Sacred Sunday: 15th Century Architecture, Part 1 of 2

This post begins a two-part series on 15th Century Architecture. Today’s focus will be on Italy. While not all were cathedrals, as some were private residences (even a bank), most were at one time or another used for places and centers of worship. While many of these structures were designed by unknown architects, many of the artisans used were the same who plied their talents at many of Italy’s well-known churches and cathedrals.

Sant'Eustorgio: Interior of the Cappella Portinari 1462-68 Photo Piazza Sant'Eustorgio, Milan

Sant’Eustorgio: Interior of the Cappella Portinari
1462-68
Photo
Piazza Sant’Eustorgio, Milan

Pigallo Portinari was the branch manager of the Medici Bank in Milan. He supervised the construction of a burial chapel for his family at the church of Sant’Eustorgio. Its Florentine and specifically Medici-associated patronage is evident in its plan and elevation, which consciously recall the Old Sacristy at San Lorenzo in Florence. However, there are significant alterations to both the proportions and the decoration.

In deference to Milanese traditions, the architect inserted a drum under the dome, increasing the height and providing a field in which polychromed terracotta angels dance and swing heavily laden festoons. The delight in color, so different from Brunelleschi’s spare, bichromatic scheme, continues in the vault, where frescoes simulate multiple rings of red, yellow, green, and blue overlapping tiles. The sequence of colours is that codified by Dominicans in the early fourteenth century as constituting the rainbow: a heavenly vision for Pigello, who was buried in the floor directly under the dome.

Sant'Eustorgio: Dome of the Cappella Portinari 1462-68 Photo Piazza Sant'Eustorgio, Milan

Sant’Eustorgio: Dome of the Cappella Portinari
1462-68
Photo
Piazza Sant’Eustorgio, Milan

Basilica di Sant'Antonio: Chiostro del Noviziato 1450-1500 Photo Piazza del Santo, Padua

Basilica di Sant’Antonio: Chiostro del Noviziato
1450-1500
Photo
Piazza del Santo, Padua

The name of the Chiostro del Noviziato (Noviciate Courtyard) comes from the fact that the novices’ rooms are located along one side. It was created in the latter half of the fifteenth century in a Gothic style.

Arsenale Gateway 1457-60 Photo Arsenale, Venice

Arsenale Gateway
1457-60
Photo
Arsenale, Venice

The gateway into Venice’s great shipyard, the Arsenale, is an early demonstration of the influence of the antique in Venetian architecture. This grand portal, topped with a huge representation of the lion of the republic, is intended to express the importance of Venice as a marine power. The arched entrance, flanked by columns on high bases, is a reference to the ancient Roman triumphal arches.

The architect of this example of symbolic architecture is unknown.

The Venetian shipyard was perhaps the largest industrial complex in Europe at this time, it employed several thousand men in a system which has been compared to modern production line. The gateway has been enriched with later additions, including the female saint at the peak of the pediment, the bronze doors, the enclosed terrace in front of its statuary, and the lions to either side.

Arsenale Gateway 1457-60 Photo Arsenale, Venice

Arsenale Gateway
1457-60
Photo
Arsenale, Venice

The entrance to the huge Arsenal complex is thought to be the first Renaissance work in Venice. The central arch is surmounted by the lion of St Mark; the statue on the tympanum is Justice by Girolamo Campagna.

Palazzo Loredan dell'Ambasciatore: Façade c. 1450 Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Loredan dell’Ambasciatore: Façade
c. 1450
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

This palace was built around the middle of the 15th century in late Gothic style. The upper floor is adorned with a four-mullioned window, with large quatrefoil elements. A projecting balcony is decorated with an elegant baluster held up by consoles. On the higher floor there is another open four-lancet window, with a small gallery set back from the façade. All Gothic windows are surrounded by dentate frames and pendentives on the spires. On the façade, between the side windows on the upper floor, there are two statues of shield-holding page-boys, placed inside marble niches in Renaissance style.

Palazzo Bembo: Façade 15th century Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Bembo: Façade
15th century
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

This building is one of the examples of combined houses along the Canal Grande. The current building is the result of a total reconstruction during the 15th century (incorporating the pre-existing 11th-century Byzantine building) and of modifications carried out in the 17th century. The façade, closed by spiral columns and quoins, is wider than it is tall, following a symmetrical arrangement on the vertical median axis, which seems to carry the two central five lancet windows, united only subsequently by a continuous balcony, evidence of the joining of two aristocratic houses.

Palazzo Bernardo: Façade c. 1442 Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Bernardo: Façade
c. 1442
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

This palace was built for two families belonging to the Bernardo house. The two water gates and the two main floors (one of which is less important than the other) of the homogeneous façade indicate that the interior is actually divided into two dwellings. The façade is framed with vertical bands of hewn stones alternating with small spiral columns and dominated by the big six-mullioned window on the second floor flanked by single light windows with interesting openwork and intertwined arches.

