The first Baroque residence on the Upper Rhine

Rastatt Residential Palace

Hunting lodge, 1697 design, copper engraving circa 1705. Image: Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe
AN ARCHITECT WITH A FIERY TEMPER

DOMENICO EGIDIO ROSSI

Italian architect Domenico Egidio Rossi (1659–1715) created his magnum opus with Rastatt Palace - a residence that splendidly represented Margrave Ludwig Wilhelm von Baden-Baden. The Türkenlouis was very happy with him. However, Rossi had plenty of trouble with others.

Detail view of architectural painting in the margravine's audience chamber; Rastatt Residential Palace. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Lutz Hecker

Rossi hired the Bolognese quadratura painters for the work in Rastatt.

WHO WERE ROSSI'S ARCHITECTURAL INSPIRATIONS?

Domenico Egidio Rossi, born in 1659 Fano, Italy, was a frescoist and architect. He was trained in Bologna, the center of quadratura painting, a type of illusionistic architectural decoration. From 1689 on, he worked in Vienna and Prague. His clients were wealthy nobility circulating around the emperor. After freeing Vienna from the Turks in 1683, the city was busy developing into one of the most magnificent places in Europe. What better place to search for an architect?

Rossi's sketches for Rastatt Palace, wash drawing based on Schönbrunn Palace, circa 1700. Image: Württembergische Landesbibliothek

Rossi's designs for the palace.

WHAT DID ROSSI DO IN RASTATT?

Rossi oversaw all of the margrave's architectural projects, but the construction of the palace was his most important assignment. He drew up plans, and organized and supervised its construction. He arranged for Italian artists to decorate the interior. He brought a foreman and workers with him from Italy. Bohemian migrants and local serfs also contributed, the latter often unwillingly. Rossi was under pressure to complete the job quickly, so he fired bricks - a technique new to the region.

Rossi's sketches for Rastatt Palace, wash drawing based on Schönbrunn Palace, circa 1700. Image: Württembergische Landesbibliothek

Additional design for the palace facade with updated details.

WAS ROSSI A DIFFICULT PERSON?

Many letters prove that Rossi often ran afoul of others in Rastatt and Prague. He beat unreliable local foremen. He refused to work with a second architect. His fiery temper likely contributed to these problems. Ludwig Wilhelm, however, valued and supported him. A drudgery scribe who made fun of Rossi was punished with three days in prison on water and bread rations.

Auxiliary building to the Scheibenhardt hunting lodge near Ettlingen. Image: Landesmedienzentrum Baden-Württemberg, Andrea Rachele

Rossi was tasked with expanding the Scheibenhardt hunting lodge near Ettlingen; here an auxiliary building to the lodge.

WHAT EFFECTS DID ROSSI HAVE ON THE REGION?

Rossi drew up plans for model houses in Rastatt, an expansion for the Scheibenhardt hunting lodge near Ettlingen and a new palace in Durlach, among others. Margrave Friedrich Magnus von Baden-Durlach had commissioned him with the latter. However, for financial reasons, only a small part was ever built. Several of the structures in the Margraviate of Baden-Baden could likewise not be completed until later. The Rastatt Palace, however, was completed before Rossi returned to Italy in 1707. It was and remains his most important project.

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