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Bramante, Donatolocked

(b Monte Asdrualdo [now Fermignano, Marches], ?1443–4; d Rome, April 11, 1514).
  • Paul Davies
  •  and David Hemsoll

Updated in this version

updated bibliography, 26 May 2010; updated and revised, 31 March 2000

Italian architect, painter and engineer. His esteemed reputation as the father of High Renaissance architecture rests on a series of projects initiated towards the end of his life in Rome, including the enormous extension to the Vatican Palace and the new plans for the rebuilding of St Peter’s. Although few of these buildings, even his masterpiece, the Tempietto, exist in the form in which they were conceived, it is still clear that they constituted a decisive departure from the traditions of the recent past. Due to his patron Pope Julius II taking full advantage of the opportunities presented, and through a profound re-evaluation of the heritage of Classical antiquity, Bramante achieved in these buildings a dignity and majesty quite new to Renaissance architecture. Already recognized by his contemporaries as a great innovator, Bramante had by far the most enduring and pervasive influence on the course of architecture throughout the 16th century.

I. Life and work.

1. Early life and training, to late 1470s.

Bramante’s place of birth—the small town of Monte Asdrualdo in the papal state of Urbino, where his father was a farmer—is certain, but his birth date can only be inferred from Vasari’s assertion that Bramante was 70 when he died. According to Vasari, Bramante’s father directed him to turn to painting once he had learnt to read, write and use the abacus; having abandoned his family’s way of life, however, he was later excluded from his modest family inheritance. Possible clues about his artistic education can be gleaned from early sources: that he enjoyed most the works of the local painter Fra Carnevale and delighted in perspective and architecture (Vasari) or that he was a follower of Mantegna and Piero della Francesca (Saba da Castiglione). Whatever his actual training, he almost certainly acquired his early expertise as a painter and designer in Urbino, and this experience was partly to determine the course of his artistic career. At Urbino he would have become familiar with the splendid court and flourishing artistic community centred around Count (later Duke) Federigo da Montefeltro, which attracted such eminent figures as Leon Battista Alberti and Piero della Francesca. He would have witnessed at first hand the continuing construction of the ducal palace under Luciano Laurana and perhaps later under Francesco di Giorgio Martini, whose presence in Urbino is recorded in 1476. In addition, he would no doubt have come into contact with many of the artists and craftsmen who came to work on the palace decorations, not only from Florence and central Italy but also from northern Italy and beyond.

Bramante’s future career as a painter and master of perspective must have been greatly stimulated by the work of Piero della Francesca and other artists and designers who worked at the palace. A specific example mentioned by Vasari is Fra Carnevale’s altarpiece for S Maria della Bella, Urbino. This has sometimes been identified with the Barberini Panels (c. 1465–70; Birth of the Virgin, New York, Met.; Presentation of the Virgin, Boston, MA, Mus. F.A.), with their highly elaborate architectural backdrops of all’antica buildings painstakingly rendered in linear perspective (but see Masters, anonymous, and monogrammists family, §I, ). More immediately comparable to Bramante’s paintings, however, are the mural decorations at Loreto of his slightly older contemporary, Melozzo da Forlì, which, with their fictive architectural frameworks and bold foreshortenings, achieve startling and daring trompe l’oeil effects.

In Urbino, Bramante would also have had early exposure to avant-garde architectural taste under the motivating influences of Alberti and Laurana. The ducal palace itself, which so eloquently reveals the possibilities of architecture as a vehicle of aristocratic patronage, would have demonstrated to him how the new Renaissance style could be adapted, with a sufficiently well-organized workforce, to projects of colossal scale. There is no reason, however, to suppose that Bramante was involved in designs for the palace, although a number of late additions, notably the Temple of the Muses and the elaborately decorated Cappella del Perdono (1470s), both presumably built under Francesco di Giorgio, with their rich mouldings and elaborate terracotta barrel vaults are very close in spirit to some of Bramante’s future Milanese projects.

Bramante probably left Urbino in 1472. He eventually moved north to Lombardy, where he undertook minor commissions ‘in one city after the other’ (Vasari). He finally settled in Milan, probably during the late 1470s, and the ascendancy of the brilliant court of Ludovico Sforza, Duke of Milan, who was a nephew of Federigo da Montefeltro’s wife, Battista Sforza (d 1472), encouraged him to remain there for more than 20 years (see Sforza family, §5).

2. Milan and Lombardy, late 1470s–1499.

(i) Painting.

The earliest work assigned to Bramante by Marcantonio Michiel was the fresco decoration commissioned in 1477 for the façade of the Palazzo del Podestà in Bergamo (detached fragments in Bergamo, Pal. Ragione). The design, executed with collaborators, consists of a band at the level of the piano nobile with pilasters separating the actual windows from fictive compartments housing seated figures of philosophers, the robustness and vitality of which recall the style of Melozzo. Later, in Milan, Bramante depicted ‘the poet Ausonius … together with other coloured figures’ (Lomazzo, IV.xiv) on a façade in the Piazza de’ Mercanti. The one surviving painted façade design in Milan attributable to him is that of the Casa Fontana–Silvestri (date uncertain), a two-storey arrangement of columns and pilasters carrying entablatures with elaborately sculpted friezes, the lower providing the platform for four trompe l’oeil bronze statues of allegorical figures.

More ambitious is the design attributed to him for the room decorations for the Casa Panigarola–Prinetti (1480s; substantial fragments in Milan, Brera). This consists of a series of niches that hold standing figures bearing arms, and a panel, formerly above the portal, depicting the philosophers Heraclitus (in tears) and Democritus (laughing). The figure style, especially the linear quality of the drapery, is reminiscent of Mantegna, as is the fanciful antiquarianism of the architectural design, for example the figurative frieze showing ancient rituals behind the two philosophers and the alternating sequence of paterae and striations, presumably inspired by a Doric frieze, that runs around the backs of the niches.

