Victor Plahte Tschudi
Monuments and Mutation
Victor Plahte Tschudi is a professor in architectural history at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design. He is honorary fellow of the Norwegian Institute in Rome and a member of the advisory board for the Nordic Network of Renaissance Studies. From 2012 to 2022 he served as head of The Oslo Centre for Critical Architectural Studies (OCCAS). Tschudi has written extensively on art history and architecture from the Renaissance to the present. His investigations have focused in particular on the impact of prints and print production on architectural culture at large. Tschudi’s recent books include Baroque Antiquity: Archaeological Imagination in Early Modern Europe (2017) and Piranesi and the Modern Age (2022).
From the early sixteenth century onward, architectural prints issued in Italy come with the standard phrase “cum privilegio” printed on them. A privilegio – roughly translated as “copyright” – meant that the authorities of a certain territory explicitly forbade copying the image in question. What exactly a copy meant, however, was not equally clear. A preliminary survey shows how the actual wording of the privilegio changed from warning potential violators in general terms to warn against specific operations such as “reversal,” “additions,” “correction,” and “mutation.” Arguably, an increasingly precise definition of what constituted a copy responded to increasingly sophisticated maneuvers to circumvent it. The project Monuments and Mutation investigates the effect of the privilegio on the dissemination and transformation of ancient monuments in print. Ultimately, the project proposes a new way to read architectural history of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: Arguably, “mutation” (mutatio), “amplification” (ampliationi), “addition” (additionis) in print can be seen to reflect, even inspire, a corresponding set of architectural practices. In other words, late sixteenth-century printmakers’ inventive take on Roman monuments can be seen to correspond to the differing ways the period’s architecture departed from the classical canon and the ideals of imitatio.