The High Renaissance
- 1 - 2 - 3
Architecture - 4
Sculpture - 5

Painting - 6

Sculpture - 7
Architecture - 8
The High Renaissance & Mannerism
Leonardo da Vinci
Donato Bramante
Filippino Lippi
Andrea Sansovino
Giovanni della Robbia
Baldassarre Peruzzi
Sebastiano del Piombo
Andrea del Sarto
Matthias Grunewald
Albrecht Durer
Dosso Dossi
Carlo Crivelli
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Lorenzo Lotto
Albrecht Altdorfer
Hans Baldung Grien
Hans Holbein the Younger

Francois Clouet

Nicholas Hilliard

Jan Gossaert (Mabuse)
Joachim Patinir
Pieter Aertsen
Pieter Brueghel the Elder
Barthel Bruyn
Lucas van Leyden

Rosso Fiorentino
Federico Barocci
Agnolo Bronzino
Giorgio Vasari
Sofonisba Anguissola
Jacopo Tintoretto
El Greco
Girolamo Savoldo
Jacopo Bassano

Paolo Veronese
Alonzo Sanchez Coello
Hans Burgkmair

Jean Goujon

Germain Pilon
Tilman Riemenschneider
Adriaen de Vries

Alonso Berruguete
Baccio Bartolommeo
Benedetto Briosco
Benvenuto Cellini
Leone Leoni
Pompeo Leoni
Alessandro Vittoria
Giovanni da Bologna

Hector Sohier
Pierre Lescot
Giulio Romano
Pirro Ligorio
Bartolomeo Ammanati
Jacopo Sansovino
Andrea Palladio
Giacomo Vignola
Giacomo della Porta
Vittore Carpaccio
Francesco del Cossa
Vincenzo Foppa
Lorenzo Costa
Francesco Francia
Bernardino Luini
Joos van Cleve
The term Mannerism was first coined to describe painting of the period. We have not encountered any difficulty in applying it to sculpture. But can it be usefully extended to architecture as well? And if so, what qualities must we look for? These questions have proved surprisingly difficult to answer precisely. The reasons are all the more puzzling, because the important Mannerist architects were leading painters and sculptors. Reflecting our dilemma, only a few structures are generally acknowledged today as Mannerist. Such a building is the Palazzo del Те, Mantua, by Giulio Romano (c. 1499-1566), Raphael's chief assistant. The courtyard facade features unusually squat proportions and coarse rustication. The massive, and utterly useless, keystones of the windows have been "squeezed" up by the force of the triangular lintels—an absurd impossibility, since there are no true arches except over the central doorway, which is surmounted by a pediment in violation of classical canon. Even more bizarre is how the metope midway between each pair of columns "slips" downward in defiance of all logic and accepted practice, creating the uneasy sense that the frieze might collapse before our eyes.

The reliance on idiosyncratic gestures that depart from Renaissance norms does not in itself provide a viable definition of Mannerism as an architectural period style. What, then, are the qualities we must look for? Above all, form is divorced from content for the sake of surface effect. The emphasis instead is on picturesque devices, especially encrusted decoration, with the occasional distortion of form and novel, even illogical, rearrangement of space. Thus Mannerist architecture lacks a consistent integration between elements.

Giulio Romano

Giulio Romano, original name Giulio Pippi, in full Giulio di Pietro di Filippo de’ Gianuzzi (born 1492/99, Rome [Italy]—died Nov. 1, 1546, Mantua, Duchy of Mantua), late Renaissance painter and architect, the principal heir of Raphael, and one of the initiators of the Mannerist style.

Giulio was apprenticed to Raphael as a child and had become so important in the workshop that by Raphael’s death, in 1520, he was named with G. Penni as one of the master’s chief heirs; he also became his principal artistic executor. After Raphael’s death, Giulio completed a number of his master’s unfinished works, including the Transfiguration. In his original work from these years, such as the Madonna and Saints (c. 1523) and the Stoning of St. Stephen (1523), Giulio developed a highly personal, anticlassical style of painting.

