Case Study of the Mannerist Modern Movement

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Palazzo Del Te

The Palazzo Del Te, consists of four long, low wings forming a square court. The earthbound quality of the house is emphasised by the use of surprisingly large details, such as enormously weighty keystones that come into conflict with pediments and other adjacent items, and oversized fireplace. Rustication is used in almost everywhere with wild illogicality, so that a surface treatment conceived to suggest strength comes to suggest decay and unreliability.there different sized columns of the same order placed side by side, baseless pediments and many other similar infringements of classical canons.the elegant garden side demonstrates a more sophisticated Mannerism.it is based on the repetitive design motif found throughout the history of man, but particularly favoured by the Renaissance.the three-part unit consisting of a small, a large and a small element, often called ‘a b a’ motif, or, more obscurely, the ‘rhythmic travee’. The three centre bays of the facade seem to project far in front of the side-bays because of the use of much larger motifs; it is more or less on the same plane. The source of this information

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Andrea Palladio

The most important architect of the Northern Italy in the sixteenth century, is Andrea Palladio, not only for the quality of his work but also for the influence which his buildings, his treatise and his drawings had on other countries and other centuries. Palladio (1508-80), is in many respects Alberti’s successor, he too was a serious student of classical learnings and of Vitruvius and of Roman architecture in particular, he too leavened his antiquarian knowledge with practical intelligence and sensibility. His work includes all kinds of buildings- civic- he remodelled the basilica in Vincenza in 1545, clothing the medieval town hall with a two-storey frill of ‘a b a’ arcading; this motif is sometimes known as the ‘Palladian Motif’ as a result of his frequent use of it; domestic, both as palaces and villas; and ecclesiastical. His larger churches, St. Giorgio Maggiore and Il Redentore , are in Venice; his domestic architecture is in and around Vicenza. The fame of his town and country houses is such that it has tended to overshadow that of his churches, but these were so highly regarded by later generations of Venetian architects as to inhibit the spread of Baroque expressionism there, and they greatly impressed the Neo-classicist of the eighteenth century. In this way continued the researches of Alberti, and if there is something Mannerist about the very coolness of his designs, Palladio like Michelangelo and unlike many other architects of the middle of the sixteenth century, stands as much outside his time as in it, reaching back to Alberti and to antiquity, and forward to the legions of architects, who were to be guided by him in the future.

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Mannerism can be sober or playful, obvious or latent; it tends always to be disquieting. It is better to think about it as an attitude , rather than a style, and of its varying productions as the creations of differing personalities working in a period of collapsing conventions.

Other outstanding Mannerist buildings are Vasari’s Uffizi of Florence(1550-74), forming three sides of a street-like court and using simplified classical elements in shadow. Ammanati’s courtyard of the Palazzo Pitti, Florence, (1558-70), where rustication, changing from storey to storey, impartially covers walls and columns.

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Vasari’s Uffizi, Florence

Ammanati’s courtyard of the Palazzo Pitti, Florence, (1558-70), where rustication, changing from storey to storey, impartially covers walls and columns. ""

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Palazzo Pitti, Florence

Vignola’s Villa Farnese at Caprarola (1547-59), a pentagonal castle around a circular court approached by elaborate steps and ramps and decorative.

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Vincenzo Scamozzi (1552-1616), Palladio’s pupil, carried his master’s classicising style into the seventeenth-century. His book Idea del “ Architettura Universale” (1615), together with Palladio’s Quattro Libri di Architectura (1570), brought their designs to the drawing tables and libraries of architects and patrons all over Europe and in the New World .

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Geneo and Milan flourished architecturally in the sixteenth century, particularly at the hands of Galaezzo Alessi (1512-72), who knew Roman sixteenth century architecture at first hand and built some fine palaces in both cities. He also designed the centrally planned church of Sta Maria di Carignano, Genoa, basing himself on Bramante’s plan for St. Peter’s. Pelegrino Tibaldi’s facade of San Fedele in Milan is a good example of Northern Italian late Mannerism; a little disquieting, a little boring, with a dryness that tended to affect

Mannerism everywhere before the upsurge of Baroque vitality swept it aside.