The most ambitious of Bramante’s wall paintings is the so-called Argus (c. 1490–93) in the Cortile della Rocchetta of the Castello Sforzesco, Milan, which was painted for the Duke of Milan. The elegantly posed, semi-nude hero stands at the foot of a tunnel-like flight of steps upon a kind of balcony of striking illusionism, consisting of a pair of superimposed pedestals supported upon corbels, framing a recessed tondo of fictive bronze. The one panel painting usually thought to be by Bramante, on the authority of Lomazzo, is the distinguished half-length Christ at the Column (c. 1490; Milan, Brera), which reveals some familiarity with Venetian art in the clarity and colouristic variation of the skin tones and perhaps also with Ferrarese art in the sinuosity of the contours.

(ii) Architecture.

In Milan, Bramante turned increasingly to architecture. According to Vasari, he resolved to do so when he first saw Milan’s enormous cathedral. He may have already become involved in architectural projects during the early 1470s, perhaps playing some part in the designs for the remodelling of the Palazzo del Podestà in Bologna (attributed to Aristotele Fioravanti) and of the Loggia in Brescia (sometimes attributed to Tommaso Formenton), both of which are close to his Milanese works in style and architectural vocabulary. He may have hoped to displace his rivals in Milan and establish himself as ducal architect-in-chief, but this was not to be; as an outsider like his friend and contemporary Leonardo da Vinci, who lived there from c. 1483 to 1499, he received only a limited number of commissions from the Duke. He was also unable to circumvent the guild system that so effectively controlled the building trade in Milan, and most of his works were taken on as collaborations with local sculptor-architects, notably Giovanni Antonio Amadeo. Bramante certainly guided some of the most far-reaching projects of the period, however, and his expert opinion was sought in 1487–90 in connection with the crossing of Milan Cathedral (for which he proposed a Gothic design). He no doubt cultivated and maintained contact, both in Milan and on the lengthy trips he made to Florence and Rome in the 1490s, with other leading architects of the period, including Francesco di Giorgio, who inspected the cathedral in 1490, and Giuliano da Sangallo, who came to Milan in 1492.

(a) Early designs, S Maria presso S Satiro and Pavia Cathedral.

Bramante’s increasing zest for architecture is apparent in his earliest documented work, the Prevedari engraving (signed; 1481; two surviving impressions in London, BM, and Milan, Perego priv. col.), commissioned by the painter Matteo Fedeli (d 1505) and engraved by Bernardo Prevedari, from whom its name is taken. The image lacks a conventional subject and depicts a monk who, unheeded by groups of bystanders, kneels before a candelabrum-column supporting a crucifix. The architectural setting, a large building meticulously delineated in oblique one-point perspective, is given unusual prominence and becomes in effect the main subject. The building is identifiable as pagan by its ruined condition and its elaborate all’antica ornament, including ritualistic friezes, centaurs and heads in roundels, the most conspicuous of which is turned to face away from the crucifix. The plan of the building is depicted as a domed Greek cross with groin-vaulted arms inscribed within a square. This derives ultimately from Byzantine models, such as S Marco in Venice, rather than from ancient Roman ones, although it conforms to a local Milanese tradition instituted by Antonio Filarete that was doubtless considered essentially antique. In elevation, the corner spaces are spanned by small arches supporting an entablature, which becomes the impost of larger arches of the arms; immediately above, another entablature provides the impost for the springing of the crossing vault. This system of interlocking arches suggests that Bramante was familiar with Brunelleschi’s churches, but his design eschewed the latter’s columns in favour of piers and pilasters, as in works by Alberti and Francesco di Giorgio, considerably enhancing its grandeur. Two sizes of pilasters are used, taller ones with elaborate Corinthian capitals for the arms of the cross and smaller pilaster-strips without capitals—a favourite motif of Francesco di Giorgio—for the subsidiary corner spaces.

The first major work built by Bramante, the pilgrimage church of S Maria presso S Satiro, Milan, is contemporary with the Prevedari engraving. Although a small chapel to house a miracle-working image of the Virgin was begun as early as 1478, Bramante’s involvement is not documented until 1482, about when the chapel, parts of which can still be seen at the crossing when viewed from the Via del Falcone, was transformed into the present structure. Despite the building’s unusual shape, the design was probably conceived as a whole. The church, attached to the small, round, 9th-century church of S Satiro (the exterior of which was refaced), is planned as a conventional Latin cross with aisled nave, domed crossing and three-bay transepts. However, the chancel arm was omitted because of the proximity of the Via del Falcone; instead there is a shallow niche, which, through the trompe l’oeil perspective design of its terracotta surface, achieves the striking illusion that it too is three full bays in extent. The niche houses the image of the Virgin at the perspective focus above the altar, an arrangement resembling, albeit on a much larger scale, such objects as Desiderio da Settignano’s Altar of the Sacrament (c. 1461; Florence, S Lorenzo). Two doors lead into the transepts from Via del Falcone to regulate the throngs of pilgrims.

