Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Baroque Architecture in Rome

Baroque architecture in the Baroque era was an evolution of Mannerism - a style of which Michelangelo is credited for having invented. It was a response to what had became a very strict canon of what was acceptable in Renaissance architecture. However innovative Michelangelo was in his playful take on the canon, my personal opinion is that it wasn't the nicest thing to look at!! Just take the Vestibule of the Laurentian Library in Florence for example. What happened next though makes Rome a very pretty place to look around today: Baroque. The architecture is essentially a codifying of Michelangelo's defiance to the canon. Kind of making an anti-canon. The result was much prettier and unified things to look at. Here are some my lecturer took us through today:

Since Rome took the centre stage in the art world throughout the High Renaissance (c. 1500-1530) with the help of the grand masters, it is unsurprising that the Baroque architecture in Rome is that which we use to compare all other Baroque architecture elsewhere.

Santa Catarina dei Funari, façade, Guido Guidetti, 1564
This is believed to be the façade that inspired the façade of the church of the Gesu. Although it is officially said to still bare Renaissance qualities to it I think it's more mannerist than anything - look at the similarity between it and Michelangelo's vestibule:

The church of the Gesu, façade, Vignola and Giacomo della Porta, 1575 - 84
The church of the Gesu (top); Santa Maria Novella (bottom).
The church of the Gesu is known as the first 'true' Baroque façade. One of the main elements in Baroque architecture is the increased interest in the perception of verticality.

What I mean by this is that, if you were to compare the half Romanesque - half early Renaissance façade of Santa Maria Novella in Florence with the façade of the church of the Gesu, The former appears as if it is clearly two components put together: the attic and the basement. However, the Baroque architect sought to unify these two parts. Above, you can see that where the pilasters run down the length of the building, Giacomo della Porta has protruded 4 areas of the entablature to make it seem as if the pilasters were uninterrupted. Furthermore, the segmented pediment is occupying the space above. As a whole unifying the structure.

Santa Susana, façade, Carlo Moderno, 1593-1603
Giacomo della Porta's façade although it was more unified than Santa Maria Novella's, it still had work to do. There is clear progression by the time the end of the 16th century came about. Here, Carlo Moderno has made the verticality so pronounced that it's almost become a bit of an effort to try and make out any horizontal lines (if you look hard enough it will be like one of those illusion pictures that hurt your eyes). The entablature barely appears to exist as it follows the recessing and protruding contours of the basement and attic to produce one fluid structure. The volutes (spirally thingies) that are placed on top of the cornice have also become more defined than they were above. I quite like the quirky niche in a niche with tiny baby columns in the centre. Generally, Baroque can also be identified as 'busy'. Not hard to see why!!

St. Peters, façade, Carlo Moderno, 1612
Moderno was also responsible for the façade of St. Peters.
This time however it seems as if he'd come up with a solution to the problem that had been plaguing the Baroque artists: the 'two tier' system had been replaced for colossal columns with composite capitals. As with previous examples, the pediment is bursting into the space above it and the obsession with recession and protrusion still remains with a variety of niches and doorways.

One other major element in not only Baroque architecture, but art and sculpture too, is movement. My lecturer put a lot of emphasis on this idea. I think St. Peter's is an embodiment of this, literally! Look at the clock in the right picture below. There are two of them placed above the cornices at each end - the passage/movement of time of time. More subtly, the structure has the dome, a congregation of statues, and a cluster of columns in the centre. This gives the building fluidity from outwards to inwards as the statues and columns start sparse and end up cluttered.

Santa Maria della Valle, façade, Carlo Rainaldi 1590 - 1665
Another pretty church.
It has broken pediments which is typically Baroque, along with clustered columns, recession of the wall surface, interrupted entablature, etc.

One particular thing I think makes this one stand out are the pedestals that the columns are on; they're massive - it looks coooool.

Palazzo Barberini, façade, Maderno, Bernini, Borromini, 1628-33
The Palazzo Barberini was a palace built for the very rich and very powerful Barberini family of whom sent a few of their own off to be cardinals - because they could!
The style isn't as extravagant as the others; but perhaps this is because it is a secular building rather than religious. One thing to note is that it has rustication - probably used to show how powerful and strong the family was (just like the typical Renaissance Tuscan Palace).
I reckon it is  fairly modest for baroque, but because it has a protruding portico which have recessing windows within it and a little balcony sticking out along with a variety of windows shapes it is baroque nonetheless.

Santa Maria della Pace, façade, Pietro de Corona 1656-67
This church is probably the best example of the Baroque obsession with playing with the depth of the surface, along with another growing obsession in convex shapes - the entire body appears to be concave.

Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, Borromini, 1642- 50
And Borromini's obsession with making your church look as much like a concave mirror as possible begins.

Lastly, Finally;

Church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fentane, Borromini, 1638, façade 1661
This is a church considered 'too much' even by some of the 17th century Baroque lovers in Rome. They obviously didn't appreciate a building that looks like a massive dressing table!!
Although, Borromini is credited as having been very very very clever at maths and geometry to do this, as you can imagine. The obsession with convex shapes has become even more of an obsession.

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