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Bathing all’antica: bathrooms in Genoese villas and palaces in the sixteenth century

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An almost unknown characteristic of Genoese architecture in the sixteenth century is the extraordinary number of private baths in palaces or villas built by members of the local oligarchic society. These baths – still in part existing or documented in Rubens's Palazzi di Genova (Antwerp, 1622) – combine a bathing tub with a sweating bath, generally of octagonal shape. In architecture and decoration, Genoese baths recall antique prototypes, but at the same time, given the presence of numerous easterners in Genoa, a Turkish influence, both on the architecture and on the prevailing style of bathing, appears plausible. Several descriptions attest to the role of the Genoese bath – as in antiquity and in Islamic culture – as a place of social contacts, accessible not only for the family but also for distinguished guests. With regard to decorative furnishings, this article focuses on the famous bagno Grimaldi, built by Galeazzo Alessi, and its illumination by a crystal celestial globe, which conferred a cosmological dimension to the bath.
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Keywords: 16th century; Alessi; Galeazzo; Genoa; architecture; bath; globe

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Bibliotheca Hertziana

Publication date: 2006-11-01

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