 6


Algarotti was born in Venice as the son of a rich merchant. His father and uncle were art collectors. Unlike his older brother Bonomo he did not step into the company, but decided to become an author. Francesco studied natural sciences and mathematics in Bologna under Francesco Maria Zanotti and in 1728 he experimented with optics. (Zanotti became a lifelong friend.) First he travelled in the North of Italy, but moved to Florence, and Rome. At the age of twenty, he went to Cirey and Paris, where he became friendly with Voltaire and Émilie du Châtelet.[2] Two years later he was in London, where he was made a fellow of the Royal Society. He became embroiled in a lively bisexual love-triangle with the politician John Hervey, and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.[3] Algarotti left for Italy and finished his Neutonianismo per le dame ("Newtonism for Ladies"), a work on optics (1737), dedicated to Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle.

In the meantime Algarotti had made acquaintance with Antiochus Kantemir, a Moldavian diplomat, poet and composer.[4] He was invited to visit Russia for the wedding of Duke Anthony Ulrich of Brunswick.[5] In 1739 he left with Lord Baltimore from Sheerness to Newcastle upon Tyne. Because of a heavy storm the ship sheltered in Harlingen. Algarotti was discovering "this new city".[6] Returning from Saint Petersburg, they visited Frederick the Great in Rheinsberg. Algarotti had obligations in England and came back the year after. Then Algarotti went together with Frederick to Königsberg where he was crowned.

Nandl Baldauf, la belle chocolatière (1743/44). The pastel by Liotard was sold in 1745 by Algarotti to Dresden.[7]

Frederik, who was impressed with this walking encyclopedia made him and his brother Bonomo Prussian counts in 1740. Algarotti accompanied Frederick to Bayreuth, Kehl, Strasbourg and Moyland Castle where they met with Voltaire, who was taking baths in Kleve for his health.[8] In 1741 Algarotti went to Turin as his diplomat. Frederick had offered a him salary, but Algarotti refused. First he went to Dresden and Venice, where he bought 21 paintings, a few by Jean-Étienne Liotard and Giovanni Battista Tiepolo for the court of Augustus III of Poland.[9][10] Algarotti did not succeed to have the Kingdom of Sardinia attack Austria in the back.[11]

Algarotti and the other arts

The interior of the Pantheon (Rome) by Giovanni Paolo Pannini, ordered by and belonging to the art collection of Algarotti.[12]

Algarotti's choice of works reflects the encyclopedic interests of the Neoclassic era; he was uninterested in developing a single unitary stylistic collection, he envisioned a modern museum, a catalog of styles from across the ages. For contemporary commissions, he wrote up a list for paintings he recommended commissioning, including to ask of history paintings from Tiepolo, Pittoni, and Piazzetta; scenes with animals from Castiglione, and veduta with ruins from Pannini. He wanted"suggetti graziosi e leggeri" from Balestra, Boucher, and Donato Creti.[13] Other artist he protected were Giuseppe Nogari, Bernardo Bellotto, and Francesco Pavona.

In 1747 Algarotti went back to Potsdam and became court chamberlain, but left to visit the archeological diggings at Parma. He influencing Guillaume du Tillot and the Duke of Parma.

Gathering on George Keith, Friedrich Rudolf von Rothenburg, Christoph Ludwig von Stille, and Algarotti. The painting was lost in 1945

Algarotti's Essay on the Opera (1755) was a major influence on the librettist Carlo Innocenzo Frugoni and the composer Tommaso Traetta, and in the development of Gluck's reformist ideology.[15] Algarotti proposed a heavily simplified model of opera seria, with the drama pre-eminent, instead of the music, ballet or staging. The drama itself should "delight the eyes and ears, to rouse up and to affect the hearts of an audience, without the risk of sinning against reason or common sense". Algarotti's ideas influenced both Gluck and his librettist Calzabigi, writing their Orfeo ed Euridice.[16]

In 1762 Algarotti moved to Pisa, where he died of tuberculosis. Frederick the Great, who several times needed Algarotti writing texts in Latin, sent in a text for a monument to his memory on the Campo Santo.