Although the regularity of the plan of S Maria, especially the way in which the aisles continue into the transepts, has been likened to Brunelleschi’s Santo Spirito in Florence, these features are also notable characteristics of Milan Cathedral. The style and decoration of the architecture, however, are profoundly classical and quite without precedent in Milan. The closest parallel is Alberti’s S Andrea (1470) in Mantua (see fig.), which probably inspired the use of monumental barrel vaults and arches on piers faced with two sizes of pilaster: the smaller supporting the side arches and the larger rising to the springing of the vault. The influence of Alberti may even extend to the darkness of the interior, which reflects an aesthetic for church design promoted in Alberti’s De re aedificatoria (VII.xii). On the other hand, the elaborate coffering in the dome and barrel vaults as well as the elaborate detailing of the capitals and friezes, all richly crafted from gilded terracotta, are in keeping with the traditional Milanese fondness for ornamentation.

The façade of S Maria (covered over in the late 19th century) was never completed, but there is a long rear elevation on Via del Falcone, executed in exposed brick and terracotta. The Corinthian pilasters, paired at the corners, are here raised up on stacked pedestals and are taller than those inside, and the entablature, which has a very high and uncanonical panelled frieze, is interrupted by an even taller pilaster order that marks the crossing. At the intersection of the right transept and the nave is Bramante’s remarkable octagonal sacristy. Apart from the octagonal sacristies at Loreto (see below), its most immediate model is local: the chapel of S Aquilino attached to the Early Christian church of S Lorenzo, Milan, both of which were then believed to be antique. The lower storey of the interior of Bramante’s sacristy has eight large niches that are alternately curved and rectangular, folded ornamental pilasters in the corners with exquisitely wrought stone Corinthian capitals, and an entablature with all’antica heads and reliefs in the tall frieze executed by Agostino Fonduli. A second storey is encircled by a gallery with two arched openings on each side; the lighting is from the vault above, a feature anticipated in the Prevedari engraving.

In 1488 Bramante became involved in the design of his most ambitious project in Lombardy, the rebuilding of Pavia Cathedral, where the Duke of Milan’s brother, Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, was bishop. Although work had begun two years previously under Giovanni Antonio Amadeo, Bramante prepared a new design. Progress remained slow, and in 1497, by which time he took no further part, a revised project was prepared by Amadeo and Giovanni Giacomo Dolcebuono, and a model was commissioned (Pavia, Pin. Malaspina). The building, however, seems to be reasonably faithful to Bramante’s design up to the height of the side chapels, since part of the exterior, including one of the eastern chapels, and most of the crypt had been completed by 1497. The layout is based on a Greek cross with an enormous octagonal crossing and aisles running along all four arms. He seems to have intended the entrance arm to be just four bays in length (of which three were eventually completed) so as to reach the Piazza del Duomo, although in Amadeo and Dolcebuono’s model it is extended to eight bays, and the layout is thus changed to a Latin cross. Bramante may have also envisaged the octagonal sacristies positioned in the angles of the cross, the eastern pair of which were realized.

Precedents for the regularly organized plan at Pavia, which has close parallels in the contemporary drawings of Leonardo da Vinci, again include Milan Cathedral and S Lorenzo, Milan, which has an octagonal crossing similarly inscribed in a square and a dome supported on eight piers. By far the closest model for the plan, however, is the sanctuary church (1470) designed by Giuliano da Maiano at Loreto, which has an octagonal dome, aisled arms and octagonal sacristies in the corners (see Loreto, §II, 1, (i), (a)). Bramante’s responsibility for the awesome, stone-faced interior of Pavia Cathedral probably only extends as far as the order of Corinthian pilasters from which the aisle vaulting springs. Above this the design lacks the consistency and coherence of Bramante’s other Milanese works. At one point an arcade is curiously sandwiched between an architrave and a cornice as though it were a giant frieze. Such oddities may be attributed to Amadeo and Dolcebuono, who may have effected substantial changes to the upper levels of the design. Bramante’s low and austere crypt, with its arches and flattened vaults supported on pedestals, is the most uncompromising part of the building. The segmental vaults of the crypt’s main apses, with radial ribs between arches, recall Brunelleschi’s umbrella domes in Florence in the Old Sacristy (from 1419) of S Lorenzo and the Pazzi Chapel (designed 1420s) in Santa Croce, but they may have been derived from the Roman pumpkin domes visible at Hadrian’s Villa (c. ad 125) at Tivoli.

(b) S Maria delle Grazie, S Ambrogio and Vigevano.

The prestigious project for a new eastern end (tribuna) to the church of S Maria delle Grazie, Milan, was commissioned by the Duke as a mausoleum; work began on 29 March 1492. The basic design, attached to Guiniforte Solari’s Late Gothic nave (1463), seems to have been Bramante’s, although this has not been proved conclusively; if so, he must again have been working in conjunction with Amadeo and Dolcebuono, who are documented. The layout consists of an enormous square crossing crowned with a hemispherical dome, vast apses to left and right and a square chancel covered by a remarkable umbrella vault and with a further apse beyond. Bramante’s fascination with apsidal design, which characterizes virtually all his church designs from Pavia Cathedral onwards, may here have had specific funerary associations. The planning has similarities with the earlier ducal funerary church, the Certosa di Pavia (begun 1396), which has a crossing with three trilobed arms, but it is more closely related to Francesco di Giorgio Martini’s S Bernardino (c. 1480–82) at Urbino, the trilobed funerary church designed for Federigo da Montefeltro, and ultimately to Brunelleschi’s Old Sacristy, which served as a Medici mausoleum. This last debt is also evident in the articulation of the crossing, with Corinthian pilasters folded around the corners, and the concentric archivolts, which have a memorable sequence of wheel-like tondi between them. Similarly conceived buildings, however, had already appeared in and around Milan, most notably the Portinari Chapel (before 1468) attached to S Eustorgio. At S Maria delle Grazie the design was adapted to truly monumental proportions. The overall coherence of the interior, which was executed largely in terracotta and stucco, nevertheless points to Bramante as the designer, as does the handling of such details as the raising of the pilasters on to pedestals and the placing of panels in the frieze, both of which recall the rear façade of S Maria presso S Satiro. The less coherent and more ornamental exterior, which was conceived as a series of superimposed storeys, seems much less characteristic of Bramante, and he may have played little part in its design.

