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Giuliano da Sangallo’s Surface Architecture

Polychromy

In the intellectual and artistic milieu of Lorenzo the Magnificent Giuliano da Sangallo developed a form of expression from which a regular “trademark” of his architecture would be crystallized: the subtle interplay of polychrome materials. The Medici collections with their polychrome intaglios, their layered cameos, their bronzes, and so on, and above all the tradition that blossomed under the Medici ruler of the collection and production of artistic inlays of coloured semi-precious stones (pietre dure) were the expression of a taste that can be recognized, at architectural scale, in Sangallo’s buildings . Polychrome elements were used by Giuliano in a creative and plastic way, to accentuate and enhance individual architectural components. An example of this is the prominent glazed terracotta frieze placed below the triangular pediment of the Villa Medici in Poggio a Caiano. With its white figures placed against a blue ground, the frieze runs throughout the whole length of the portico. Its all’antica representations extol the life and virtues of the villa’s patron, Lorenzo the Magnificent. This polychromy is of course visible in the coloured photos produced during the photographic campaign conducted by the Florentine photographer Cristian Ceccanti in Poggio a Caiano in 2014 (nr. 614489). But even in early black-and-white photos produced before 1896 by Alinari (nr. 12696), or those taken by Paolo Bacherini in the 1990s (nr. 583149), the different materials can be clearly distinguished. Indeed, in looking at these earlier images we become aware of a tendency in documentary photographs at the service of the history of art, and especially of the history of architecture, to privilege black-and-white documentation long after the emergence of colour photography. Why was that? Scholars recognized the nuance-rich potential of black-and-white images and thought their ability to capture the infinite gradations of grey tones provided a more reliable reproduction of details than the partially still unstable colour values of colour photography.


Poggio a Caiano (Prato), Medici villa, arched ceiling of the hall of Leo X with papal coat of arms. Photo: Cristian Ceccanti, 2014, digital photograph, inv. no. 614478

Pistoia, Basilica of the Madonna dell’Umiltà, vestibule. Photo: Cristian Ceccanti, 2014, digital photography, inv. no. 614496

Poggio a Caiano (Prato), Medici villa, Beams of the pronaos (detail). Photo: Cristian Ceccanti, 2014, digital photography, inv. no. 614489

Poggio a Caiano (Prato), Medici villa, pronaos. Photo: Fratelli Alinari, before 1896, albumen print, 19,1 x 25 cm, inv. no. 12696

Poggio a Caiano (Prato), Medici villa, pronaos. Photo: Paolo Bacherini, before 1995, silver gelatin print, 17,8 x 23,8 cm, inv. no. 583149

Prato, Santa Maria delle Carceri, beams and capital. Photo: Fratelli Alinari, before 1929, silver gelatin print, 19,5 x 24,5 cm, inv. no. 56343

Florence, Palazzo Gherardesca, former Scala, courtyard. Photo: Luigi Artini, 1982, silver gelatin print, 17,9 x 23,7 cm, inv. no. 393508

Florence, Palazzo Gherardesca, former Scala, courtyard. Photo: Cristian Ceccanti, 2014, digital photography, inv. no. 614512

Florence, Palazzo Gherardesca, former Scala, stuccoed ceiling of the studiolo. Photo: Luigi Artini, 1982, silver gelatin print, 17,9 x 23,8 cm, inv. no. 405086

Florence, Palazzo Gherardesca, former Scala, stuccoed ceiling of the studiolo. Photo: Cristian Ceccanti, 2014, digital photography, inv. no. 614506

Florence, Palazzo Gondi, detail of the facade. Photo: Ralph Lieberman, 1990, silver gelatin print, 20,3 x 25,2 cm, inv. no. 485684

Florence, Santo Spirito, vestibule of the sacristy, vault decoration (detail). Photo: Studio Brogi, before 1907, baryta print, inv. no. 158491




© KHI in Florence | 13.07.2020 14:38:50