  • Bibliography and Inventory of all known letters at Algarotti Briefdatenbank der Universitätsbibliothek Trier (French)
  • Correspondence with Frederick the Great at Digitale Ausgabe der Universitätsbibliothek Trier (French)
  • Il newtonianismo per le dame, 1737. The International Centre for the History of Universities and Science (CIS), University of Bologna
  • "Saggio sopra la pittura" [17][18]
  • "An essay on architecture" (1753).[19]
  • "Letters military and political" (1782).[20]
  • "Essai sur la durée des règnes des sept rois de Rome"
  • "Essai sur l'empire des Incas"
  • [21]



  1. ^
  2. ^ In 1740 Voltaire called him the Venetian Socrates, may be his "cher cygne de Padoue" ("dear swan of Padua").
  3. ^ Rictor Norton, "John, Lord Hervey: The Third Sex", The Great Queens of History. Updated 8 August 2009 [1]
  4. ^ 'By the Banks of the Neva': Chapters from the Lives and Careers of the ... By Anthony Glenn Cross
  5. ^ Algarotti dedicated six of the letters that made up his Viaggi di Russia to John Hervey; the others to Scipio Maffei.
  6. ^ The Petrine Revolution in Russian Architecture By James Cracraft
  7. ^ Walter Koschatzky (Hrsg.): Maria Theresia und ihre Zeit, p. 313. Zur 200. Wiederkehr des Todestages. Ausstellung 13. Mai bis 26. Oktober 1980, Wien, Schloß Schönbrunn. Im Auftrag der Österreichischen Bundesregierung veranstaltet vom Bundesministerium für Wissenschaft und Forschung, Gistel, Wien 1980.
  8. ^ MacDonogh, G. (1999) Frederick the Great, p. 142-145.
  9. ^ The Empire of Flora by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo at Legion of Honor
  10. ^ Eighteenth-century Venetian Art at Hermitage Amsterdam
  11. ^ MacDonogh, G. (1999) Frederick the Great, p. 191.
  12. ^ Tiepolo's Cleopatra by Jaynie Anderson
  13. ^ , by Jaynie Anderson, p. 109Tiepolo's Cleopatra Door
  14. ^ MacDonogh, G. (1999) Frederick the Great, p. 192.
  15. ^ Orrey, p. 81
  16. ^ Orrey, p. 83
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ Cosmin Ungureanu, "Sia funzion la rappresentazione." Carlo Lodoli and the Crisis of Architecture
  20. ^ letter is on Siege of Bergen op Zoom (1747).
  21. ^ Artin theory, 1648–1815: an anthology of changing ideas door Charles Harrison, Paul Wood


  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain
  • Laura Favero Carraro. "Francesco Algarotti". The Literary Encyclopedia. Ed. Robert Clark, Emory Elliott and Janet Todd.
  • MacDonogh, G. (1999) Frederick the Great. New York: St. Martin's Griffin
  • Orrey, Leslie; Milnes, Rodney (1987). Opera, a concise history. London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-20217-6.
  • Occhipinti, C. Piranesi, Mariette, Algarotti. Percorsi settecenteschi nella cultura figurativa europea. Roma, UniversItalia, 2013. ISBN 9788865074596

External links

  • Catalogo dei quadri dei disegni e dei libri che trattano dell' arte del disegno della galleria del fu Sig. conte Algarotti in Venezia (1776)
  • Online books by F. Algarotti at The Online Books Page.
  • Francesco Algarotti's House in Venice
  • Works by or about Francesco Algarotti in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • in Tate Collection at
  • How to become a renowned writer: Francesco Algarotti (1712--1764) and the uses of networking in eighteenth-century Europe by Smeall, Cheryl Lynn, Ph.D., McGill University (Canada), 2011, 449 pages; AAT NR77555 [2]
  • All that glitters by Henk van Os
  • Becoming a Scientist: Gender and Knowledge in Eighteenth-Century Italy by Paula Findlen
  • Thomas Carlyle on Algarotti
  • Rictor Norton, "John, Lord Hervey", section: "Swan of Padua".
  • Il Newtonianismo per le dame.Francesco Algarotti (1739) - Linda Hall Library
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