Around 1492 the Duke of Milan commissioned Bramante to design the courtyard known as the Canonica at the Romanesque abbey church of S Ambrogio, Milan. The courtyard, of which only two incomplete sides were ever built, abuts the north wall of the church; its main axis is marked by a doorway into the building. On each side there are 11 arches, which, except at the centre, are supported on columns with Corinthian capitals. The central arch, twice as wide and almost twice as tall as the others, is supported on slender piers, each faced with a pilaster and raised on a tall pedestal. The columns next to the piers and those at the angles were made to resemble tree trunks. This motif, apart from being an emblem of the Duke, provides a learned antiquarian reference to the historical ancestry of the column as described by Vitruvius and illustrated by both Filarete and Francesco di Giorgio in their treatises. In 1497 Cardinal Ascanio Sforza commissioned Bramante to design a new monastic complex at S Ambrogio (executed mostly during the later 16th century). It is organized around a neighbouring pair of suitably restrained courtyards, descriptively known as the Doric and Ionic Cloisters. These are almost identical, with widely spaced columns carrying arches via entablature blocks and with tapering square-sectioned pillars at the angles, a type of support known to Francesco di Giorgio as a colonna piramidale. The corner pillars have Doric capitals even in the Ionic Cloister: the same combination also occurs in Giuliano da Sangallo’s atrium (1491) at S Maria Maddalena dei Pazzi in Florence. The upper storeys in both cloisters have blind arches and a doubled rhythm of much shorter pilasters. Although typical of Lombard courtyard design, this arrangement closely resembles a drawing by Giuliano da Sangallo of the ruined Portico of Pompey in Rome and may well reflect an outlook of renewed antiquarianism (Rome, Vatican, Bib. Apostolica, MS lat. 4424).

In 1492–4, on the Duke’s initiative, a new square was laid out in Vigevano, 12 km south-west of Milan. The work, which was carried out almost certainly to outline designs by Bramante, who was recorded there in 1492–6, involved the wholesale demolition of much of the old centre to create an open space extending more than 130 m from the façade of the cathedral—a size unprecedented in Lombardy—and the construction of new façades around three of the sides interrupted only at the dominant, towered entrance to the ducal castle towards the western end. Models for the scheme include the Piazza S Marco in Venice and the Renaissance Piazza della Loggia (c. 1485) in Brescia, as well as the ancient Forum Romanum as described by Vitruvius and Alberti, whose writings are echoed in an inscription on the castle tower. The façades, which have painted decorations (rest. 19th century), are of uniform design, with ground-level columned porticos (as recommended by Vitruvius), an upper floor with arched windows and an attic. The bay sequence is broken, however, by two painted triumphal arches (only partly rest.), which mark the position of roadways and were almost certainly designed by Bramante. One, positioned near the centre of the short western end, is a single-arch design similar to the central arches of the S Ambrogio Canonica; in combination with framing pilasters at the upper level, the arrangement closely resembles a slightly earlier archway in the piazza at Brescia. The other arch, in the angle facing the castle tower, is a triple-arch design similar to the façade of Alberti’s S Andrea (1472) in Mantua. As also in the Prevedari engraving, the capitals have bands of lattice decoration at their necks, no doubt to allude to the basket mentioned by Vitruvius in his account of the legendary origins of the Corinthian order (IV.i.g).

Bramante may have designed the Palazzo delle Dame in the castle complex at Vigevano, which has a colonnaded loggia above a massive arcaded basement, with recessed rims around the piers and arches similar to the arcades in Francesco di Giorgio’s Urbino Cathedral (begun before 1482; altered 1789). He may also have been responsible for the façade of S Maria Nascente at nearby Abbiategrasso. This has a monumental arch set on two storeys of coupled columns and the whole inserted into one side of a pre-existing forecourt; it carries an inscription of 1497 but was completed only in the 17th century.

3. Rome, 1500–14.

(i) Early works and the Tempietto.

In September 1499 Milan fell to the French, and the Duke was driven from power. Bramante left Lombardy and headed for Rome, arriving there, according to Vasari, just before the Holy Year of 1500. He soon received commissions from Pope Alexander VI to paint the papal arms over the main portal of S Giovanni in Laterano and to design two fountains, one in Trastevere (destr.), the other in the forecourt of St Peter’s, fragments of which were reused by Carlo Maderno in 1614 for the fountain that now stands on the piazza’s right-hand side. Vasari also claimed that Bramante was consulted in connection with a number of major buildings of the period, including the palace of Cardinal Raffaello Riario (now the Palazzo della Cancelleria; begun c. 1485; see Rome, §V, 23(i)), and that he actually made plans for the Palazzo Corneto (now Palazzo Giraud–Torlonia), a building of compact layout and restrained design but nonetheless a plausible attribution. Principally, however, he is described as devoting his time to the study and measurement of ancient buildings in Rome, Tivoli and further afield around Naples. This may indeed be true to judge from the remarkable increase in scale and monumentality and growing awareness of classical norms apparent in his architecture at this time.

