An Extraordinary Sicilian Festival - Complete with all Nine Plates

FESTIVALS. La Placa, Pietro

Relazione delle pompe festive seguite in Palermo capital della Sicilia nella celebrità delle regie nozze di Carlo Borbone re di Sicilia, e di Napoli, con Maria Amalia principessa di Polonia, e di Sassonia per disposizione dell'eccellentissimo Senato palermitano, grande di Spagna, & c.

Palermo: nella regia stamperia d 1739


Quarto: 20 x 15 cm. 79, [1] pp., Collation: A-K4. With 9 large folding plates added.

Bound in contemporary vellum. An excellent copy with a little marginal spotting, the occasional blemish, and some discreetly mended tears (no loss). Some mild discoloration along the folds or joins of a few plates. Complete with all 9 of the magnificent folding plates. The main bibliographies (Berlin Katalog, Watanabe, Getty) call for only 8 plates.

An extraordinary –and extremely rare- Sicilian festival book. In 1738, at the age of 14, Maria Amalia of Saxony (1724-1760) married Charles of Bourbon (1716-1788, King of Naples and Sicily, Duke of Parma, and future (from 1759) King Charles III of Spain. The festivities in Palermo lasted three days and included four serenades for instrumental music and voices composed by David Perez, Pietro Pozzulo and Fabrizio La Rocca. The decorations for the Duomo, for the façades and interiors of the royal and senatorial palaces, and the sets for theatrical performances and dances held at the royal palace and in other locations around of the city, were all designed by the Trapani architect Nicolò Palma (1694-1779).

The large and fine folding plates – engraved by Antonio Bova, Bernardo Bongiovanni and Francesco Ciché (after drawings by Ciché) - illustrate the opulent decor, apparati, monuments (including a silver fountain), and sets created for the various spectacles and events. These include the splendid decoration of the Royal Palace, dances in the palace, fireworks on the open sea, and an unusual scene of a horse and a lion fighting in an arena. The text includes the full libretti for the four serenades and very detailed descriptions of all of the festivities, including the various dances.

These celebrations took place at the apex of Sicilian festivals. "It is the end of an era and, after the middle of the century, the splendor that had characterized the first Bourbon feasts, will be increasingly diminishing, on the one hand due to the scarcity of the economic resources available, on the other because of the growing interest by monarchical institutions for public celebrations."(Sofia di Fede, "La festa barocca a Palermo", p. 71)

The plate of the fight between the horse and lion is often missing. It is present in the National Gallery of Art copy, the Feltrinelli copy (sold in 1998) and in the BN Centrale (Rome) copy (but that copy lacks the plate called for at p. 57). The plate is lacking from the Getty copy and the entry in Watanabe's bibliography.

Watanabe-O'Kelly, Festivals and ceremonies: a bibliography of works relating to court, civic, and religious festivals in Europe 1500-1800 (in the online version at Oxford), 672; Mira II, 231; Berlin Katalog 3074; Moncada 1199; Not in Ruggeri, Cicognara, Vinet Further reading: M.C. Ruggieri Tricoli, I giochi di Issione, segni ed immagini della modernità nelle architetture provvisorie della Palermo borbonica, Palermo, Giada, 1985; Idem, «La città in scena: architettura effimera e macchina dei fuochi nelle feste palermitane dell’età borbonica», in Storia dell’Urbanistica/Sicilia, 1, 1989, pp.7-47; M. Sofia di Fede, "La festa barocca a Palermo: città, architetture, istituzioni" in Espacio, Tiempo y Forma, Serie VII, H.a del Arte, t. 18-19, 2005-2006, págs. 49-75