Palazzo Morosini Brandolin: Façade 1400-20 Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Morosini Brandolin: Façade
1400-20
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

The palace, overlooking the Canal Grande opposite Ca’ d’Oro, was built by the Morosini family at the beginning of the 15th century. The façade has two upper floors characterised by two six-lancet windows with magnificent cornices. The light window on the first floor has rosettes at the tops of the arches and a projecting balcony resting on corbels, while the second floor window is decorated with openwork quatrefoils between the arches. At the corner ashlar-work in Istria stone of alternating size and twisted columns close the façade.

Palazzo Centani: Façade 15th century Photo San Polo, Venice

Palazzo Centani: Façade
15th century
Photo
San Polo, Venice

A recent and radical restoration allowed the original Gothic building to be recovered. It is typical of Venetian residential architecture in the 15th century. The façade, with uncovered brickwork, bends in order to follow the course of the canal and centres on the four-lancet window with extended columns and round arches, flanked by single light windows framed by dentate surround.

Carlo Goldoni, the Venetian playwright was born here in 1707.

Palazzo Centani: Façade 15th century Photo San Polo, Venice

Palazzo Centani: Façade
15th century
Photo
San Polo, Venice

Palazzo Falier Canossa: Façade c. 1450 Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Falier Canossa: Façade
c. 1450
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

The current appearance of the palace is due to the modifications made to the original Gothic style in the middle of the 15th century. The façade is organized in an unusual way, two picturesque avant-corps flank the central pointed arch five-mullioned window.

Palazzo Contarini Fasan: Façade 1470s Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Contarini Fasan: Façade
1470s
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

This palace represents a unique example of late Gothic Venetian architecture at the end of the 15th century. Its small façade is confined between denticulate corner bands with Istria stone quoins alongside small spiral columns and displays balance in terms of its proportions and symmetry. The marble capitals and the balconies decorated with round wheel openwork are interesting for their sober richness and prestigious fret work.

The name of the palace is due to the presumed passion of one of its owners for hunting of pheasants.

Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei: Façade 1490s Photo Campo San Beneto, Venice

Palazzo Pesaro degli Orfei: Façade
1490s
Photo
Campo San Beneto, Venice

This large palace, isolated from other buildings in the area, was built around the end of the 15th century by the powerful Pesaro family. It has three façades: one faces onto Campo San Beneto, which is one of the most complex in the Gothic Venetian period, the other onto Calle Pesaro, and the last onto the Ca’ Michiel canal.

At the beginning of the twentieth century the palace was acquired by the Spanish painter Mariano Fortuny y Madrazo who created his art studio here.

Ca' Foscari: Façade 1450s Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Ca’ Foscari: Façade
1450s
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

This palace is the result of a reconstruction in Gothic style ordered by Francesco Foscari in 1452. Francesco Foscari was elected as Doge in 1423, his period in office was the longest in the history of Venice.

The façade is characterized by the “inflationary” use of windows with pointed arches which we can also note in the adjacent Palazzo Giustinian. It is marked by the large central square which encloses the two large eight-lancet windows of the upper floors. Continuous balconies act as the base for small marble columns of different colours. The second floor offers an impressive white marble engraved band representing the Foscari coat-of-arms and a majestic helmet symbolizing the doge’s authority of the founder of the palace.

Palazzo Giustinian Morosini: Façade c. 1474 Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Giustinian Morosini: Façade
c. 1474
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

This late Gothic building is characterized by two upper floors with large windows surrounded by denticulate frames. Along the coping there is a balustrade occupying the entire terrace, including and joining together the building which was subsequently added, originally separated from the main building by a narrow street, closed probably in 1483 by a wall with superimposed arches.

The pictures above and below show the Gothic façade on Canal Grande.

Palazzo Giustinian Morosini: Façade c. 1474 Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Giustinian Morosini: Façade
c. 1474
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Pisani Gritti: Façade c. 1450 Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Pisani Gritti: Façade
c. 1450
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

This palace was constructed around the middle of the 15th century. In the 19th century it was subjected to radical modernization work and transformed into a luxury hotel.

The façade on the Canal Grande is marked by two five-lancet windows surrounded by dentate frames. The first floor has projecting balconies both for the main five-lancet and the lateral windows. The corners of the façade, as was typical in Gothic Venetian buildings, are marked by Istria stone quoins in different sizes, and by twisted columns. The façade was decorated with frescoes by Giorgione, but unfortunately they have completely disappeared.