Bramante fostered connections with those members of the papal circle with Spanish affiliations, such as Cardinal Oliviero Carafa, who supplied him with his first major Roman commission in 1500, the cloister at S Maria della Pace (completed 1504). In some respects the design still relies on the formal vocabulary of his previous works: the pilasters on the courtyard side articulating the piers of the lower storey are raised upon pedestals, the subordinate pilaster-strips under the groin-vaulted arcades lack capitals, and the trabeated upper storey, which is not particularly tall, has a doubled rhythm. The design may also have taken into account recent architectural developments in Rome: the pier-arcade with attached order, although still most unexpected in a monastic cloister, appears earlier in the courtyard of the Palazzo Venezia (1464). Compared with contemporary Roman architecture, however, the cloister is much more rigorous in its geometry and the application of the orders. The square plan with four bays to each side is based on the module of a single bay measured from the centres of the pilasters, so that the pilasters in the corners appear only as thin fillets, as in Brunelleschi’s Old Sacristy at S Lorenzo, Florence. The pilasters of the lower storey have Ionic capitals, the conventional choice for a cloister, and those above have Composite capitals, which complement the Ionic ones with their volutes; the additional supports between the piers at this level are slender columns with less ornamental Corinthian capitals. The corbels in the frieze above, which derive from the top storey of the Colosseum, add suitable weight to the terminal entablature.

It was probably about this time that Bramante received the commission for his epoch-making Tempietto, even though its style suggests that the design, which is undocumented, was substantially redrafted several years later. The date 1502 appears in an inscription in the crypt and refers either to the commission—transmitted by Cardinal Carvajal from Ferdinand II, King of Sicily and Aragón, and Isabella, Queen of Castile and León—or to the actual beginning of work. The circular building, which stands in a courtyard next to S Pietro in Montorio, serves as a shrine marking the supposed site of St Peter’s crucifixion; at its very centre is the hole reputedly for the cross, exposed in the crypt and also visible through an opening in the paved floor above. Despite its tiny size, the Tempietto is majestically conceived. The shrine is encircled by a ring of sixteen Doric columns raised on three steps, with an entablature and balustrade above; the upper level has a drum and a dome with a crowning finial (altered in 1605). Under the colonnade, respondent pilasters frame windows alternating with niches and three portals (only one of which is original); panelled pilaster-strips around the drum frame a similar arrangement of openings. The interior also has Doric pilasters but with alternating narrow and wide bays, the ample niches in the wide bays for the portals (originally only one) and the altar.

Donato Bramante: Tempietto, Rome, after 1502; photo credit: Scala/Art Resource, NY

In its basic design and function, Bramante’s Tempietto can be related to structures built to house precious relics, such as Matteo Civitali’s tempietto for the Volto Santo (1484) in S Martino, Lucca. Yet despite the externally expressed drum, with its arguably Christian associations, the design is conceived much more on the model of an ancient round peripteral temple. Temples of similar composition, with colonnades, attics and domes, appear in drawings by Francesco di Giorgio (Turin, Bib. Reale, Cod. Sal. fol. 84); Bramante’s Tempietto, however, relies on a much more archaeologically informed knowledge of ancient prototypes, such as the Temple of Vesta (late 2nd century bc) by the Tiber and the so-called Temple of Portumnus near Ostia, which has an interior with niches and a crypt below.

The Tempietto also depends to an unprecedented degree on a new understanding of the rules set out by Vitruvius for temple design in general and for the Doric order in particular (III and IV). With exemplary dimensional rigour, the diameters of the interior and the colonnade, and the main elevational heights, are all based on the modular diameter of the columns. Moreover, the Tempietto’s Doric order is not only the first Renaissance example to incorporate a proper Doric frieze with triglyphs and metopes, here carved with the instruments of the Christian liturgy, but also the earliest to conform in its proportions and the precise sequence of its constituent members to the Vitruvian canon. The Doric order itself was presumably selected according to Vitruvian rules of decorum (see Orders, architectural, §I, 2, (i), (c)) for its suitable associations with the building’s dedicatee, the strong and heroic St Peter. The adoption of respondent pilasters under the colonnade constitutes a departure from both Vitruvius and circular temple prototypes but helps emphasize the radial component to the design, which directs attention towards the hallowed site at the building’s heart. An unexecuted scheme recorded in Serlio’s treatise (Book III) to remodel the courtyard and enclose the building within a tall, circular cloister would have made this central focusing even more emphatic.

(ii) Commissions for Pope Julius II.

Bramante’s architectural ambitions were to be matched by those of Julius II, elected Pope on 31 October 1503 (see Rovere, della family, §2). Bramante had already been in contact with Julius’s cousin Cardinal Raffaelle Riario, but he may have been recommended by Cardinal Ascanio Sforza, Julius’s confidant and Bramante’s former patron. Julius was quick to dispense with the services of his former architect, Giuliano da Sangallo, as he began to plan a number of magnificent projects in and around St Peter’s and the Vatican, for which he assembled many of the leading artists of the period, including Michelangelo and Bramante, who was then aged about 60. It is even possible that Bramante assisted Michelangelo in the perspective and architectural framework of the Sistine Chapel ceiling (1508–12), which has some considerable similarities with the Argus in the Castello Sforzesco (see §I, 3, (i) above). Now established as, in effect, the official papal architect, Bramante embarked on a series of far-reaching projects that would rival even those of Roman emperors; for these he was well rewarded financially by Julius, who appointed him to the honorary office of Piombo.

(a) Vatican Palace.

