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Renaissance, Baroque, and Rococo Architecture

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Renaissance architecture is split into three periods: Early Renaissance (ca. 1400-1500), High Renaissance (ca. 1500-1525), and Late Renaissance (ca.1525-1600). Renaissance architects moved away from the intricacy and verticality of the Gothic architecture style in favor of the simplicity and balanced proportions of classicism. The classical orders were revived, including rounded arches and domes; this was done through observation of Roman ruins and study of the treatise Ten Books on Architecture, written by Roman architect Vitruvius. Renaissance architecture features planar classicism, in which the walls of a Renaissance building are adorned with columns, pilasters, pediments, and blind arches of a minor physical depth so as to not intrude on the two-dimensional appearance of the walls. Renaissance architecture also divides a wall into neat sections using columns, pilasters, and stringcourses. Indeed, a building done in the Renaissance style consists of many similar sections so as to not draw the eye to a particular part of the building. The major Renaissance building types were the church, palazzo, and villa.

Renaissance architecture flourished primarily in Italy from 1400-1600, only spreading across the rest of Europe during the latter half of this period. Devotion to the Gothic style caused the transition to Renaissance architecture outside of Italy to slow, causing much non-Italian Renaissance architecture to be a mix of Gothic verticality and Renaissance simplicity. France was the leading region of Renaissance architecture in northern Europe, with the primary building type being the chateau; the influence of French Renaissance architecture then spread across much of northern Europe. Two leading Early Renaissance architects were Brunelleschi and Alberti. Filippo Brunelleschi, the first great Renaissance architect, was primarily a designer of churches. His most famous work is the octagonal brick dome of Florence Basilica. Brunelleschi’s dome was the largest the pre-industrial world would ever see. This dome is not considered a Renaissance work, however; its style is firmly Gothic. The emergence of Renaissance architecture is rather seen in Brunelleschi’s designs for complete buildings, of which the Basilica of San Lorenzo may be the most famous. The plain exterior of this building includes a series of blind arches, while the interior is graced with crisp grey-and-white planar classicism; only the columns prevent this interior from being composed entirely of flat surfaces.

In many Renaissance churches, broad rectangular piers are used instead of columns, thus maximizing the surface space for planar classicism. Leon Battista Alberti became the most influential architectural theorist of the Early Renaissance with his own Ten Books on Architecture, which instructed on the adaptation of ancient classical forms to modern buildings. In terms of actual building projects, Alberti was the leading pioneer of classical facade design. His greatest facades include the Church of Sant’Andrea and Palazzo Rucellai. The High Renaissance witnessed the peak of classical simplicity and harmony in Renaissance architecture. The central plan layout was popular during this period. Central plan denotes rotational symmetry; if the plan is rotated around its central point, it looks the same at multiple points of rotation. Common shapes for central plan buildings are the circle, square, and octagon. The founder and leader of High Renaissance architecture was Donato Bramante. His greatest completed work is the Tempietto, a Doric shrine erected upon the traditional site of St Peter’s martyrdom. Despite its small size, the Tempietto is often considered the crowning work of High Renaissance architecture.

The High Renaissance also gave rise to the Palazzo Farnese, arguably the greatest Renaissance palace. This building, designed chiefly by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, follows the typical Renaissance palazzo layout: a three-story rectangular building with a central courtyard. A Spartan majesty is achieved in the balanced height and breadth of the facade, the absence of vertical dividers, and the unadorned expanse of wall above each row of windows. The sheer simplicity of the facade emphasizes variations in wall colors, window shapes, and pediment shapes. A popular decorative treatment of the palazzo was rustication, in which a masonry wall is textured rather than smooth. This can entail leaving grooves in the joints between smooth blocks, using roughly dressed blocks, or using blocks that have been deliberately textured. The rustication of a palazzo is often differentiated between stories. The Late Renaissance featured a general relaxation of the severe simplicity and order of the High Renaissance. The most radical strain of Late Renaissance art was mannerism: the deliberate pursuit of novelty and complexity, often to the point of bizarreness. In mannerist architecture, classical forms are skewed, exaggerated, and misplaced, and classical balance and harmony are sometimes distorted.

By upsetting conventions and exploring new artistic possibilities, mannerism became an influential force, even for artists who chose to retain a more purely classical style. One such artist was Andrea Palladio, who maintained a firmly classical aesthetic. Palladio, known primarily for villa design, was the foremost architect of the Late Renaissance, and arguably the most influential architect of all time. Countless residential, collegiate, and civic buildings throughout the world are descendants of Palladio’s architectural style, which experienced a massive revival during the Neoclassical period. Palladio’s most striking innovation was to graft the classical temple front onto secular architecture. A true temple front is a portico; while a cosmetic temple front can be produced with a simple pediment. In either case the entrance can be recessed, which allows for a covered entrance even without a portico. The common features of Palladio’s villas are captured by the term Palladian style. Firstly, the overall plan is a central block flanked with identical wings, which ensures perfect symmetry; the central block is faced with a temple front. Secondly, the interior plan is also symmetrical, with a great hall at the center. And thirdly, the building has a tall major story and a short attic story. Palladio’s villas were constructed mainly in and around the city of Vicenza, near Venice.