In 1524 Giulio left Rome for Mantua, where he remained until his death, completely dominating the artistic affairs of that duchy. The most important of all his works is the Palazzo del Te, on the outskirts of Mantua, begun in 1525 or 1526 and built and decorated entirely by him and his pupils. This palace is almost a parody of the serene classicism of Donato Bramante while retaining the forms of Roman antiquity. The building consists of a square block around a central court with a garden opening off at right angles to the main axis—in itself characteristic of the way in which all the elements are slightly different from what would be expected. The design is particularly famous for its capricious misuse of ancient Greek and Roman ornamental motifs.

The principal rooms of the Palazzo del Te are the Sala di Psiche, with erotic frescoes of the loves of the gods; the Sala dei Cavalli, with life-size portraits of some of the Gonzaga horses; and the fantastic Sala dei Giganti. This showpiece of trompe l’oeil (illusionistic) decoration is painted from floor to ceiling with a continuous scene of the giants attempting to storm Olympus and being repulsed by the gods. On the ceiling, Jupiter hurls his thunderbolts, and the spectator is made to feel that he, like the giants, is crushed by the mountains that topple onto him, writhing in the burning wreckage. Even the fireplace was incorporated into the decoration, and the flames had a part to play. This room was completed by 1534, with much help from Rinaldo Mantovano, Giulio’s principal assistant. The colour is very crude; the subject is suited to facile virtuosity and tends to bring out the streak of cruelty and obscenity that runs just below the surface in much of Giulio’s painting.

In Mantua itself he did a great deal of work in the huge Reggia dei Gonzaga. The decorations of the Sala di Troia are particularly noteworthy in that they look forward to the illusionistic ceiling decorations of the Baroque; this style was probably inspired by the presence in Mantua of the Camera degli Sposi by Andrea Mantegna. Giulio also built for himself a Mannerist version of the House of Raphael (1544–46) and began the rebuilding of the cathedral (1545 onward).

Encyclopædia Britannica



Giulio Romano. Courtvard, Palazzo del Те, Mantua. 1527-34
Giorgio Vasari
The Palazzo degli Uffizi in Florence, by Giorgio Vasari, whom we have already encountered as a painter and biographer, consists of two long wings—originally intended, as the name Uffizi suggests, for offices—facing each other across a narrow court and linked at one end by a loggia . Vasari's inspiration is not far to seek: the "tired" scroll brackets and the peculiar combination of column and wall have their source in the vestibule of the Laurentian Library. We will recall Vasari's praise for Michelangelo's unorthodox use of the classical vocabulary. Does this mean that the Laurentian Library itself is Mannerist? The case can be argued both ways.

On the one hand, Michelangelo's design is as willful a subversion of High Renaissance classicism as Rosso's Descent from the Cross; on the other, these devices serve a powerful expressive purpose in the Laurentian Library that responds to the imperative of Michelangelo's genius, whereas in Vasari's paraphrase they have been reduced to empty gestures. Whichever side one takes (they are not mutually exclusive), the differences in the results are plain enough. The Uffizi loggia lacks the sculptural power and eloquence of its model; rather, it forms a screen as weightless as the facade of the Pazzi Chapel. What is tense in Michelangelo's design becomes merely ambiguous. The architectural members seem as devoid of energy as the human figures in Vasari's Perseus and Andromeda, and their relationships as studiedly "artificial."

Giorgio Vasari. Loggia of the Palazzo degli Uffizi, Florence (view from the Arno River). Begun 1560
Pirro Ligorio.

Pirro Ligorio (c. 1510 – 30 October 1583) was an Italian architect, painter, antiquarian and garden designer.

  Life and career
Ligorio was born in Naples. In 1534 he moved to Rome, where he developed his interest in antiquities, and was named superintendent to the ancient monuments by the Popes Pius IV and Paul IV.

