Baldassare Peruzzi

A prominent architect of the high Renaissance in Rome, Baldassare Peruzzi’s approach was influenced by the work of Bramante and Raphael. His peers respected him for his revival of the art of stage
design, and for his expertise in the art of perspective drawing. Peruzzi arrived in Rome in 1503 from Siena. He began as a painter under Pinturicchio, and was commissioned in 1509 by the Sienese banker Agostino Chigi to design the Palace Farnesina. The palazzo reflects his strong sense of proportion and his interest in the principles of mathematics as set down by Alberti. Different in plan than other Roman palaces of the time, Villa Farnesina has two wings flanking a central loggia, containing frescos by Raphael.

Much of Peruzzi’s experience was obtained in the Vatican Workshop assisting Donato Bramante, and, later, collaborating with Raphael until 1527 when he fled to Siena precipitated by the Sack of Rome. Bramante had envisioned a rebuilding of St. Peter’s based on a Greek cross plan, and Peruzzi’s plan suggested a variation (Allsopp, 1959). Other projects designed by Peruzzi individually or in collaboration, in addition to St. Peter’s, include: fortifications near Porta Laterina and Porta S. Viene, Palazzo Pollini, San Nicol├▓ in Carpi, and the Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne in Rome. He died in Rome in 1536, and Serlio, who included Peruzzi’s  rawings prominently in his treatise, heralded his influence on architecture.

This ink and wash sketch demonstrates a three-dimensional study of what seems to be a sepulcher, or tomb chest, with an apsidiole form. This small projecting chapel structure consists of a self-contained entity, possibly planned for an interior wall of a cathedral side aisle. Drawn freehand in perspective, or a version of an elevation oblique, the sketch appears somewhat distorted, obviously not calculated or measured. Because this view employs washes for shadows and a completed composition, Peruzzi was able to interpret and evaluate the proposed solution. The sketch, then, suggests the importance for Peruzzi to quickly comprehend three-dimensional relationships. The sketch acted as a method of evaluation to represent either an image from his mind’s eye or an emerging design solution. Although the ink techniques are minimal and scratchy, the sketch contains enough information to visualize the form as a whole.

Peruzzi must have understood the sketch as part of a process. Although showing the aedicule as a whole, the technique of the lines are quick and loosely constructed, suggesting not a solution, but a momentary snapshot of a thought in the process. The columns are straightened by additional lines in a method of ‘making and matching,’ numbers are sprinkled over the top and other fa├žades, and pentesting lines appear in the background (Gombrich, 1969, p. 29). These elements, which appear on and around the sketch, suggest the little value given the image by Peruzzi after the information was conveyed in a dialogue of the design process. Even though the columns are not straight and the distances between the columns are irregular, the sketch conveys a compositional whole, displaying proportions, relationships and symmetry. The ink wash provides depth that enhances the three-dimensional illusion, helping to judge the final effects of the whole. Being both a definitive view and a design in process, the sarcophagus/tomb-chest stand has been drawn and redrawn in a search for its relationship to the columns and figures. This reveals how the design was still fluid and could be reevaluated when seen in conjunction with other elements.

This sketch gave a quick proportional and compositional view to Peruzzi, allowing him to see the whole at a decision point in his thinking.

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