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Piazza San Fedele

Mannerist Modern Movement

Mannerist architecture remained prominently present in the immediate post-war

publications of the major architectural historians: Pevsner’s article ‘The Architecture of

Mannerism’ was published in 1946 and Blunt’s ‘Mannerism in Architecture’ followed

three years later. But it was particularly the modernist matrix of Wittkower’s reading

of sixteenth-century architecture that was eagerly picked up by a generation of

architects, who started using Architectural Principles alongside the Modulor — as did the

Smithsons. Among them, Colin Rowe, an architect and pupil of Wittkower’s at the

Warburg Institute, most clearly saw the implications of the book for the interpretation

and further development of modern architecture. In March 1947, shortly following his

teacher’s ‘Principles of Palladio’s Architecture’ (published in two parts in 1944 and

1945),55 but two years before Architectural Principles, Rowe published ‘The Mathematics

of the Ideal Villa’ in the Architectural Review. Pairing the syntactical devices in the work

of (Wittkower’s) Palladio to those of Le Corbusier by confronting the Villa Malcontenta

with the Villa Stein, he discovered similar compositional strategies. As Alina Payne has

argued, “this concentration on syntax allow(ed) him not only to bring Palladio within the

orbit of modern criticism, but, more generally, to offer implicitly a strategy for

appropriating historical examples into modernist design without openly questioning its programmatic rejection of such borrowing.”

Rowe’s article was followed by another, published three years later, again in the

Architectural Review: ‘Mannerism and Modern Architecture’ Rowe cited both Pevsn and Blunt, seemingly as his only sources on Mannerism, while he curiously omitted any

reference to his teacher.

‘Mannerism and Modern Architecture’ starts with an ‘outing’:

Rowe shows Le Corbusier’s first considerable project, which the master himself had

censured out of his OEuvre complète: the Villa Schwob at La Chaux-de-Fonds of 1916. He

points to the blank central surface, for which he cannot find any functional reason and of

which he presumes it was “intended to shock”.Following this, Rowe remarks that this

feature is not uncommon among sixteenth-century façades, and he mentions the

“characteristic late Mannerist schemes” of the so-called Casa di Palladio in Vicenza and

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Federico Zuccheri’s casino in Florence. However, Rowe avoids direct affiliations, using

Wölfflinian juxtaposition rather than derivation, and concludes that “such a

correspondence may be purely fortuitous or it may be of deeper significance.” A

couple of pages further on, Rowe hints at what that deeper significance might consist of:

“If in the sixteenth century Mannerism was the visual index of an acute spiritual and

political crisis, the recurrence of similar propensities at the present day should not be

unexpected nor should corresponding conflicts require indication.”

From the French hero of the Modern Movement, Rowe moves to the Viennese

polemicist Adolf Loos. Pausing before Loos’s most radical façade, the garden side of

Haus Steiner, the historian maliciously remarks that “Loos, with his fanatical attacks

upon ornament, might possibly, from one point of view, be considered as already

showing Mannerist tendencies …”, His vivisection subsequently turns, not to an

unauthorized youthful work, as was the case with Le Corbusier’s early villa, but to two,

if not canonical in any case largely mediatized examples of avant-garde modernism.

Considering Walter Gropius’s Bauhaus building, Rowe observes that the logicer and

structure of the building is not immediately recognizable, as modernist rule would

require, but becomes intelligible to the eye only in the ‘abstract’ view from the air. “In

this idea of disturbing, rather than providing immediate pleasure for the eye” Rowe sees

connections with Mannerism:

Sixteenth century Mannerism is characterized by similar ambiguities; […] a

deliberate and insoluble complexity might be thought to be offered equally by

Michelangelo’s Cappella Sforza and Mies van der Rohe’s project of 1923 for the

Brick Country House. In the Capella Sforza, Michelangelo, working in the tradition

of the centralized building, establishes an apparently centralized space; but, within

its limits, every effort is made to destroy that focus which such a space demands.65

The Cappella Sforza “ensues not so much ideal harmony as planned distraction”, while

the Brick House “is without either conclusion or focus”. In its plan “the disintegration of

the prototype is as complete as with Michelangelo”.

Mannerist organisations in plan link, for Rowe, Mies’s Hubbe House of 1935 and Vignola

and Ammanati’s Villa Giulia, while another Mannerist device, the discord between

elements of different scale placed in immediate juxtaposition “is employed, alike, by

Michelangelo in the apses of St. Peter’s and, with different elements, by Le Corbusier in

the Cité de Refuge.” And Rowe makes, obviously, reference to Le Corbusier’s “éloge

(Rowe’s word) of St. Peter’s in Vers une architecture. According to Rowe, “it is

particularly the space arrangements of the present day which will bear comparison with

those of the sixteenth century […]”, while “in the vertical surfaces of contemporary

architecture, comparison […] is perhaps of a more superficial than clearly demonstrable

order.” Nevertheless, in a numerously held lecture of unknown but slightly later date,

‘The Provocative Façade: Frontality and Contrapposto’, Rowe uses the same façade

comparisons — and adds one: he cuts out the central of the façade of Le

Corbusier’s Villa Stein at Garches, and places it next to Ligorio’s casino of Pius IV (or

Villa Pia, as he calls it) — the subject, one should recall, of that earliest of articles on

Mannerist architecture, Friedländer’s of 1915. Rowe: “Shave Villa Pia, crop Garches, and

there is stylistic convergence? There certainly is.”

