BENETTI, Giambattista. Survey of the Estates of the Abbazia di San Bartolo in the villages of Monestirolo, San Niccolo and Montesanto, near Ferrara. Ferrara: 2 May 1793.
Large oblong 2° (490 x 730mm). Manuscript survey, on paper, 64 leaves comprising dedication, explanation of colouring, general map of the three villages, map of each village, 24 detailed plans of estates, 4 explanatory leaves, 2 land ownership index leaves at end, with 24 blank leaves facing the pages of detailed plans and 4 blank leaves bound in at end. Each leaf with black rule and green wash borders (except dedication), text leaves with elaborate decorative borders, the maps profusely decorated, the titles in banners, north arrows impaling and decorated with birds, moths, dragons, snakes, putti and bows, each plan with scale bars in Ferrara perches (pertiche) decorated or incorporated into architectural and rural landscape vignettes on the themes of gardening, hunting and riverine trade, each detailed estate plan with arable land under the papal taxing system (decima) coloured in red, land not under decima (principally field boundaries, trees and pasture) in green, with inset texts detailing the land ownership so delineated and its area in stava. Fine original green morocco over pasteboard, elaborate roll-tooled border of bird and shell decoration enclosing central panel with onlaid border of red morocco tooled in gilt, floral inner cornerpieces, central gilt arms of Domenico Bottoni, spine in 8 compartments decorated with floral tools, pink silk endpapers, gilt and gauffered edges (corners and extremities very lightly rubbed). Provenance: sold in these Rooms, The Giannalisa Feltrinelli Library, Part II, 3 December 1997, lot 135.
AN ATTRACTIVE AND ELABORATE SURVEY of the estates of the Abbazia di San Bartolo put together and executed by the surveyor Giambattista Benetti for the merchant banker Domenico Bottoni, both from Ferrara. Bottoni commissioned the survey in order to challenge the 10 papal taxation (decima) to which his estate in the fertile valley of the Po di Primaro, 10 kms south of Ferrara, was subject (as set out in the terms of an earlier survey drawn up by Luigi Passega on behalf of the Rev. Camera Apostolica). The Church required payment of the decima on all arable produce, and on these rich riverine lands this was a considerable sum. The survey itself aims to reallocate a large proportion of land (coloured green on the maps), previously considered arable, but in fact under grass, trees or pathways. More than that, it is indicative of an interesting and delicate period in the history of the Papal States: in the 1780s and 90s Pope Pius VI (1775-1799) had come under increasing political and financial pressure, particularly in the wake of the French Revolution, when the French government expropriated and sold ecclesiastical property and in 1791 annexed Avignon and Venaissin. This drained the treasuries of the Church and crucially weakened the standing of the Papacy, reason for which the Pope had tried to maximise the revenue of all his estates (Ferrara and its environs among them) to avoid bankruptcy. His efforts proved ultimately futile, and, following Bonaparte's invasion of Italy, the Pope surrendered his claims to Avignon, Venaissin, Bologna, Ferrara and Romagna in the Treaty of Tolentino in February 1797. The high quality of the survey and the artistry of the decoration of the maps shows Benetti to be a fine surveyor and Bottoni a wealthy patron.
The survey comprises: Two preliminary leaves: Dedication leaf to Domenico Bottoni, with elaborate chinoiserie-style border incorporating the Bottoni arms;
Spiegazione dei colori (explanation of colouring), the text in an elaborate architectural surround, with green wash margins.
Section one: general map Corografia della villa di Monestirolo, facing descriptive indice decorated with an elaborate pergola surround of flowers, birds and insects and 4 detailed estate plans.
Section two: general map Corografia della villa di San Niccolo, facing descriptive indice set in a decorative column and architrave surround, and 16 detailed estate plans.
Section Three: general map Corografia della villa di Montesanto, facing indice, set within a birdcage surround, including parrots, peacock, rabbits, lion and fox, and 4 detailed estate plans.
At the end are 4 leaves comprising a general map of the three villages Corografia generale delle tre ville Monestirolo, San Niccolo, e Montesanto, with facing indice listing land under the decima taxing system, set in chinoiserie-style border with putti below holding papal tiara, with angel above holding a gilded medallion of Pope Pius VI; Epilogo on a single leaf listing landowners previously under the decima tax system, the text set within an elaborate trompe-l'oeil wall of library shelves, with a gentleman (Zanardi?) seated at work; followed by a leaf Elenco generale listing all the landholders registered in the survey, the 5 column list set on a background of papal robes and tiara with room surround, the verso with a 14-line notarial endorsements by Joseph Sterzi and Joseph Bertelli of Ferrara, with stamp and wax seal, dated 14th September 1793.
With a continuation of the survey by Benetti, dated Ferrara, 2 November 1793, manuscript on paper, 8° (244 x 165mm), 26 leaves (dedication, explanation of colouring, 9 plans, each with accompanying explanatory text, 2-leaf epilogue and poem, 4 blank leaves). Contemporary Italian mottled calf gilt.
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