In 1549 he began excavations in the Hadrian's Villa at Tivoli and designed his masterwork, the water works at Villa d'Este, for Cardinal Ippolito II d'Este. He also played a role in designing the fountains at Villa Lante in Bagnaia, working alongside Vignola. His Manieristic taste is present also in the Casina Pio IV (also known as Villa Pia) at the Vatican (1559–1562).

In 1568 he was fired by Paul V for having criticized Michelangelo's work in St. Peter's Basilica, and moved to Ferrara, where he was guest of Duke Alfonso II d'Este.
As a scholar of antiquities, one of his most famous published works is a map of ancient Rome (Antiquae Urbis Imago) from 1561. After the 1570 Ferrara earthquake he was appointed as the leader of a study group about seismological events, a team of physics, philosophers and many "experts in various accidents" called to the city in order to conduct research about earthquakes, the first scientific effort of this kind in history of seismology. In his research, Ligorio blamed for the extensive damages the inappropriate techniques and bad materials used in building the city's edifices.
In the last part of his treatise, Rimedi contra terremoti per la sicurezza degli edifici (Remedies against earthquakes for building security), Ligorio presented design plans for a shock-proof building, the first known design with a scientific anti-seismic approach. Many of the empirical findings of Ligorio are consistent with contemporary anti-seismic practices: among them the correct dimensioning of main walls, use of better and stronger bricks as well as elastic structural joints and iron rods.

He died in Ferrara in 1583. Ligorius left a collection of ancient epigraphy, notorious for the numerous forgeries it contains. Many of Ligorius' falsifications persist in the literature of the 17th and 18th century, e.g. the work of Marquard Gude and its later editions, but they were recognized by the mid 19th century.
The architecture of the High Renaissance took a variety of forms. The Raphaelesque and classical culture produced a naturalistic and pictorial type of architecture, sumptuously interpreted by Pirro Ligorio (1510-83) in the gardens of the Vatican. The crucial role played by Michelangelo in architectural works for the papacy led him to adopt an increasingly individual and subjective understanding of structures and the orders, transforming them into dynamic new forms. Pirro Ligorio, the architect of the Villa d'Este at Tivoli, built the casino (garden house) for Pius IV in the Vatican Gardens in accordance with the humanist ideal of man's harmony with nature. The structure is on the slope of a hill and is .surrounded by flights of steps, niches, courtyards, and loggias. The whole of the facade is decorated with classical motifs and mythological scenes, which continue even more abundantly on the interior. At about the same time. Michelangelo was working on a model for the dome of St Peter's, the final part of his design for the basilica. Rejecting Antonio da Sangallo the Younger's wild Mannerist design, he reinstated some of Bramante's original features, but he kept the Florentine ribbed dome in preference to Bramante's hemisphere. When he died in 1564 the drum, with its system of butressing consisting of projecting paired columns alternating with large windows, was under construction. Another of his designs that he never saw completed was the magnificent entrance hall of the Laurentian Library in Florence. This was built from a model produced in f 1557. 

Pirro Ligorio. The lodge in the Belvedere courtyard, in Vatican Museums
The same is true of the courtyard of the Palazzo Pitti by Michelangelo's protege, the sculptor Bartolomeo Ammanati (1511-1592), despite its display of muscularity. Here the three-story scheme of superimposed orders, derived from the Colosseum, has been overlaid with an extravagant pattern of rustication that "imprisons" the columns, reducing them to an oddly passive role. These welts disguise rather than enhance the massiveness of the masonry, the overall corrugated texture making us think of the fancies of a pastry cook.

Ammanati had worked under Jacopo Sansovino in Venice, and the Palazzo Pitti stands in the same relation to Sansovino's Mint as Vasari's Palazzo degli Uffizi does to Michelangelo's Laurentian Library.


