Giuliano da Sangallo and the Ruins of Rome

forthcoming, Princeton University Press, 2020

Scholars often define Renaissance architecture as a revival of antiquity, but the mechanisms by which it occurred are rarely explored in detail. A reconsideration of the moment at which artists and architects of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries first turned to the study of the antique demonstrates that all the major questions about how to respond to the quantity and variety of Roman monuments were still open.  Which monuments were important? How should they be represented? Should they be preserved or used to make new buildings?  By the last decades of the sixteenth century, most of these questions had been answered, and the answers encoded in printed treatises on architecture by Serlio, Palladio, Vignola, and others.  But in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century, they were in flux.            

An important artifact that illuminates many of these questions is a book of drawings on parchment, the Codex Barberini of Giuliano da Sangallo, made between 1465 and 1516 and held at the Vatican Library in Rome.  In this book, Giuliano made the first thorough attempt to document the monuments of Rome.  Falling between the medieval model book and the printed architectural treatise, his book of drawings defies conventional classifications.  It coincides with a rare moment of intersection between a poetic and analytic engagement with Rome, manifesting both Giuliano’s nostalgia for the lost splendor of Rome and his impulse as a practicing architect to collect models. “Giuliano da Sangallo and the Ruins of Rome,” argues that Giuliano’s drawings shed light on the wider Renaissance project of recovering and reinventing ancient architecture. The book is organized into four chapters: “Defining Antiquity”; “Ornament and Abstraction;” “Ruins and Representation”; “Reconstruction and Design”; and an epilogue, “Rome Remade.”

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