The main adjunct to the Vatican Palace designed by Bramante is the colossal extension known as the Cortile del Belvedere, on which work began in the spring of 1505. Although the design was modified by Pirro Ligorio before its completion (c. 1565) and altered by Domenico Fontana (1587–8), Bramante’s scheme is faithfully recorded, most notably by Bernardino della Volpaia in the Codex Coner (London, Soane Mus.). The courtyard was intended to link the palace of Nicholas V to the Belvedere of Innocent VIII with its new sculpture court (completed 1506; remodelled 1773), situated more than 300 m to the north. The Cortile, arranged in three vast, ascending terraces, was designed to form a carefully considered composition, especially when viewed from the Pope’s third-storey private apartment at the southern end. The long flanks of the Cortile house corridors and rise to roughly the same height, with three storeys for the lowest terrace and one storey for the top. A straight flight of steps once linked the lowest terrace, designed for use as a theatre, with the intermediate one, and a pair of transverse zigzag ramps to either side of a nymphaeum connected this level with the upper terrace. At the centre of the short northern end of the upper terrace, a broad single-storey semicircular exedra provided a fitting climax to the vista and gave access to the sculpture court. It was approached by a remarkable flight of concentric convex and concave steps, which thus combined the forwards and sideways movement of the steps and ramps below.

The Cortile’s monumental conception depends, at least in part, on an archaeological awareness of ancient complexes in the vicinity of Rome. The terracing was probably inspired by the enormous Temple of Fortuna Primigenia complex at Palestrina, which also incorporates ramps and semicircular flights of steps; the exedra resembles that of one of the ancient bath complexes, and the covered corridors may have been based on such cryptoportici as those at Hadrian’s Villa at Tivoli. The inventive elevations, however, are less immediately dependent on ancient precedent, although the Doric–Ionic–Corinthian sequence for the three-storey lower terrace, the first such occurrence in Renaissance architecture, derives ultimately from the Colosseum. This elevation has an arcaded lower storey with piers and attached Doric pilasters, a second storey with Ionic pilasters overlaid on half-pilasters and with pedimented windows flanked by niches, and an open top storey with Corinthian pilasters and smaller Doric columns between them supporting an unusual panel similar to those at S Maria presso S Satiro; the single-storey elevation for the upper terrace also has Corinthian pilasters but with a triumphal-arch system of alternating wide and narrow bays.

Bramante also designed the spiral staircase-ramp, embellished with central supporting columns, in a tower near the sculpture court. Although the columns share a common spiral architrave, their capitals and proportions follow a sequence similar to that of the courtyard, which begins with a Tuscan order and is followed by a less robust Doric order, then progressively by more slender Ionic and Composite ones. Vasari recognized a medieval precedent for the staircase in the 13th-century campanile of S Nicola at Pisa, but Palladio identified an internal staircase in the Porticus of Pompey as Bramante’s model (I.xxviii). Bramante was also responsible for the Porta Julia, the external portal surrounded by massive blocks of rustication that leads into the Cortile’s lower terrace, and for a wooden dome with an arcaded drum (1509; destr. 1523) on top of the nearby Borgia tower. Other designs by Bramante connected with the palace include the loggias of the neighbouring Cortile di S Damaso (begun by 1509; completed under Raphael), which has two storeys of arches with applied pilasters at first- and second-floor levels and a colonnaded storey at the top.

(b) St Peter’s.

On 18 April 1506 the foundation stone was laid for the first of the four enormous crossing piers of the new St Peter’s (see Rome, V, 14(ii)(a)). Although little of Bramante’s project for the church was actually realized, his plans formed the basis of all subsequent designs, including Michelangelo’s. The impetus for the rebuilding of the venerated but dilapidated Early Christian basilica may have been provided by Julius’s desire to find a suitable setting for the monumental tomb he commissioned from Michelangelo in 1505. Bramante’s design, which was preferred to proposals submitted by Giuliano da Sangallo and Fra Giocondo, is represented on Caradosso’s foundation medal (1506; e.g. London, BM), and the same design, apart from some minor deviations of detail, is recorded in a half-plan drawing known as the Parchment Plan (Florence, Uffizi, 1A;). The layout seems to have grown out of the ideas he had considered at Pavia Cathedral and S Maria delle Grazie, namely a domed Greek cross inscribed within a square and with apses on the main axes. It is here further elaborated with four subsidiary domes on the diagonals, where the Greek-cross arrangement is repeated on a smaller scale, and with four corner towers. The centre of the design corresponds fittingly with the revered tomb of St Peter, and the multi-domed layout recalls that of earlier sepulchral churches, such as S Marco, Venice; in other respects, the design can be related to the Early Christian S Lorenzo (c. ad 370), Milan, which has half-domes and corner towers. The arrangement of the crossing, however, although not so different from that in Pavia Cathedral, is a major innovation in church design, with diagonal chamfers to the massive crossing piers giving the dome a much greater diameter than the width of the arms.

In its enormous scale, Bramante’s design for St Peter’s was quite without precedent for a post-medieval church and relied heavily on ancient Roman bath complexes, which seem to have inspired a wholly new approach to spatial planning. Whereas during the 15th century internal spaces were conceived as a product of designing walls, in St Peter’s the walls were a product of designing spaces. Through this new approach, greatly aided by Bramante’s revival of Roman brick-and-concrete construction, the massive vault-bearing walls took up the residual areas between neighbouring spaces and were hollowed out in a multitude of alcoves, arches and niches. Bramante’s design for the dome, with its colonnaded drum resembling a circular temple and its crowning lantern, is known also from a plate in Serlio (Book III). In shape (hemispherical on the inside, stepped and dishlike on the outside) as well as in size (diam. 40.5 m when eventually realized), the design abandoned contemporary practice and was closely modelled instead on the Pantheon (diam. c. 43 m; see Rome, §V, 8). The much greater overall size of St Peter’s, however, compared with the Pantheon, was no doubt regarded as emblematic of the triumph of Christianity over ancient paganism and of the authority of papal rule.