Bartolomeo Ammanati. Courtyard of the Palazzo Pitti, Florence. 1558-70
We have not encountered the architecture of Venice since the Ca' d'Oro, for it remained outside the mainstream of the Renaissance. Its essential characteristics were defined by Jacopo Sansovino (1486-1570), a minor Florentine sculptor of incipient Mannerist persuasion from the circle of Raphael who settled there after the Sack of Rome in 1527 and established himself as the chief architect of the city. Not surprisingly, his buildings are remarkably sculptural in treatment. Indeed, his masterpiece, the Library of St. Mark's facing the Piazzetta along the Grand Canal, looks like nothing so much as a huge wedding cake, so luxurious is the sculptural encrustation. The street-level arcade consists of the Roman Doric order, inspired by the Colosseum, while the upper one shows an unusually elaborate treatment of the Ionic order (including triple engaged columns) surmounted by a garlanded entablature. The ensemble is capped off by a balustrade, with lifesize statues over every column cluster and obelisks at each corner. Although there is not a solid wall anywhere on the facade, the extravagant ornamentation creates an effect of ponderous opulence. The Library set a new standard for lavish architecture. Sansovino's style was so authoritative that it enjoyed classic status and was followed in Venice for the remainder of the century. Nevertheless, we have left the commanding logic of the High Renaissance far behind.

Stranger still is the Mint to the left of the Library. Once again the facade has been penetrated wherever possible, but the results are yet more massive. Though of equal height, the rusticated arcade seems barely able to sustain the weight of the upper two stories (the top story was added belatedly around 1560), which feature unique corkscrew columns and support heavy cornices. We seem on the verge of Mannerism, but a glance at Ammanati's Pitti courtyard will convince us of the differences. Art historians have yet to find a term adequate to this grandiose style.


Jacopo Sansovino. Mint (left) and Library of St. Mark's, Venice. Begun c. 1535/7

Jacopo Sansovino. Palazzo Dolfin-Manin. 1538-70. Venice

Andrea Palladio (30 November 1508 – 19 August 1580) was an Italian architect active in the Republic of Venice. Palladio, influenced by Roman and Greek architecture, primarily by Vitruvius, is widely considered the most influential individual in the history of Western architecture. All of his buildings are located in what was the Venetian Republic, but his teachings, summarized in the architectural treatise, The Four Books of Architecture, gained him wide recognition. The city of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

  Palladio was born on November 30, 1508 in Padua and was given the name, Andrea Di Pietro della Gondola. His father, Pietro, called "della Gondola", was a miller. From early on, Andrea Palladio was introduced into the work of building. In Padua he gained his first experiences as a stonecutter in the sculpture workshop of Bartolomeo Cavazza da Sossano, who is said to have imposed particularly hard working conditions. At the age of sixteen he moved to Vicenza where he would reside for most of his life. Here he became an assistant in the Pedemuro studio, a leading workshop of stonecutters and masons. He joined a guild of stonemasons and bricklayers. He was employed as a stonemason to make monuments and decorative sculptures. These sculptures reflected the Mannerist style of the architect Michele Sanmicheli.

Perhaps the key moment that sparked Palladio's career was being employed by the Humanist poet and scholar, Gian Giorgio Trissino, from 1538 to 1539. While Trissino was reconstructing the Villa Cricoli, he took interest in Palladio's work. Trissino was heavily influenced by the studies of Vitruvius, who later influenced Palladio's own ideals and attitudes toward classical architecture. As the leading intellectual in Vicenza, Trissino stimulated the young man to appreciate the arts, sciences, and Classical literature and he granted him the opportunity to study Ancient architecture in Rome. It was also Trissino who gave him the name by which he became known, Palladio, an allusion to the Greek goddess of wisdom Pallas Athene and to a character of a play by Trissino.

Indeed the word Palladio means Wise one. After Trissino's death in 1550, Palladio benefited from the patronage of the Barbaro brothers, Cardinal Daniele Barbaro, who encouraged his studies of classical architecture and brought him to Rome in 1554, and his younger brother Marcantonio Barbaro. The powerful Barbaros introduced Palladio to Venice, where he finally became "Proto della Serenissima" (chief architect of the Republic of Venice) after Jacopo Sansovino. In addition to the Barbaros, the Corner, Foscari, and Pisani families supported Palladio's career.

