Sans Humour?

By Niall Hobhouse

Mario Sironi (1855–1961), Study for exhibition entrance Mostra dell’Architettura Moderna alla V Triennale di Milano, 1933. Pencil and bodycolour on buff paper, 364 × 460 mm. DMC 2072.
Ennemondo Alessandro Petitot (1727–1801), Mascarade a la Grecque, 1771. Etching, 415 × 290 mm. DMC 2127.
Giuseppe Roberto Martinenghi (1894–1970), Aedificare, Magister Caementariorum G. Botta, c.1930. Print, 248 × 170 mm. DMC 2216.

It seems that architects are too self-conscious – or perhaps in need of being seen as permanently on duty – to portray themselves or what they do with much humour, let alone self-critical caricature. Edwin Lutyens is an honourable exception, even if his self-mockery ultimately becomes a public performance – a narrow genre of which Petitot is ever the master. Sironi and Botta seem at least to suggest that such things are sometimes a little easier in Italy, but each of them here still carefully allows himself some ironic distance.