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Italian Renaissance - Comparative Analysis

( Originally Published 1921 )

(A comparative table of the essential differences between Gothic and Renaissance architecture is given on p. 547.)

A. Plans.

Florence. — Symmetry and compactness of plan, adapted to town rather than country buildings. Staircases enclosed by walls were roofed by sloping barrel vaults (pp. 557 C, 558 F). Church naves were planned to support coffered vaults (p. 556 H), domes on pendentives (pp. 555 B, H, 556 E), or timber ceilings (pp. 555 G, 556 C, E).

Rome.—More varied planning on a grand scale (pp. 578 G, 579 A, 580 D, 584 E). Staircases circular and elliptical with columnar supports are usual, as in the Barberini, Corsini, and Braschi palaces, the Scala Regia, and at Caprarola (p. 58o c). The old Roman type of dome over a circular space (p. 569 A) and the dome on pendentives over a square space (p. 577 A, D) were both used in churches.

Venice.—Where site permitted, a broken, complex, and picturesque disposition was adopted, as in S. Maria della Salute (p. 604 A, B), but in palaces a straight front to the canals was the rule (p. 609 E). Staircases off a central court surrounded with arcades were characteristic (p. 591 F). Church naves were planned, as in Florence, for vaults, domes, or flat ceilings (pp. 595 B, G, 601 H).

B. Walls. Florence.—Walls recall those of Egypt in severity and are frequently astylar, but varied surface treatment gives character to each storey, which is also defined by string courses, and the building is crowned by a deep cornice (pp. 557 A, E, F, 558 B, 561 B).

Rome. Walls are frequently screened with pilasters, both single and coupled, on each storey (pp. 567 A, 568 A, 579 B, F, H, 580 A), or even carried through two storeys to give grandness of scale (pp. 584 A, F, 585 A).

Venice.—Walls are characterised by multiplicity of parts produced by columns to each storey (pp. 592, 596 A, 597 A) and dividing horizontal entablatures, which, to avoid too pronounced a division, are sometimes broken back round the columns (p. 592 A).

C. Openings.

Florence. —Arcades have arches resting directly on columns, with or without a piece of entablature (pp. 555 L, 556 B, 558 c). Doorways are small and severe yet imposing (p. 605 G, J). The doorways at Genoa have triangular and segmental pediments (p. 617 D, E), while another treatment has a subsidiary architrave (p. 617 j). Windows are of three types : (a) " Arcade " type with central column and round arches, as in the Palazzi Riccardi (p. 558 G), Strozzi (p. 561 H), and Quaratesi (p. 605 D). (b) " Architrave " type with cornice, as in the Palazzo Gondi, or with consoles, as in the Palazzi Pitti (p. 605 F) and Riccardi (p. 558 E). (c) " Order " type with columns and entablature, as in the Palazzo Pandolfini (p. 568 B).

Rome.—Arcades have arches supported on piers faced with columns or pilasters, as in S. Maria della Pace (p. 607 E) and the Palazzo Farnese (p. 578 F), based on the Colosseum facade. Doorways are flanked by columns (pp. 567 A, 607 F, G), consoles (pp. 567 A, 568 A, 570 D), or rusticated blocks (pp. 578 C, 607 D). Windows have semicircular arches enclosed in mouldings forming a square frame with spandrels (pp. 567 E, 607 c), or are flanked by columns (p. 607 A, B), or have architraves and side consoles (p. 579 G).

Venice.—Arcades have round arches resting on columns (pp. 591 C, E, 602 H), or on piers faced with columns (pp. 596 A, 597 B, 6o1 A, 611 H). Doorways are flanked by columns and pilasters supporting cornice and semicircular or triangular pediment (p. 611 A, c) or are enclosed in rusticated blocks (pp. 592 A, 602 B), while sometimes, as at Verona, they have architraves and side consoles (p. 617 L). Windows are large with semi-Gothic tracery (pp. 592 B, F) or are flanked by columns (p. 611 D), sometimes supporting round arches with carved spandrels (pp. 592 A, c, 596 D).

D. Roofs.

Florence.—Flat tiled roofs are sometimes visible above cornices (pp. 557, 558 B, 561 B). Domes were favourite features in churches (pp. 555, 556). Raking vaults to staircases and waggon or cross-vaults are general, both frescoed and coffered (pp. 555 A, 558 C, 562 D).

Rome.—Roofs are rarely visible (p. 567 A) and often hidden by balustrades (p. 584 A, B, F). Domes on high drums and crowned with lanterns are usual in churches (pp. 569 B, 577 B, H). Vaults were either coffered in stucco or painted, after the style of the newly excavated Baths of Titus (pp. 570 A, J, 578 H, 589

Venice.—Roofs with balustrades are frequent (p. 596 A). Vaulted ceilings of halls, staircases, and churches were elaborately moulded in plaster and frescoed (pp. 595 c), while timber ceilings are a feature in palaces. Domes in churches are grouped with towers (pp. 595 F, 601 B, F, 604 A). In Milan and other north Italian cities the low internal cupola was often covered by a lofty structure in diminishing stages, as at the Certosa, Pavia (pp. 564 A, 514 F), and S. Maria della Grazie, Milan.