Façade of Palazzo Chiericati in Vicenza
Andrea Palladio began to develop his own architectural style around 1541. The Palladian style, named after him, adhered to classical Roman principles he rediscovered, applied, and explained in his works.

Andrea Palladio is known to be one of the most influential architects in Western architecture. His architectural works have "been valued for centuries as the quintessence of High Renaissance calm and harmony" (Watkin, D., A History of Western Architecture). He designed many palaces, villas, and churches, but Palladio's reputation, initially, and after his death, has been founded on his skill as a designer of villas. The palladian villas are located mainly in the province of Vicenza, while the palazzi are concentrated in the city of Vicenza and the churches in Venice.
A number of his works are now protected as part of the World Heritage Site City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto. Other buildings by Palladio are to be found within the Venice and its Lagoon World Heritage Site.

  Palladio's first major public project began when his designs for rebuilding the hall of the town hall known as the Basilica Palladiana were approved in 1548. He proposed an addition of two-storey stone buttresses reflecting the Gothic style of the existing hall while using classical proportions. The reconstruction was completed in 1617.

Aside from Palladio's designs, his publications contributed to Palladianism. During the second half of his life, Palladio published many books, above all, I Quattro Libri dell'Architettura (The four books of architecture, Venice, 1570). Palladio is most known for his designs of villas and palaces as well as his books.

The precise circumstances of his death are unknown. Palladio died in 1580, retold in tradition, in Maser, near Treviso, and was buried in the church of Santa Corona in Vicenza; since the 19th century his tomb is located in the Cimitero Maggiore of Vicenza.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Most later sixteenth-century architecture can hardly be called Mannerist at all. Although he, too, drew inspiration from Sansovino, Andrea Palladio (1518-1580), next to Michelangelo the most important architect of the century, belongs to the tradition of the humanist and theoretician Leone Battista Alberti.

Villa Godi

Although his career centered on Vicenza, his native town, his buildings and theoretical writings brought him international status. Palladio insisted that architecture must be governed by reason and by certain rules that were perfectly exemplified by the buildings of the ancients. He thus shared Alberti's basic outlook and his faith in the cosmic significance of numerical ratios. But the two differed in how each related theory and practice. With Alberti, this relationship had been loose and flexible, whereas Palladio believed quite literally in practicing what he preached. His architectural treatise is consequently more practical than Alberti's, which helps to explain its huge success, while his buildings are linked more directly with his theories. It has even been said that Palladio designed only what was, in his view, sanctioned by ancient precedent. Indeed, the usual term for both Palladio's work and theoretical attitude is "classicistic," to denote a conscious striving for classic qualities, though the results are not necessarily classical in style.

The Villa Rotonda, one of Palladio's finest buildings, perfectly illustrates the meaning of his classicism. An aristocratic country residence near Vicenza, it consists of a square block surmounted by a dome and is faced on all four sides with identical porches in the shape of temple fronts. Alberti had defined the ideal church as such a completely symmetrical, centralized design, and it is evident that Palladio found in the same principles the ideal country house. How could he justify a context so purely secular for the solemn motif of the temple front? Like Alberti, he sought support in a selective interpretation of the historical evidence. He was convinced, on the basis of ancient literary sources, that Roman private houses had porticoes like these. But Palladio's use of the temple front here is not mere antiquarianism. He probably persuaded himself that it was legitimate because he regarded this feature as desirable for both beauty and utility. Beautifully correlated with the walls behind, the porches of the Villa Rotonda are an organic part of his design that lends the structure an air of serene dignity and festive grace.


