SELVA, Giovanni Antonio
(b. 1751, Venezia, d. 1819, Venezia)

Biography

Italian architect, garden designer, teacher and writer. After studying mathematics, he became the pupil of the architect Tommaso Temanza. From 1778 to 1781, he undertook a study trip to Italy, France, England, Belgium and the Netherlands. In Italy, he remained in Rome for over a year, forming a lasting friendship with Antonio Canova and Giacomo Quarenghi. He also visited Pompeii, Paestum and Caserta. In England, he was one of the first Italians to visit such famous landscape gardens as Stowe, The Leasowes and Blenheim; he admired the work of Inigo Jones while remaining unimpressed by contemporary English architecture. In France, however, he expressed admiration for some buildings and the gardens of André Le Nôtre.

Numerous families from Venice and the mainland commissioned him either to restructure or create their townhouses and villas. In these designs, he excelled in combining comfort with elegance. Among these schemes were the Palazzo Erizzo (1783-84), the Palazzo Manin (1794) and the Palazzo Mangilli (1794), all in Venice; the Villa Manfrin (c. 1790) at Sant'Artemio, near Treviso; the Palazzo Pisani de Lazzara (1783) and the Palazzo Dotti Vigodarzere (1796) in Padua.

Selva rose to fame, however, principally through his design for the Teatro La Fenice, Venice. The theatre was virtually destroyed by a fire in 1836.

Selva also built numerous churches, including the superb Neo-classical San Maurizio (1806; with Antonio Diedo) and the SS Nome di Gesù (completed 1834), both in Venice, and the cathedral in the small town of Cologna Veneta, which he rebuilt (1807-10) in a Neo-classical style. For Napoleon, he built a triumphal arch on the Grand Canal, and he also obtained prestigious commissions for the construction of the public gardens at Castello and the Giudecca and the cemetery of San Michele. The gardens were only partially completed to Selva's design, however, and have since been altered for use as the venue of the Venice Biennale exhibition.

As a lecturer at the Accademia di Belle Arti, Selva was responsible for choosing the academy's headquarters in the former convent of Charity. He also supervised the adaptation of this Palladian complex to its modern role as the home of the Galleria dell'Accademia.