Plautilla Bricci is best known for designing the Chapel of Saint Louis in
Rome. The beautiful design of the chapel shows us that Plautilla was very
creative and very skilled. Although she was a painter she was also the
first woman of her era who was well known for her architecture, and her
reputation as an architect has carried on until present day.
Plautilla Bricci was born in Rome on August 13, 1616. Her father,
Giovanni Bricci was a musician and a well known painter. She also had a
brother named Basilio, who like herself, was a painter and an architect.
It is believed that most of her work was credited to male architects of her
time. However, her two most recognized commissions are documented in
Rome's history. They were both commissioned by Elipidio Benedetti.
The first commission in 1663, was the Villa Benedetti located outside of Rome.
This was built for Elpidio Benedetti, who worked as an agent for Cardinal Jules
Originally, credit for the architectural work on the villa was given to Plautilla's brother, who was her assistant on this design. However, the
contracts for the building and all the paintings inside, found in archives in
Rome, show that, in fact, it was Plautilla who designed the building. It
is believed that Benedetti was afraid to admit that the villa was designed by a
woman until he saw how much people admired the design and beauty of his mansion.
The villa was so beautiful and filled with detail that in 1667, Benedetti,
using a nom de plume published a guide book about the villa that explained in
great detail different views of the building with all the intricate work that
went into it, along with giving credit to Plautilla for her architectural work.
Benedetti's mansion was destroyed in 1849 by fire.
The second commission was the design of the Chapel of Saint Louis (San Luigi dei Francesi) in 1672, Rome. The elegance of the chapel shows her
connection to the outdated form of the Roman High Baroque.
The entryway to the chapel is a beautiful arch that is decorated with beautiful
drapery and carvings of figures that resemble those in the Vatican Palace,
located in Rome. The oval cupola is overlaid with decorated plaster designs that span the entire
chapel. The alter piece has a concave frame that has colorful marble wings
throughout the whole frame.
Oddly enough, Plautilla's great achievement of designing this chapel is
almost over shadowed by her painting of Saint Louis that hangs above the alter.
This painting, which is the only painting of hers that survives to this day is
very plain and lifeless compared to her architecture work.
In 1677, Plautilla received a gift from Benedetti. He rewarded her
great work by giving her a house that he owned, located in the Trastevere
quarter in Rome.
No other works, either painting or architectural, by Plautilla are
documented. It was believed that she designed the Palazzo Testa-Piccolomini in Rome. However, recently there were documents
published that proved Filippo Barigioni was the architect who actually designed
it. His style mimicked hers so closely, that was what lead to the belief
that she designed it.
Plautilla spent the last years of her life living in a convent and died
sometime after 1690. There is no exact date of her death, however, 1690 is
the last evidence of documentation on her.
There is not much information about Plautilla's life such as who taught her
the architectural and painting skills, whether or not she ever married, or had
children. If you have any information I could add please message me and I will
gladly add it to this write-up.