1902 Encyclopedia > Rome > Christian Rome - Florentine Period, c. 1450-1550

(Part 35)



Florentine Period, c. 1450-1550

The long period of almost complete artistic inactivity in Rome was broken in the 15th century by the introduction of a number of foreign artists, chiefly Florentines, who during this and the succeeding century enriched Rome with an immense number of magnificent works of art. The dawn of this brilliant epoch may be said to have begun with the arrival of Fra Angeiico (see FIESOLE) in 1447, invited by Nicholas V. to paint the walls of his small private chapel in the Vatican dedicated to S. Lorenzo.

Mino da Fiesole

To Mino da Fiesole (see MINO DI GIOVANNI, vol. xvi. p. 477), who spent several years in Rome between 1470 and 1484, and other Florentine sculptors are due almost all the very beautiful sculptured tombs which were made for a large number of the Roman churches during the last thirty years of the 15th century, as well as many altar frontals, reredoses, tabernacles, and the like. Though varied in details, most of these tombs are designed after one type, that employed by Mino in his fine monuments in the Badia at Florence. A life-sized recumbent effigy lies on a richly ornamented sarcophagus, over which is an arched canopy decorated with reliefs ; the piers which support this (usually) have statuettes in two or more tiers. For grace and refined beauty no type of sepulchral monument has ever equalled this Florentine design. The peaceful attitude and calm face of the effigy are frequently of the most perfect beauty, and the minute statuettes and reliefs are finished with ivory-like delicacy. Though the influence of Mino, very strongly marked, may be traced in all these numerous works (there are in Rome more than a hundred tombs of this class), yet a very small proportion can be actually by his hand. Mino created and trained a large school of sculptor-pupils in Rome, some of whom appear almost to have equalled their master in skill; and it is to them that most of these works must be referred. A very long list of churches containing sculpture of this class might be given ; perhaps the richest are S. Maria in Monserrato (the cloisters) and S. Maria del Popolo.

The architecture no less than the sculpture of the latter part of the 15th century was mainly the work of Florentines, especially of Baccio Pintelli, who partly rebuilt S. Maria del Popolo, S. Agostino, and S. Cosimato in Trastevere. He also was the architect of S. Pietro in Montorio, erected in 1500 for Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, and probably designed the Sistine chapel for Sixtus IV. in 1473. Other buildings were carried out by another Florentine, Giuliano da Majano (see Ferrerio, Palazzi di Roma, 1S25). The Palazzo di Venezia, begun for Cardinal Barbo, afterwards Paul II., about 1455, a very massive and stately building of mediaeval character, was designed by Francesco di Borgo San Sepolcro.


During the latter part of the 15th and the first few years of the succeeding century Rome was enriched with a number of buildings by BRAMANTE (q.v.), one of the greatest architects the world has ever seen. With the most consummate skill, he combined the delicacy of detail and the graceful lightness of the Gothic style with the measured stateliness and rhythmical proportions of classic architecture. Though he invariably used the round arch and took his mouldings from antique sources, his beautiful cloisters and loggie are Gothic in their general conception. Moreover, he never committed the prevalent blunder of the 16th century, which was a fruitless attempt to obtain magnificence by mere size in a building, without multiplying its parts. His principal works in Rome are the magnificent Palazzo della Cancelleria, built for Cardinal Riario in 1495, with its stately church of S. Lorenzo in Damaso ; the so-called Palazzo di Bramante in the Governo Vecchio, built in 1500 ; and the Palazzo Giraud, near St Peter's, once the residence of Cardinal Wolsey, built in 1506. He also built the cortile of S. Damaso in the Vatican, the toy-like tempietto in the cloister of S. Pietro in Montorio, and the cloisters of S. Maria della Pace, 1504. In 1503 Bramante was appointed architect to St Peter's, and made complete designs for it, with a plan in the form of a Greek cross. The piers and arches of the central dome were the only parts completed at the time of his death in 1514, and subsequent architects did not carry out his design. For St Peter's, see ARCHITECTURE, vol. ii. p. 438 and plates XXII., XXIII. ; also BASILICA, vol. iii. p. 415 sq.


Baldassare PERUZZI (q.v.) of Siena was one of the most talented Peruzzi. architects of the first part of the 16th century ; the Villa Farnesina and the Palazzo Vidoni (usually attributed to Raphael) are from his designs. His later works bear traces of that decadence in taste which so soon began, owing mainly to the rapidly growing love for the dull magnificence of the pseudo-classic style. This falling off in architectural taste was due to MICHELANGELO (q.v.) more than to any other one man. His cortile of the Farnese palace, though a work of much stately beauty, was one of the first stages towards that lifeless scholasticism and blind following of antique forms which were the destruction of architecture as a real living art, and in the succeeding century produced so much that is almost brutal in its coarseness and neglect of all true canons of proportion and scale. During the earlier stage, however, of this decadence and throughout the 16th century a large number of fine palaces and churches were built in and near Rome by various able artists, such as the Villa Madama by Raphael, part of the Palazzo Farnese by Antonio da Sangailo the younger, S. Giovanni de' Fiorentini by Jac. Sansovino, and many others.


2 It would be easy to double the list given in Perkins's valuable Handbook of Ital. Sculpt., London, 1883, p. 417. Drawings of many of these are published by Tosi, Monumenti Sacri, &c., 1843.
3 These two churches were the first in Rome built with domes after the
classical period.

4 The upper story of the latter is varied by having horizontal lintels instead of arches on the columns.
5 There appears now to be some doubt whether the Farnesina may not have been designed by Raphael; an original sketch by Peruzzi's own hand of the Palazzo Vidoni is preserved in the Ufhzi.

6 A valuable account of Raphael's architectural works is given by Geymiiller, Ratjaello come Architetto, Milan, 1882. Drawings of many of the finest palaces of Rome are given by Percier and Fontaine, Edifices modernes a Rome, Paris, 1798 ; and especially in the fine work by Letarouilly, Edifices de Rome moderne, Brussels, 1S56-66.

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