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Scilla, Agostino

1. Dates
Born: Messina, Sicily, 10 Aug. 1629
Died: Rome, 31 May 1700
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 71
2. Father
Occupation: Government Official
His father was a notary, a public official.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Italian
Career: Italian
Death: Italian
4. Education
Schooling: No University
Scilla was the student (in art) of Antonio Ricci-Barbalunga, who got the Senate of Messina to send Scilla to Rome to study with Andrea Sacchi.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic (by assumption)
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Geology, Paleontology
Subordinate: Natural History
He is particularly remembered as the author of La vana speculazione disingannata dal senso (1670), one of the classics of geology and paleontology.
Scilla was primarily a painter. After he left Messina, his paintings were largely pastoral, so that he had an obvious interest in natural history. He accompanied Boccone on his botanical expeditions to Sicily and was cited by Boccone quite favorably.
In the field of learning his primary interst was not science but numistmatics.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Art
Secondary: Schoolmastering, Patronage
After five years in Rome as a student (no dates that I found are given) he returned to Messina. He was a well-known painter, who worked in Messina until 1678, many of whose works decorate the churches of Messina and Syracuse. He also had commissions in Calabria.
Scilla opened a school of painting in Messina.
He took part in the Messina revolt against the Spanish and was forced into exile after 1678, first briefly at the court in Turin and then at Rome from 1679, where he still functioned as a painter.
8. Patronage
Types: City Magistrate, Eccesiastic Official, Aristrocrat, Court Official
See above for the Senate of Messina.
I am assuming that some ecclesiastical official commissioned those paintings in churches.
Scilla was a member of the Accademia della Fucina, which met at the house of Carlo Gregorio, Marquis of Poggio Gregorio, a Messinese patrician. Here Sicilian gentlemen gathered to discuss literature and science--and politics. Academies of this sort were expressions of the patronage of their leaders, and I am treating this one in such terms.
I am listing the stay at the court in Turin.
It is reported that in Rome Scilla was known and valued by various princes, both as a painter and as a numismaticist, and his museum of natural curiosities was much frequented.
Note that Scilla's patronage was connected primarily to his painting, although there are indications of respect for his learning. Even here it is partly his knowledge of numismatics.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
In Messina Scilla was a member of the Accademia della Fucina, an academy of literature and science.
In Rome Scilla became a member of the academy of painting (I think this is the Accademia di S. Luca) and eventually its president.
As mentioned above, he was friendly with the natural historian Boccone.
  1. A. Mongitore, Bibliotheca sicula, 2 vol. (Panormi, 1708-14), 1, 91.
  2. Michaud, Biographie générale, 38, 506.
  3. Nicoletta Morello, "Notizie biobibliografiche," in La nascita della paleontologia nel seicento: Colonna, Stenone e Scilla, (Milano, 1979), pp. 148-51.
  4. G. Seguenza, Discorso intorno Agostino Scilla, (Messina, 1868).
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

©1995 Al Van Helden
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