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Italian Renaissance - Florence

( Originally Published 1921 )



BRUNELLESCHI (A.D. 1377–1446), one of the most famous sons of Florence, entered the competition among sculptors in A.D. 1401 for the bronze north doors of the Baptistery, Florence—this competition marking the introduction of the Renaissance. Lorenzo Ghiberti, however, was successful, and the doors were executed A.D. 1409–24. Brunelleschi then set out for Rome to study Classic architecture at the fountain head. The Pantheon and other ancient buildings exercised a notable influence upon all his subsequent architectural designs.

The Dome of Florence Cathedral (A.D. 1420-34) (pp. 510 A, B, C, D, F, 513 A), which was entrusted to Brunelleschi as the result of a competition, is a miracle of design which triumphantly blended a Renaissance dome with a Gothic building and set the crown on that masterpiece of Mediaeval Florence. The dome covers an octagonal apartment, 138 ft. 6 ins, in diameter, and is raised on a drum, with circular windows to light the interior. This unique dome, which is pointed in form, consists of inner and outer shells constructed on the Gothic principle, with eight main and sixteen intermediate ribs supporting panels. It is said that it was erected without centering, which at any rate may have been used only to a limited extent.

S. Lorenzo, Florence (A.D. 1425) (p. 555), is of the basilican type, with nave and aisles separated by Corinthian columns supporting entablature blocks, said to be the earliest instance of the use of such features in the Renaissance period ; and the sanctuary is flanked by the Old Sacristy (A.D. 1421–28) and the more famous New Sacristy (A.D. 1523–29) added by Michelangelo (pp. 581, 583 B).

S. Spirito, Florence (A.D. 1436–82) (p. 556), is also of the basilican type, which had been preferred by the Italians through the Middle Ages, but has wide transepts making a Latin cross, and there are aisles round nave, transepts, and choir. The nave is flanked by arcades forming another early instance of columns supporting pieces of entablature inter-posed between them and the arches, while a flat timber ceiling covers the nave, and there is a dome over the crossing.

The Pazzi Chapel, Florence (A.D. 1429) (p. 555), designed on the lines of a prostyle Roman temple, is a miniature church in the cloisters of S. Croce, with a facade of six columns and an ornate vault forming the frontispiece and vestibule to a square compartment covered by a dome on pendentives. This is one of the most delightful smaller creations of Brunelleschi's genius.

The Palazzo Pitti, Florence (A.D. 1435) (P. 557), erected for Luca Pitti, a friend of Cosimo de' Medici, is the largest palace in Italy except the Vatican. It has a fine symmetrical plan, and is a grand and stately composition with a great central cortile and smaller lateral cortili added in A.D. 1640, but not until A.D. 1763 were the projecting wings added facing the Piazza. The facade, with three-storeyed centre 119 ft. high, is 66o ft. in length. It is of astylar treatment, bearing in its rugged simplicity a curious resemblance to the bold Claudian Aqueduct, with its massive blocks of masonry and arches of the ground storey (p. 6o5 F). The cortile (p. 557 D), seen from the famous Boboli Gardens, is unique in its columnar treatment of Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian half-columns. The palace is now the king's residence and partly occupied by the famous picture gallery.

The Palazzo Quaratesi, Florence (A.D. 1445) (p. 557 E), has rusticated walling and characteristic windows, each with a central shaft supporting sub-arches, reminiscent of Gothic tracery (p. 605 D), and is finished with a typical bold crowning cornice.

ALBERTI (A.D. 1404–72) was a student of Classical literature, and his book on architecture, " De Re AEdificatoria," helped to promote the revival of the old Roman style.

The Palazzo Rucellai, Florence (A.D. 1451) (p. 557 G), generally regarded as the first Renaissance building in which superimposed pilasters were used, is refined in character, but lacks the dignity which would be bestowed -by a great crowning cornice, as in the Palazzo Riccardi ; while the design is more ornate and less massive than those of Brunelleschi.

S. Francesco, Rimini (A.D. 1447–55), a Gothic church, was remodelled for Malatesta, the Lord of Rimini, in the revived style, and the facade, which was never completed, would have resembled the Arch of Septimius Severus, Rome.

S. Maria Novella, Florence (A.D. 1470), was one of the first churches in which flanking scrolls above the ends of the aisle walls were used to connect aisles and nave into one composition across the facade.

S. Andrea, Mantua (A.D. 1472–1512) (p. 556), is of special significance as the prototype of many modern Renaissance churches. The fine entrance portico, on the model of a Roman triumphal arch, leads into an imposing and finely proportioned aisleless nave, flanked by side chapels between piers which are faced with coupled Corinthian pilasters on pedestals, and support a richly coffered barrel vault. The transepts and apsidal sanctuary, with its three windows under a semi-dome, and the high central dome (A.D. 1732-82) were later additions.