The Parchment Plan design was, nevertheless, just one of many alternatives considered even as construction progressed. Other proposals included retaining the choir begun in 1452 under Nicholas V by Bernardo Rossellino, which Bramante completed, and adding ambulatories to the arms; there were even designs for a surrounding precinct. Bramante may also have been responsible for a Latin-cross scheme (Florence, Uffizi, 20A) intended to cover fully the hallowed site of the earlier basilica, which would have offered liturgical and ceremonial advantages and would have provided the building with a dominant façade lacking in the Parchment Plan design. No decision seems to have been made by Bramante’s death, however, even though the crossing had been substantially completed up to the height of the drum, with piers and attached Corinthian pilasters using capitals copied from those inside the Pantheon. According to Vasari, Bramante intended the exterior to be Doric, and he certainly used this order for the outside of the 15th-century choir and the temporary stone shelter (1513; destr. 1592) over the site of St Peter’s tomb. The latter’s design, three bays with a paired order at either end, was similar to that of the Basilica Aemilia (179 bc) in the Forum Romanum.

(c) S Maria del Popolo and other work.

Another church project in Rome commissioned from Bramante by Julius II was the extended choir for S Maria del Popolo (completed 1509), built to house the tombs of Cardinal Ascanio Sforza and Cardinal Girolamo Basso della Rovere (d 1507). The tombs are set below innovative Serlian windows either side of a square space covered by a saucer dome, approached from the pre-existing crossing through a barrel-vaulted bay, with another barrel-vaulted bay and apse beyond. The second barrel vault has coffering modelled on the entrance into the Pantheon, and the lowest coffer on the southern side is left open to make a window, an arrangement sometimes found in ancient cryptoportici. Apart from the saucer dome, frescoed by Bernardino Pinturicchio (c. 1510), the interior is remarkably stark, only articulated by plain pilaster-strips. It typifies the conception of true all’antica architecture that Bramante arrived at late in his career. The Pope then commissioned Bramante to rebuild the church of SS Celso e Giuliano in Banchi (begun 1509; abandoned c. 1513; rebuilt after 1733); like a reduced version of St Peter’s, this was planned as a domed Greek cross with four subsidiary domes and chamfered piers at the crossing. The interior was again very severe, simply articulated by plain pilaster-strips and corresponding ribs across the barrel-vaulted arms.

The Via Giulia, which runs close to the Tiber in a straight line towards the Vatican, was laid out by Bramante in 1507 as an important element in Julius’s policy of renewing the fabric of the ancient city. In the following year Bramante started work on the enormous Palazzo dei Tribunali (abandoned 1511; most destr.), which was intended to bring together all the city’s civil and ecclesiastical courts and to provide accommodation for the judges. The complex was to be arranged around a square courtyard with corner towers and a church, S Biagio della Pagnotta, projecting at the rear towards the Tiber. The layout is known principally from a drawing (Florence, Uffizi, 136A), which shows considerable similarities with the plans of the Cancelleria and other palaces for cardinals; the courtyard, with applied half-columns, recalls especially that of the Palazzo Venezia (begun 1455). Above all, it resembles Giuliano da Sangallo’s scheme in the Codex Barberini (1488; Rome, Vatican, Bib. Apostolica, MS. lat. 4424) for a palace for the King of Naples. The four-storey main façade is known principally from the foundation medal of 1508 (e.g. Rome, Vatican, Medagliere), which shows a third tower at the centre rising in three battlemented stages to give a castle-like exterior resembling that of the Castello Sforzesco, Milan, and having similarities also with the mid-15th-century Palazzo dei Senatori, Rome. The lower level, a fragment of which survives, was rusticated with massive stone blocks and would have had openings for shops. The east end of S Biagio would, once again, have resembled the crossing of St Peter’s combined with a two-bay nave as in the 15th-century church of S Maria della Pace.

Bramante designed several other works for Julius outside Rome. In 1508 he prepared designs to encase the Santa Casa, the house inside the sanctuary church at Loreto believed to be the Virgin’s, in a lavish marble exterior (see Loreto, §II, 1, (ii), (a)). The three-by-five-bay structure has Corinthian half-columns, associated by Vitruvius with maidenhood, arranged like a triumphal arch in narrow and wide bays. The half-columns are fluted, and all other available surfaces are decorated, incorporating a profusion of relief sculpture and statuary by Andrea Sansovino and others. Bramante also designed a very restrained, towered façade (unexecuted) for the church itself, recorded in a foundation medal of 1509 (e.g. Rome, Vatican, Medagliere), and a papal palace complex in the form of a monumental rectangular forecourt (1510; see Loreto, §II, 2) that was realized in part, though with changes, under Sansovino and Antonio da Sangallo (ii). It has two-storey arcades with Doric and Ionic pilasters and defensive towers on the external angles. Elsewhere, it was almost certainly Bramante who designed the courtyard of the Rocca at Viterbo, with side-loggias of columns above piers (1506; later modified), and the fortress at Civitavecchia (1508), which has low bastions at the four corners and a large internal courtyard with chamfered angles, similar to those in the earlier Belvedere statue court at the Vatican.

(iii) Non-papal late works.