E. Columns.

Florence. — The Orders, not at first in general use for facades, frequently supported the arches, both in " cortile " (pp. 558 C, 562 D, 563 H) and church arcades (pp. 555 L, 556 B).

Rome.--The Orders, either single or coupled, were at first superimposed (pp. 567 A, 568 A, 579 H), but later one great Order frequently included the whole height of the building (pp. 579 J, 584 B). They regulated not only the height of balustrades, but the spacing and size of windows.

Venice. —Projecting columns in successive tiers with entablatures, often broken back to the wall, were used (p. 592), while buildings by Sansovino and Palladio show a more correct and formal treatment (PP- 596 A, 597, 598).

F. Mouldings.

Florence.—The few and simple mouldings of string courses were slight in projection so as to throw into relief the crowning cornice, designed on Classic models (pp. 558 A, 561 F), as are also the pedimented door-heads at Genoa (p. 617 A, c). Mouldings of ornamental features—consoles, capitals, corbels, niches, and brackets—exhibit great refinement of line (pp. 605, 6o6), while coffered ceilings were of great elaboration as at Genoa (p. 617 G).

Rome.— Classic mouldings from ancient Roman buildings naturally served as models which were closely followed, although new combinations were introduced by Michelangelo and his disciples (pp. 569 J, 578 A). The mouldings of balconies, doorways, and tombs are all Classical in treatment (pp. 607, 6o8).

Venice. — Mouldings were influenced by local Byzantine and Gothic art, and were extremely refined- and original. Mouldings of pedestals, doorways, entablatures, and capitals are frequently carved with intricate ornament (pp. 592 E, G, 596 B, D, 609, 612).

G. Ornament.

The special character of Renaissance ornament has been mentioned (P. 549).

Florence. — Florentine ornament is well illustrated in the sculptured frieze (p. 606 A), coffered ceilings (p. 617 G), pilaster (p. 617 x), pilaster capitals (pp. 6o5 c, 617 H), capitals (p. 605 A, B), chimney-piece (p. 6o5 H), consoles or corbels (pp. 605 j, 6o6 G), niche (p. 605 E), tabernacle (p. 606A), holy-water stoup (p. 6o6 c), singing-gallery (p. 6o6 B), lavabos (pp. 6o6 D, 617 F), altar-piece (p. 6o6 E), pulpit (p. 6o6 F), balustrade (p. 6o6 j), angle lantern and link holder (p. 561 A, c), and reliquary (p. 606 ), many of which were delicately carved with pagan motifs of infant genii, fruit, flowers, and masks, while heraldic shields contrast with plain wall surfaces. The traditional school of fresco painting by Cimabue and Giotto was influenced by the discovery of ancient Roman paintings. The coloured bas-reliefs. of Luca della Robbia and his school are specially characteristic of Florentine art at this period.

Rome. — Sculpture was refined in treatment and naturally followed Classical precedent. Roman ornament generally can be studied from the capital (p. 567 c), fountains (pp. 607 H, 6o8 F, H), the Triclinium (p. 607 j), singing-gallery (p. 608 G), monuments (p. 6o8 j, x, L), candelabra (p. 6o8 c, E), and fonts (p. 6o8 A, B), and the Baroque treatment is seen in the Fontana di Trevi (pp. 608 D, 593), and the altar in the Gesu Church (p. 577 G). The unearthing of the Baths of Titus, with their frescoes, gave an impetus to the traditional art of painting in tempera on plastic surfaces, which was carried out on a large scale by Raphael, Giulio Romano, and Michelangelo, until it reached its zenith in the Sistine Chapel, Rome.

Venice.—Sculpture is both beautiful and exuberant and even competes with the actual architectural features. The Colleoni Monument, Venice (A.D. 1481) (p. 611 G), is one of the most famous in the world, with a lofty pedestal embellished with columns, surmounted by the bronze equestrian statue by Verrocchio.

The Logetta, Venice (A.D. 1540) (p. 611 H), is obviously founded on the model of the Arch of Titus, Rome, extended to three arches. The niches contain statues of heathen gods, and the high attic has fine sculptured panels and is crowned by a pleasing balustrade. The bronze gates (A.D. 1750) are rich in Renaissance metalwork.

Sculpture was much influenced by the various preceding styles and by a Venetian love of display, as seen in the statue niche (p. 611 F), balcony (p. 611 B), monuments (p. 612 D), chimney-piece (p. 611 j), carved panel (p. 612 E), balustrade (p. 612 H), altar (p. 612 F), candelabrum (p. 612 c), flagstaff standard_ (p. 612 A), capital (p. 612 B), and carved ornament (p. 612 G, J). The colour-loving Venetians clothed their walls internally with large pictures of subjects both sacred and profane, especially of the triumphs of their city ; or else sheathed them in brilliant panels of many-coloured marbles from the shores of the Adriatic.

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