Italian Architecture, Renaissance to Rococo
Art 267

Professor: Dr. Perette Michelli E-mail:
Class: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 9.05-10.00 a.m.,
Flaten Hall Lecture Room
Office Hours: After class and by appointment
Required set books:
J Summerson, The Classical Language of Architecture
H Saalman, The Transformation of Buildings and the City in the Renaissance, 1300-1550, Astrion Publishing, Champlain, N.Y., 1996
J Varriano, Italian Baroque and Rococo Architecture, Oxford University Press, 1986



This course focusses on the architecture of Italy from around 1400 to around 1750, that is, the Renaissance, Mannerist, Baroque and Rococo periods. It takes as its starting point two issues which were considered crucial in art and architecture during these periods, and traces their changing impact on concepts and designs. Broadly speaking, these issues are (a) that the only good way to design buildings was according to the Ancient Roman system, and (b) that it was every artist and architect's job to contribute to the progress of the field. Together, these ideas gave an almost religious significance to architecture, opening up exciting possibilities and creating several "problems", which the architects tackled with relish. In fact, the ideas were so powerful that they consistently dominated artistic thinking throughout the four periods under consideration here, but it is very rare that we ever get an opportunity to trace them in such a focussed way. Normally, we could expect only to touch on them here and there and lose them again as we pass on to other countries and art forms. However, we must consider some of those art forms here, too, because architecture is as much about space and illusion as building. We will therefore also be considering some relevant painted and sculptural decoration with its exploitation of perspectival space and the creation of magical, metaphysical illusions.

Most of the classes will be student-led presentation/discussions ("seminars"), and the first few units of the course will be devoted to some preparatory training. After that, it is a matter of courage, pizzazz (remember that!), and mutual support. Support is best shown by courteous attention to and discussion with the presenter. Discussion will come naturally if you keep up to date with the reading and know the buildings, and if you can produce any interest in why issues of design were so important. Keep in mind the fundamental difference between Roman Catholicism (which was originally universal and is still dominant in Italy) and Protestantism (which is dominant in America). Catholicism presents God to you, it provides you with sacraments that infallibly save your soul, it seeks to control your experience of and access to God - and it is all done in church. Modern Protestantism places the emphasis on individual responsibility for Godly behavior in the world at large, its sacraments are symbolic rather than miraculous, and it leaves your relationship with and perception of God up to you.


Course Grading The average of grades for all written assignments, modified up to 10% by participation rate.