Bramante’s Palazzo Caprini (c. 1510; also known as the House of Raphael, who bought it in 1517) was built in Rome for the apostolic protonotary Adriano de Caprinis. The building (subsequently remodelled) occupied a shallow site on the approaches to St Peter’s; as was the custom in Rome, it had a row of shops at street level and living accommodation above. The design of the façade, best known from Antoine Lafréry’s engraving (1549), marked a watershed in palace design through the contrasting treatment of its two storeys, which accorded with their respective uses. The massive and ruggedly rusticated lower storey was treated as a five-bay arcade with openings for the main entrance and the four shops and with mezzanines for the shopkeepers’ accommodation. The refined and elegant piano nobile above had pairs of Doric three-quarter columns, which stood on pedestals aligned with the piers below, supported a full Doric entablature and framed five pedimented windows with balustraded balconies. The design departed from previous façade arrangements in Rome, which were usually three storeys tall and had either plain stuccoed brickwork pierced by distinctive transom and mullion windows (e.g. Palace of Nicholas V in the Vatican and Palazzo Venezia) or orders of pilasters overlaid on rustication (e.g. Cancellaria or Palazzo Corneto), although, like the Palazzo Caprini, the order was usually omitted from the basement. It differed above all in its monumentality, having three-quarter columns rather than pilasters and a more pronounced rustication. The Palazzo Caprini façade may have been inspired to some extent by ancient temples or tombs with tall and massive substructures, although the direct influence of ancient prototypes is slight, being limited to the patterning of the stuccoed brick rustication and, in particular, to the design of the outer arches, which, with their inserted flat arches, closely resemble an ancient portal that formed part of the Temple of Romulus (now SS Cosma e Damiano) in the Forum Romanum. On the other hand, the underlying principles of Classical propriety, together with such Vitruvian details as placing the triglyphs at the extremities of the entablature, gave the façade a Classical spirit and authority that was new to Renaissance palaces.

The ruinous Nymphaeum outside Genazzano, attributed to Bramante by Frommel, was arguably designed for Cardinal Pompeo Colonna c. 1508–11, although the dating is far from certain. It was a recreational pavilion shelved into a hillside and used for viewing spectacles staged in and around a lake formed by damming a stream in the valley below. It had a three-bay, vaulted loggia at the front with apsed ends (an arrangement similar to that of Raphael’s Villa Madama, begun c. 1518; behind, on a slightly higher level, was a further three-bay area with a central apse, close to which was a domed octagonal bathhouse. The antiquarianism of the scheme, together with such motifs as the Serlian openings with roundels between concentric arches, seen also in S Maria delle Grazie, Milan, support the attribution to Bramante. Other details, however, such as the non-standard proportions of the Doric order, used throughout, seem inconsistent with his mature style.

II. Critical reception and posthumous reputation.

When Bramante died, a year after Julius, he received a magnificent funeral in St Peter’s, where his body was brought for burial. His contribution to architecture was quite apparent to his immediate followers, and it was they who established his enduring fame. An early and rather humorous portrait of the architect was presented by A. Guarna in his Simia (1516), but Bramante was also seen early on as having brought the art of architecture back to the standards of Classical antiquity, a view cogently expressed in Raphael’s letter about the state of the arts addressed to Pope Leo X (c. 1516–18; Munich, Bayer. Staatsbib., cod. it. 37b), where architecture’s recent advancement ‘may be seen in the many beautiful buildings by Bramante’. Serlio, in Book III of his treatise, made a much more forthright claim when he specifically singled out Bramante as having ‘revived the good architecture which had been buried until his time’. In so doing, Serlio consigned Bramante’s contemporaries, including Giuliano da Sangallo and Fra Giocondo, to a lower league, and his legendary fame was thus crystallized. A similar estimation eventually formed the basis for a considerable elaboration by Vasari, who presented Bramante as the pioneering force in architecture for the third and final phase in the revival of the arts, and this view of Bramante as the father-figure of High Renaissance architecture has coloured all subsequent accounts of his career.

Many of Bramante’s buildings and projects were recorded early, some even during the initial stages of construction as in the case of Bernardino della Volpaia’s drawings in the Codex Coner. Although widely circulated through both drawings and foundation medals, Bramante’s designs were transmitted most effectively by Serlio’s treatise, which provides detailed descriptions and illustrations of most of his major Roman projects, including them in the book (III) that deals primarily with antiquities. Subsequently, in Palladio’s I quattro libri, Bramante was to receive the unqualified accolade of being the only contemporary architect (apart from Palladio himself) to be illustrated, his Tempietto appearing as the only contemporary example in the final book on temples (IV. xvii).

The weighty and decorous style of classical architecture that Bramante was largely instrumental in establishing was enormously influential. Few subsequent architects remained untouched, for example, by the new approach to spatial planning that Bramante had introduced. The style enjoyed a continuing popularity in Rome and was brought to North Italy during the 1520s by his followers Giulio Romano, Michele Sanmicheli and Jacopo Sansovino, whence it was eventually disseminated throughout Europe. The fact that the style was by no means one of slavish revivalism in great part explains its success. Bramante was certainly attracted by Vitruvian orthodoxy, and this was an overriding concern in such buildings as the Tempietto, which became a modern classic. Yet he was also, as Vasari noted, attracted by the possibilities of invention: the Cortile del Belvedere, for example, was a most ingenious, evocative, but essentially modern reinterpretation of Classical themes, which fired the imagination of successors such as Raphael or Jacopo Vignola in the design of similar projects. Bramante’s plans for St Peter’s were to exert a profound influence on later church design. Michelangelo explicitly voiced a desire to return to Bramante’s Greek-cross arrangement for St Peter’s, and all the intervening redraftings of the plans were indebted to Bramante. Numerous other churches built in Italy during the 16th century were also inspired by his designs, and ultimately the idea of a great domed classical church became a standard throughout Europe. Similarly, the Palazzo Caprini became a source for subsequent palace designs, to the extent that many of the major palace façades of 16th-century Italy depend on it in some way; several, especially those of Sanmicheli, Sansovino and Palladio, are in effect creative variations. It is Bramante’s influence on his immediate followers, and from them on posterity, rather than his own changed and disfigured buildings that finally holds the key to his deservedly great reputation.


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