Palazzo Pisani Moretta: Façade 1440-60 Photo Canal Grande, Venice

Palazzo Pisani Moretta: Façade
1440-60
Photo
Canal Grande, Venice

This palace was built around the middle of the 15th century in typical Venetian late Gothic style. The façade is made up of the ground floor, with a double water gate for the use of the palace by two families, and of two upper floors. (The balustrade and the addition of the last floor are modifications made in the 19th century.) The rigorous composition is characterized by the rich quatrefoil decorations of the two central six-lancet windows, recalling the windows of the Palazzo Ducale.

Palazzo Soranzo: Façade 15th century Photo Campo San Polo, Venice

Palazzo Soranzo: Façade
15th century
Photo
Campo San Polo, Venice

There are two Soranzo palaces on the Campo San Polo, known as the “Casa Vecchia” (on the left) and “Casa Nuova” (on the right), the two façades are today unified by a single coat of plaster. The palaces would appear to break the Venetian rule which establishes that the main façade of the building faces onto the canal: in fact the palaces did face onto the Sant’Antonio canal but this was covered over in 1761.

On the two façades elements of a stylistic transition from 14th-century forms to late-Gothic models can be seen. The oldest part of the building dates from the mid-1300s and, indeed, the multi-mullioned first-floor windows are certainly reminiscent of typical 14th-century models, even though the two portals surmounted by Romanesque sculptures would appear to date back to an even earlier time. The second building, which features a stunning window with eight supporting arches, is clearly 15th-century in style and was once decorated with much-admired frescos by Giorgione.

Palazzo Soranzo: Façade 15th century Photo Campo San Polo, Venice

Palazzo Soranzo: Façade
15th century
Photo
Campo San Polo, Venice

Palazzo Soranzo van Axel: Façade 1473-79 Photo Cannaregio, Venice

Palazzo Soranzo van Axel: Façade
1473-79
Photo
Cannaregio, Venice

This palace is one of the best conserved examples of a late Gothic two-family palazzo. The palazzo was built in 1473-79 by Nicolò Soranzo, with use of material of the predecessor Byzantine palace.

The layout and the front views are particularly unusual, because the palace is divided into two, each unit with rooms designed for two different families. There are therefore two entrances, both from land and water, two courtyards, two staircases, two wells, and obviously two façades. One façade faces onto the Panada canal, while the other looks out over the San Canciano canal, with two three-lancet windows in the centre.

The picture shows the façade on the San Canciano canal.

Palazzo Soranzo van Axel: Façade 1473-79 Photo Cannaregio, Venice

Palazzo Soranzo van Axel: Façade
1473-79
Photo
Cannaregio, Venice

Palazzo della Cancellaria completed c. 1511 Photo Piazza della Cancelleria, Roma

Palazzo della Cancellaria
completed c. 1511
Photo
Piazza della Cancelleria, Roma

This palace was commissioned by Cardinal Raffaele Riario. It was designed before 1489, the façade was probably completed by 1495, the palace was completed c. 1511. It is a colossal building, with a principal façade of about 90 m long. It is regarded as the earliest Renaissance palace in Rome. The architect of the palace is not known, the names of Bramante, Andrea Bregno, Francesco di Giorgio Martini and Baccio Pontelli are often connected with the building of the palace.

Palazzo della Cancellaria completed c. 1511 Photo Piazza della Cancelleria, Roma

Palazzo della Cancellaria
completed c. 1511
Photo
Piazza della Cancelleria, Roma

The Palazzo della Cancellaria is the most important – and certainly the most imposing – palace built in Rome during the late fifteenth century. It was commissioned by Cardinal Raffaello Riario and was designed before 1489, the façade probably completed by 1495, the entire palace completed c. 1511-13. When Cardinal Riario was discovered to have participated in a plot against Pope Leo X in 1516 he was forced to deed the palace to the papacy as part of his fine. The building was then used as offices for the papal chancellery, thus giving it its current name. The architect of the palace is unknown, the traditional attribution to Bramante and Andrea Bregno have been largely discredited, though many still attribute it to Bramante.

The palace’s finely dressed stone courses and rhythmic alternation of windows and pilasters recall Alberti’s Ruccelai Palace and the papal palace in Pienza. The slightly projecting bays at the ends help to give a sense of completion to the 92-meter façade. The great size, regular composition, and classicising decoration of this building, as well as its domination over the urban landscape, its creation of a piazza on its entrance façade, and its presence on the papal processional route, all made it a model for later Roman palaces.

Palazzo della Cancellaria (detail of the façade) completed c. 1511 Photo Piazza della Cancelleria, Roma

Palazzo della Cancellaria (detail of the façade)
completed c. 1511
Photo
Piazza della Cancelleria, Roma

Next week, the second and final part of 15th Century Architecture.

Crash

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