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French Renaissance - Comparative Analysis

( Originally Published 1921 )

(The architectural character of Italian and French Renaissance architecture has been considered (pp. 56o, 627), and a Comparative Table of the two styles is here given.)


A. Plans.—Severe Classic disposition rendered necessary by the narrow streets of Florence and Rome and the straight waterways of Venice (pp. 561 G, 603 E).

A " cortile " or central open court is generally surrounded by a colonnade or arcade supporting the main walls to give ampler space for the important rooms of the " piano nobile " (pp. 558, 578, 603).

B. Walls.—A city palace, as in Florence, Rome, and Venice, is principally seen from the street, and the architectural features were often only applied to the street facade. Straight facades, varied by Orders, arcades, and windows, were crowned by a deep cornice (pp. 561, 568, 592). Attics are rare, but an open top storey (belvedere) is a feature. Brickwork was used in large masses with ashlar facings, while ornament was confined to windows or Orders. Later buildings are faced with plaster (p. 557 F),

c. Openings.—Arcades, both in cortile and piazza, continued in use, as indeed had been the custom since the time of the Romans, affording shelter from the fierce rays of the southern sun. Symmetry, rather than convenience, determined the position of doors and windows (pp. 558, 568 A), round which ornament was concentrated, thus throwing these features into prominence. In Baroque buildings a return was often made to the astylar treatment, when exaggeration of detail marked door and window frames. The attic was unusual and the top windows were often set in a deep frieze or between consoles supporting the main cornice (p. 596 A).

D, Roofs.—Flat or low-pitched roofs are usual and roofs play no part in the design of buildings in narrow streets where they could not be seen, and even chimneys were masked, except at Venice (pp. 557, 568, 592). In the early period tiled roofs ex-tended over the great cornice, but were hidden in later buildings by the balustrade (pp. 584, 596 A). Domes gave skyline to churches (pp. 556, 563, 577, 590, 604).

E. Columns.—Pilasters, whether plain or carved with foliage, were used for their architectural importance as " Orders " and panel decoration was often omitted (pp. 567, 568, 584, 596).

An " Order " often included two or more storeys, while in churches a single Order is the rule, as introduced by Palladio (pp. 584, 601).

F. Mouldings.—Mouldings of heavy crowning cornices followed Roman models, although showing much originality. String courses between storeys have only slight projection to give value to the top cornice, but the details of each Order were used in full (pp. 605, 607, 612).

G. Ornament (pp. 605, 606, 608, 612, 617).—Fresco and modelled plaster were much employed and in the early period the two were combined, as in the arabesques of Raphael. Frescoes were, however, sometimes out of scale with the architecture, and therefore deficient in decorative value. Later stucco work suffered in the same way and Venice has some extraordinary examples of its abuse. Interiors generally in the later period were unduly regulated by the features of Classic temple architecture without relation to requirements. Sculpture gradually lost its intimate connection with architecture and many extravagances were perpetrated in the Baroque period, but considerable originality is displayed, especially in the fountains of Rome (pp. 607, 6o8). Characteristic ornament is seen in panels (p. 612 E, H), capitals (pp. 605 A, B, C, 612 B, 617 H), balconies (pp. 592 G, 607 C, D, F, G, 611 B), chimney-pieces (pp. 6o5 H, 611 j), consoles (pp.605 B, 606 G),ceilings (p. 617 G), monuments (pp. 6o8 J, L, 611 G, 612 D), and entablatures (pp. 612 G, J, 617 A, c).

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