Andrea Palladio. Villa Rotonda, Vicenza. с. 1567-70
The facade of S. Giorgio Maggiore in Venice, of about the same date as the Villa Rotonda, adds to the same effect a new sumptuousness and complexity. Palladio's problem here was how to create a classically integrated facade for a basilican church. He surely knew Alberti's solution at S. Andrea in Mantua: a temple front enclosing a triumphal arch. But this design, although impressively logical and compact, did not fit the cross section of a basilica and really circumvented the problem. Palladio, again following what he believed to be ancient precedent, found a different answer. He superimposed a tall, narrow temple front on another low, wide one to reflect the different heights of nave and aisles. Theoretically, it was a perfect solution. In practice, however, he found that he could not keep the two systems as separate as his classicistic conscience demanded and still integrate them into a harmonious whole. This conflict, which makes ambiguous those parts of the design that have a dual allegiance, might be interpreted as a Mannerist quality. The plan, too, suggests a duality. The main body of the church is strongly centralized—the transept is as long as the nave—but the longitudinal axis reasserts itself in the separate compartments for the main altar and the chapel beyond.

Andrea Palladio. S. Giorgio Maggiore. Venice. Designed 1565

Palazzo Thiene, Vicenza. Detail of the upper storey trabeation and capitals, by Palladio.

  The Basilica Palladiana is a Renaissance building in the central Piazza dei Signori in Vicenza, north-eastern Italy. The most notable feature of the edifice is the loggia, which shows one of the first examples of the what came to be known as the Palladian window, designed by a young Andrea Palladio, whose work in architecture was to have a significant effect on the field during the Renaissance and later periods.

The building was originally constructed in the 15th century and was known as the Palazzo della Ragione. The building was the seat of government and also housed a number of shops on the ground floor. When part of the building collapsed in the sixteenth century, the Council of One Hundred commissioned many architects to submit designs and selected Palladio to reconstruct the building in April 1549.

Palladio added a new outer-shell of marble classical forms, a loggia and a portico that now obscure the original Gothic architecture.

The Basilica was an expensive project and took a long time to complete. Palladio received an income for the work during most of his life. Only in 1614 - thirty years after his death - did the building stand complete.

Tower and loggia of the Basilica Palladiana on the Piazza dei Signori in Vicenza, Italy
Palladio: Teatro Olimpico,Vicenza
The Teatro Olimpico ("Olympic Theatre") is a theatre in Vicenza, northern Italy, constructed in 1579-1585. The theatre was the final design by the Italian Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio and was not completed until after his death.

Since 1994, the Teatro Olimpico, together with other Palladian buildings in and around Vicenza, has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site City of Vicenza and the Palladian Villas of the Veneto.

Scaenae frons of the Teatro Olimpico. The large arch in the center is known as the porta regia or "royal arch".
Palladio's vision: A perfect Roman theatre in a converted medieval building
The Teatro Olimpico is the last work by Palladio, and ranks amongst his highest masterworks. The Vicentine architect had returned to his native city in 1579, bringing with him a lifetime of detailed study into all aspects of Roman architecture, and a more detailed understanding of the architecture of classical theatre than any other living person. Palladio had illustrated Daniele Barbaro's Italian translation of Vitruvius' De architectura; the prints for this edition include floorplans for Roman theatres and an elevation for the scaenae frons of Vicenza's ruined Roman theatre, the Teatro Berga. As well, Palladio's papers include plans for the imagined reconstruction of the ruined Roman theatres in Pola and Verona.

Palladio, a founder of the Olympic Academy (created in 1555), had already designed temporary theatre structures at various locations the city. The most notable of these had been erected some seventeen years previously in the great hall of the Basilica Palladiana.

In 1579 the Academy obtained the rights to build a permanent theatre in an old fortress, the Castello del Territorio, which had been turned into a prison and powder magazine before falling into disuse. Palladio was asked to produce a design, and despite the awkward shape of the old fortress, he decided to use the space to recreate an academic reconstruction of the Roman theatres that he had so closely studied. In order to fit a stage and seating area into the wide, shallow space, it was necessary for Palladio to flatten the semicircular seating area of the Roman theatre into an ellipse.

Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza

Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza

Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza
Palladio's immense authority as a designer keeps the conflicting elements in the facade and plan of S. Giorgio from actually clashing. In less assured hands, such a precarious union would break apart. The most widely accepted solution was evolved just at that time in Rome by Giacomo Vignola (1507-1573) and Giacomo della Porta (c. 1540-1602), architects who had assisted Michelangelo at St. Peter's and were still using his architectural vocabulary. Il Gesu (Jesus) is a building whose importance for subsequent church architecture can hardly be exaggerated. Since Il Gesu was the mother church of the Jesuits, its design must have been closely supervised so as to conform to the aims of the militant new order, founded in 1534. We may thus view it as the architectural embodiment of the spirit of the Counter Reformation.

The planning stage of the structure began in 1550, only five years after the Council of Trent. Michelangelo himself once promised a design, but apparently never furnished it. The present ground plan, by Vignola, was adopted in 1568. Il Gesu contrasts in almost every possible respect with Palladio's S. Giorgio. It is a basilica, strikingly compact, dominated by its mighty nave. The aisles have been replaced by chapels, thus herding the congregation quite literally into one large, hall-like space directly in view of the altar. The attention of this audience is positively directed toward altar and pulpit, as our view of the interior shows. (The painting shows how the church would look from the street if the center part of the facade were removed. For the later, High Baroque decoration of the nave vault, see fig. 752.) We also see here an unexpected feature that the ground plan cannot show: the dramatic contrast between the dim illumination in the nave and the abundant light beyond, in the eastern part of the church, supplied by the large windows in the drum of the dome. Light has been consciously exploited for its expressive possibilities—a novel device, "theatrical" in the best sense of the term—to give Il Gesu a stronger emotional focus than we have yet found in a church interior.


Giacomo Vignola. Villa Farnese in Caprarola, Italy
Despite its great originality, the plan of Il Gesu is not entirely without precedent. The facade by Giacomo della Porta is as bold as the plan, although it, too, has its earlier sources. The paired pilasters and broken architrave on the lower story are clearly derived from the colossal order on the exterior of St. Peter's, and with good reason, for it was Della Porta who completed Michelangelo's dome. In the upper story the same pattern recurs on a somewhat smaller scale, with four instead of six pairs of supports. The difference in width is bridged by two scroll-shaped buttresses. This novel device, also taken from Michelangelo, forms a graceful transition to the large pediment crowning the facade, which retains the classic proportions of Renaissance architecture (the height equals the width).

What is fundamentally new here is the very element that was missing in the facade of S. Giorgio: the integration of all the parts into one whole. Della Porta, freed from classicistic scruples by his allegiance to Michelangelo, gave the same vertical rhythm to both stories of the facade. This rhythm is obeyed by all the horizontal members (note the broken entablature), but the horizontal divisions in turn determine the size of the vertical members (hence no colossal order). Equally important is the emphasis on the main portal: its double frame—two pediments resting on coupled pilasters and columns—projects beyond the rest of the facade and gives strong focus to the entire design. Not since Gothic architecture has the entrance to a church received such a dramatic concentration of features, attracting the attention of the beholder outside the building much as the concentrated light beneath the dome channels that of the worshiper inside.

What are we to call the style of Il Gesu? Obviously, it has little in common with Palladio, and it shares with Vasari's architecture only the influence of Michelangelo. But this influence reflects two very different phases of the great master's career: the contrast between the Uffizi and Il Gesu is hardly less great than that between the vestibule of the Laurentian Library and the exterior of St. Peter's. If we label the Uffizi Mannerist, the same term will not serve us for Il Gesu. As we shall see, the design of Il Gesu became basic to Baroque architecture. By calling it proto-Baroque, we suggest both its seminal importance for the future and its special place in relation to the past.


Giacomo della Porta. Facade of Il Gesu, Rome, с. 1575-84