RUSCONI, Giovanni Antonio
(b. ca. 1520, Como, d. 1587, Venezia)


Italian architect, decorator and writer. A pupil of the mathematician Niccolò Tartaglia, Rusconi's architectural career was spent mainly in the Venetian area. He was an assistant of Andrea Palladio and help him on many projects. As proto (overseer) to the Provveditori al Sal, Rusconi was responsible in 1563 for the design of the new prisons in Venice (across the canal east of the Doge's Palace). The rear section of the prisons was begun in 1566 and completed to Rusconi's design, although it was enlarged in 1589 and re-faced with a new block by Antonio da Ponte, facing the Riva degli Schiavoni. The works were completed by da Ponte's nephews, Antonio and Tommaso Contin, in 1614.

Around 1573-75 Rusconi worked on Michele Sanmicheli's monumental Palazzo Grimani at San Luca, taking over from de' Grigi family in supervising the completion of the second piano nobile and the roof. Also about this time he advised Doge Alvise I Mocenigo on the rebuilding of his villa on the Giudecca, damaged by fire in 1574. The house survives but has been badly altered.

Rusconi's most important architectural work was again the result of fire, at the Doge's Palace in 1574. Under the supervision of Andrea Palladio, Rusconi, as proto of the works, completed much of the reconstruction of the Sala delle Quattro Porte, the Ante-Collegio and the Sala del Collegio. The Sala delle Quattro Porte (the senate ante-chamber) is notable chiefly for the elaborate Roman style of the stucco ceiling and the four richly decorated doorways with columns of rare marbles. The work was completed by da Ponte c. 1590. The Ante-Collegio was restored with marble, stucco and fresco work to designs by Palladio and Rusconi. The Sala del Collegio, the seat of one of the Republic's highest magistracies, is the most imposing of these three rooms. There is a marked contrast between the restrained, classical wall paneling and the richly coffered gilded ceiling, with panel paintings by Veronese and his school. Rusconi's precise contribution to the three rooms is difficult to define, although as proto he must have exercised considerable control, and he was probably also responsible for dictating the style of the ceilings, which foreshadow the Baroque.

Other works attributed to Rusconi include the chapel of the Holy Sacrament and high altar at San Giuliano; Palazzo Mocenigo at San Samuele; and Palazzo Trevisan at Murano (1554-57).

Rusconi's contemporary reputation was based chiefly on the Doge's Palace and on his writings. Although he worked with Palladio, relations between them were not close: Rusconi replied to Palladio's Quattro libri (1570) with his own treatise, published posthumously as Dell'architettura di Gio Antonio Rusconi. This did not achieve the fame of Palladio's, and Rusconi's reputation declined with the rise of Palladianism in the 18th century.