Antonio da Sangallo


Antonio da Sangallo, born in Florence in 1485, was the nephew of two da Sangallo architects, Giuliano and Antonio the Elder. He trained under their tutelage before arriving in Rome in approximately 1503. Although obviously influenced by his uncles, his architecture proved to adhere to the classicism of the High Renaissance. da Sangallo designed numerous architectural projects throughout his life, such as the interior of
Capella Paolina in the Vatican, Palazzo Palma-Baldassini, Rome, in 1520, Palazzo Sacchetti, Rome, begun in 1542, and Palazzo Baldassini, which evokes the architecture of ancient Rome with its massive masonry. After a period as Raphael’s assistant, in 1539 he became the chief architect for St. Peter’s and supplied designs for the alteration of Bramante’s plan (Musgrove, 1987). Although not executed, his plan advocated altering the Greek plan into a more traditional cathedral plan, considering liturgical requirements. For many years he was employed as a military engineer working on fortifications around Rome. Antonio da Sangallo died in 1546 in Rome, having spent much of his life working on St. Peter’s.

With this page of sketches (Figure 1.4) da Sangallo appears to have been employing diagrams to calculate visually. The diagrams may have worked to serve his memory for difficult items such as numerous dimensions and proportions, or as simple outlines to frame his concentration of a specific subject. They may not have acted as an imitation, but instead were used to convey basic spatial relationships.Diagrams may be defined in mathematical terms as assisting to present a definition or ‘to aid in the proof of a proposition.’ Additionally, they can be outlines or abstractions that provide the basic scheme of something to reveal ‘the shape and relations of its various parts’ (OED, 1985). Similar to a definition of sketches, diagrams may help to isolate the essence of a concept or proposition.

On the right side of the page stands a column, giving just enough information to recognize it as such. A simple outline, the column has been overlaid with a grid and is accompanied by a series of numbers, possibly  escribing dimensions or calculations pertaining to the construction of the column. The left side of this page reveals an inverted column where the capital and base have been dimensioned but the shaft, having been foreshortened, reveals its relative unimportance. Around the periphery, as partial musings, are pen testing marks, capital carvings, small column elevations, and unfinished details of moldings and stairs. It is possible to view two tones of the brown ink used for this sketch, conveying a sense of the passage of time. This is especially visible where he crosses out particular numbers. It might be assumed that either the sketch was drawn at one time and altered later with a different mix of ink, or that da Sangallo freshly dipped his pen before crossing out the inappropriate numbers after reconsideration.

The ‘look’ of the column was obviously unimportant, as he avoided shadows or details. Slightly skewed to the right, vertical fluting extends beyond the capital top, suggesting that he began calculating the sections from the base. The section numbers can be equated with the long list of numbers viewed horizontally while they vary in individual dimensions. The horizontal section markings may represent the pieces intended for assembly in construction of the column or a key for the changes in the diameter or entasis. Most importantly, it was unnecessary for da Sangallo to carefully render the column because the brief outline acted to visually reference the spatial relationships. The left column also has been dimensioned, and here the details are small parts of the planned carving. These limited suggestions of ornament were enough for him to remember what had been  lanned for each portion.

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