Most feature walls of stucco-coated brick and hip roofs tiled in red clay shingles. Apart from villas, Palladio is known for popularizing the Palladian arch via his design for the exterior of the Vicenza Town Hall. This motif was practical as well as aesthetic, as it allowed more light to stream into the building than a series of ordinary arches. The Palladian arch is perhaps most familiar today in the form of Palladian windows. Baroque architecture is split into three periods: Early Baroque (ca. 1600-25), High Baroque (ca. 1625-75), and Late Baroque (ca. 1675-1725). The central characteristic of the Baroque style is a sense of motion. Typical Baroque features are its strong curves, rich decoration, and general complexity. Baroque architecture can be identified by its richly sculpted surfaces. While Renaissance architecture is characterized by planar classicism, Baroque architects preferred to mould surfaces to achieve three-dimensional sculpted classicism. And whereas the surface of a Renaissance building is divided into neat sections, Baroque architects sculpted the walls to seem as a continuous whole. The result of this is that the interior of a Baroque building features an attention-grabbing concentration of curved walls, columns, blind arches, statues, and relief sculptures around a central entrance.

Only southern Western Europe embraced the full Baroque style, while northern Western Europe compromised with a more restrained Baroque style. Full Baroque emerged and grew throughout both the Early Baroque and High Baroque years; both periods were led by Italy. The late Baroque period saw the rise of the restrained Baroque aesthetic; this period was led by France. Churches are the leading form of Baroque architecture in Italy, whilst France boasts chateaux in the Baroque style. The period of Early Baroque architecture spanned from 1600-1625. The foremost pioneer of Baroque architecture was Carlo Maderno, whose masterpiece is the facade of Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. Constructed under various architects throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Saint Peter’s features a mixture of Renaissance and Baroque components the facade being one of the latter. The facade of Saint Peter’s contains a number of typical Baroque elements, including double columns, layered columns, colossal columns, and broken pediments.

All of these elements were pioneered during the Late Renaissance, in mannerist architecture. The two foremost names in High Baroque architecture are Bernini and Borromini, both of whom worked primarily in Rome. Two masterpieces of Gian Lorenzo Bernini are found at St Peter’s. One is the four-story baldachin that stands over the high altar. The other is the curving colonnades that frame St Peter’s Square. Bernini’s most famous building is likely the small church of Sant’Andrea al Quirinale. Francesco Borromini was the master of curved-wall architecture. Though he designed many large buildings, Borromini’s most famous and influential work may be the small church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane. The Late Baroque marks the ascent of France as the heart of Western culture. Baroque art of France and northern Europe generally, tends to be restrained. The most distinctive element of French Baroque architecture is the double-sloped mansard roof. The most famous Baroque structures of France are magnificent chateaux, greatest of which is the Palace of Versailles. One of the largest residences on earth, Versailles was built mainly under Louis XIV, whose patronage of the arts helped propel France to the crest of Western culture. The palace facade illustrates the classical-Baroque compromise of northern Europe.

The walls are characterized largely by simple planar classicism, although they do contain such Baroque elements as sculpted busts, a triple stringcourse, double pilasters, and colossal pilasters. Additionally, the mansard roof features a sinuous metal railing and rich molding around the dormer windows. Versailles became Europe’s model of palace architecture, inspiring similarly grand residences throughout the continent. Versailles’ most famous room is the Hall of Mirrors, whose mirrors have the same dimensions as the windows they stand opposite. Following the Baroque age was the French-born Rococo architecture style (ca. 1725-1800). Abandoning the violence and drama of Baroque architecture, Rococo style is characterized by a calm dynamism. Rococo architects kept the curves and elaborate ornament of Baroque, but left out its complexity. Indeed, Rococo architecture developed in France as a rebellion against the majesty, symmetry and strict regulations of Baroque architecture, especially that of the Palace of Versailles. The outcome of which was a gentle, lively style illustrated by pastel colors and delicate, asymmetrical designs. In the interior decoration of Rococo buildings, rooms were built as total works of art with ornate furniture, sculptures, ornamental mirrors, and tapestries.

Whilst the styles were similar, there are some notable differences between both Rococo and Baroque architecture, one of them being symmetry. Rococo style highlighted the asymmetry of forms, whereas Baroque was the opposite. The architecture styles, despite both being richly decorated, also had different themes. Baroque was more serious, placing an emphasis on religion, and was often characterized by Christian themes. Rococo architecture was a more secular, adaptation of the Baroque which was characterized by more light-hearted and jocular themes. Being the birthplace of the style, most Rococo architecture was centered in France. By the end of the period, though, Rococo architecture had spread out to Austria and southern Germany, especially in the form of churches.

http://architecture.about.com/od/periodsstyles/ig/Historic-Styles/Rococo.htm http://www.essential-humanities.net/western-art/architecture/renaissance/ http://www.essential-humanities.net/western-art/architecture/baroque/

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