In 1590 the great Venetian architect Vincenzo Scamozzi received from the Theatines the commission for a new church in Venice, San Nicolò dei Tolentini (on the commission see R. Gallo, ‘Vincenzo Scamozzi e la chiesa di S. Nicolò da Tolentini di Venezia’, Atti dell’Istituto Veneto, CXVII, 1958-1959, pp. 103-122). The architect worked on the project between 1591 and 1595, but at that point he was dismissed, his plans were modified, and the building was completed by others. Many factors, including Scamozzi’s refusal to use the building materials requested by the Theatine patrons, prompted the conflict between the architect and his patrons (M. Piana, ‘San Nicolò da Tolentino fra trattato e cantiere’, Annali di Architettura,XXVII, 2015, pp. 97-106).
This autograph sheet dates to the time when Scamozzi, some years later, was preparing the drawings for the woodcuts and engravings to illustrate his treatise, L’idea dell’architettura universale, published in 1615 in six volumes. The plan is dated twice on the versoand those dates allow us to document the architect’s daily progress on the drawing. The ground plan was executed over three days, from Thursday 12 to Saturday 14 June 1608. The façade’s elevation and the cross-section were drawn the following week over four days, from Wednesday 18 to Saturday 21 June 1608. The plan is executed on a single sheet of paper, and the size of the framed portion of the drawing corresponds precisely with that of the plates in the treatise, published on a double page. The illustration was meant to be included in the fifth volume, in the section devoted to religious buildings, yet it remained unpublished. Only two other drawings prepared by Scamozzi for the treatise were similarly not included in the publication: one, for the Procuratie Nuove, is in the Louvre (inv. 5448; see F. Mancini, ‘De l’Italie à la France: reconstitution d'un album de dessins de quadratura autrefois conservé au département des Arts graphiques du musée du Louvre", ArtItalies, 22, 2016, pp. 80-90), and the other, for San Gaetano da Thiene in Padua, is at Chatsworth (vol. XXV, 68; see F. Barbieri, ‘Appunti Scamozziani 2. Chiesa e convento di San Gaetano a Padova’, Rivista del Centro Internazionale di Studi di Architettura Andrea Palladio di Vicenza, XXII, 2010, p. 169, ill.)
Since no drawings survive from the early design phase of the church of San Nicolò, this sheet is an important document as it reflects Scamozzi’s original proposal for the building. The sheet is even more exceptional considering the relatively small number of drawings surviving from Scamozzi’s own hand. In the 18th Century the drawing was owned by the prominent Venetian architect Tommaso Temanza, describing it in detail in his writings as ‘being here on my side table’ (Vite dei piùcelebri architetti e scultori veneziani, che fiorirono nel secolo decimosesto, Venice, 1778, pp. 441-442).