Lo specchio e la lampada. Il paesaggio letterario settecentesco dal Bello al Sublime, passando per il Pittoresco

Andrea Battistini

By examining the works of numerous eighteenth century Italian and foreign authors (Addison, De Brosses, Giannone, Marsili, Algarotti, Metastasio, Smollett, Bettinelli, Bertola, Rezzonico, Cesarotti and Alfieri), a change in taste is highlighted from the early to late eighteenth century, according to which the preferences are geared towards a landscape that responds to the aesthetic canon of Beauty, which is based upon the classical attributes of measure, order, and rationality, while the second half of the century favours a landscape abounding with the Sublime, featuring everything that is boundless, formless, dark, vague, and undefined. In the first case, the observer tends to regard the external reality as the primary datum, which is reflected upon the page, often reflected via the inter-textual mediation of the literary topos derived from the classical authors who once depicted them, while in the second case the landscape is internalized in order to bring out the feelings and emotions that it arouses, rather than the objective data itself. One variant, which took place at the end of the century, is the Picturesque, in which the landscape (despite its majesty and impressiveness) does not arouse any anxiety or agitation, but rather arouses a sense of pleasantness, because instead of being mired by the wilderness (as is the case with the perspective of the Sublime), it is contemplated as if one were to be admiring a painting.