MICHELOZZO (A.D. 1397–1473) was a friend of Cosimo de' Medici, whom he accompanied in exile to Venice, and there studied architecture.

The Palazzo Riccardi, Florence (A.D. 1430) (p. 558), is Michelozzo's best-known building, and here Lorenzo the Magnificent kept his brilliant Court. The palace was sold (A.D. 1659) to the Riccardi family. The plan (p. 558 F) has a cortile or peristyle (p. 558 c), as in Pompeian houses, around which are ranged the various rooms with the grand stair to the " piano nobile." The exterior, in three storeys, is an admirable example of the effective use of graduated rustication. The ground storey has heavily rusticated masonry with semicircular arches enclosing windows of the pediment type (p. 558 E) ; the intermediate storey has drafted stone walling with traceried windows (p. 558 G) ; and the upper storey, in plain ashlar masonry, has similar windows, and the whole facade is crowned by a bold cornice projecting over 8 ft. (p. 558 A).

IL CRONACA (A.D. 1454-1508), a friend of Savonarola, had sojourned in Rome and there made a study of ancient buildings.

The Palazzo Strozzi, Florence (A.D. 1489) (p. 561), begun by da Majano, was completed by Cronaca. The chief features are a large central cortile with arcades on the three storeys, off which are the stairs and surrounding rooms. The facade (p. 561 E, D) has one unbroken surface—an early example of the astylar treatment. The rusticated walls have moulded string courses emphasising the storeys and producing an effect of horizontality, which is further accentuated by the grand crowning cornice (p. 561 F) which projects over 7 ft. and is about one-tenth the height of the building. The windows (p. 561 H), angle-lantern, and link-holder (p. 561 A, c) are attractive features of this famous facade.

The Palazzo Guadagni, Florence (A.D. 1490), (p. 557 F), with its sgraffito plaster facade and loggia under the flat roof, was also designed by Cronaca.

FILARETE (A.D. 1396–1465) was an architect of note and a famous sculptor.

The Ospedale Maggiore, Milan (A.D. 1457) (p. 563 F, G, H), one of the earliest municipal hospitals, has facades with delicate detail of transitional character, very suitable to the plastic terra-cottta in which it is modelled. The building was continued by Solari, and finally completed about A.D. 1624 by Richino.

BORGOGNONE (A.D. 1455–1524) was an architect responsible with others for some important buildings.

The Certosa, Pavia, has a remarkable facade (A.D. 1473) (p. 564 A) added by Borgognone, assisted by other architects, to the church erected in the Gothic period (A.D. 1396) (p. 500). This celebrated frontispiece in gleaming marble, which has taken on a rich golden hue, is contained within a Lombard Gothic framework, filled in with Renaissance features, such as profusely ornamented windows, arcaded galleries and statues in niches, which, together with carved ornament and medallions, make it one of the most elaborate combinations of architecture and sculpture, and on it many of the foremost sculptors were employed. The crowning dome over the crossing (A.D. 1491) (p. 514 F) is a storeyed Renaissance version of a Gothic spire of the type erected at Chiaravalle (p. 516 D) and Milan (p. 502 C).

ALESSI (A.D. 1500-72), a pupil of Michelangelo, designed many palaces at Genoa, mostly of brick faced with stucco, which are famous for their fine entrance vestibules, courtyards, and flights of steps, and the sloping sites were utilised by him and his followers to form beautiful vistas of terraces and hanging gardens. The facades frequently have rusticated basement storeys surmounted by decorative pilasters and a bold crowning cornice over attic windows inserted between supporting consoles.

The Palazzo Municipio, Genoa (A.D. 1564) (p. 562), has a magnificent plan (p. 562 c), sometimes attributed to Lurago, laid out on axial lines, with a central entrance leading to a large vestibule, whence steps give access to the cortile, beyond which other steps lead to the " piano nobile " and terraced gardens. The cortile (p. 562 D) is a type of many others in this city of palaces, and owes much of its interest to the sloping site on which it is built. The facade (p. 562 A), a dignified composition about 200 ft. long by 8o ft. high, has Tuscan and Doric pilasters, each framing two storeys of windows flanked by arcaded loggias giving breadth to the design.

The Palazzi Durazzo, Balbi, and Cambiassi all help to make Genoa famous for its street palaces, courtyards, and hanging gardens. Many Genoese palaces were painted wholly in monochrome, from which they received their name, as the Palazzo Bianco (white) and Palazzo Rosso (red), and the Italian sun bathes the whole in brilliance.

S. Maria di Carignano (A.D. 1552), by Alessi, was designed on the lines of Raphael's plan of S. Peter, Rome (p. 586 E).



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