Moreover, in the same text Rowe quotes Le Corbusier to show the extent to which the

modern master has an exquisitely Mannerist attitude towards the arts: “…there is a

quotation of himself [Le Corbusier] which might help to correct accusations of

pedantry: ‘In a complete and successful work of art there is a wealth of meaning only

accessible to those who have the ability to see it, in other words to those who deserve

it.’” This elitist attitude is exactly what distinguishes the Mannerist artist from his

Renaissance and Baroque colleagues. Yet, let us turn back to the buildings themselves.

Not only an elitist attitude, not only plan and façade compositions link the masters of

the sixteenth and the twentieth centuries: towards the end of “Mannerism and Modern

Architecture” Rowe addresses the brutalist’s choice of materials and modernist

detailing: “However, in the present-day choice of texture, surface and detail, aims

general to Mannerism might possibly be detected. The surface of the Mannerist wall is

either primitive or overrefined; and a brutally direct rustication frequently occurs in

combination with an excess of attenuated delicacy.” This creative tension between

brutalism (aka bugnato) and sophistication is, as we have seen, exactly the core of

Gombrich’s argument in his seminal study on Palazzo del Tè. Rowe continues:

In this context, it is frivolous to compare the preciosity of Serlio’s restlessly

modelled, quoined designs with our own random rubble; but the frigid

architecture which appears as the background to many of Bronzino’s portraits is

surely balanced by the chill of many interiors of our own day. And the linear

delicacy of much contemporary detail certainly finds a sixteenth-century

correspondence.

In this quotation Rowe allows us to understand his agenda. In ‘Mannerism and Modern

Architecture’ and in the ‘The Provocative Façade’ that agenda is not only — as was the

case in his “Mathematics of the Ideal Villa” — about countering “the avantgarde aura of

Le Corbusier’s architecture by showing how ingeniously and eclectically one of the most

polemical modernists had appropriated and recontextualized the Classical tradition” and

about undercutting “modernism’s claims to being a schismatic break with the past”.

What then, is Rowe’s agenda? Surely, it does not concern the opposition of the ingenuity

and delicacy of cinquecento architecture to a presumed lack of both in the buildings of

the modern masters, as Leon Satkowski seems to suggest in the introduction of the

book he wrote with the (then late) Rowe. Rather, Rowe is defending modernism, as he

makes unmistakably clear towards the end of ‘The Provocative Façade’: “… if nowadays

Le Corbusier is becoming distinctly persona non grata, to fail to register his achievement

is quite as completely stupid as was the eighteenth-century failure to ‘see’ either

Michelangelo or Borromini — within which succession (…) Le Corbusier assuredly

belongs.”

In ‘Mannerism and Modern Architecture’, Mannerist qualities — the “delicacy of detail”,

etc. — are brought to the rescue of modernist, avant-garde architecture. This can be

better understood if one takes into consideration a 1951 article by a young Polish

émigré architect in the United States, Matthew Nowicki, which Rowe would

subsequently credit. In ‘Origins and Trends in Modern Architecture

At the very moment when modernism is trading its revolutionary, heretic status for

mainstream practice, in those early years of the 1950s when the failures of the Modern

Movement are about to be widely discussed, it is, again, Mannerism that is brought into

position. That is: at the very moment that modernism’s “delicacy of detail”, its formal

complexities and contrapposti, all so well-appreciated by Rowe, are watered down into

the “rubble” of post-war mass building production.After Mannerism had been a

reference point for the early appreciation of Expressionist art by Dvoràk and

Friedländer; after Burckhardt (with opposite intentions) had recognised — and feared

— in Michelangelo the prototypical modern artist; shortly after the complex attitudes of

cinquecento architects had been explored with a positive bias originating in

psychoanalysis; and following the Modern Movement architect’s modelling after its

Mannerist ancestor, Rowe, at last, is steering that same Mannerism to the rescue of

modernism.

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